Wednesday, January 26, 2011

And the Oscar for Average Goes To....!!!

I love movies, always have. It started when I was a kid, I’m sure, with those magical evenings of my Mom taking me to see “The Sound of Music” or the encore showings of “Gone With the Wind” on the huge screens in ornate theaters with high-brow names like The Embassy in Ft. Wayne, or the Friday night that my Dad took we to Warsaw to the Lake Theater to see Steve McQueen star in my all time favorite racing movie, “LeMans.” The smell of hot buttered popcorn, an ice cold fountain coke, and the frosty chill of a large air conditioned space on a humid summer night in Indiana. My childhood hero racing a Porsche 917 on a screen over a hundred feet wide and forty feet high right before my very eyes.

Of course, I loved the products just as much as the experience. My shelves are filled with as many classic DVD’s of movies as they are with books, and I have tons of them. From local live theater to the boards of Broadway, I love all things theatrical and how they magically tell us a story. I even have a dusty Best Actor trophy tucked away in a box somewhere from one of my six or seven high school performances.

But my favorite was always the movies. Call it my love of 50’s California, the pretty women, the fast cars, or just the huge stars and dreams of riches and glamour…I loved the movies!

And just like everything else, that began to change somewhere along the way. Video and then DVD made it easier to rent a show than to get a sitter or drag your kids to the theater, and soon enough so did ten dollar ticket prices. The lack of great stories didn’t help.

But there were still pockets. I’m a sucker for anything Brad Pitt, Harrison Ford or Jeff Bridges are in. And just like when I was a ten year old boy, I still harbor my actress crushes: Elizabeth Banks, Sandra Bullock and Charlize Theron; the last two even before they won their Oscars.

Yet overall, the movies became something that I did once a year with the family on Christmas Day after we’d opened our presents.

Now, if I can pause for a moment here, I should offer a disclaimer. If you read any of my stuff at all, you know that I have a tendency to rant a bit about our modern ethos. I miss those old timey virtues and values: hard work, discipline, overcoming challenge. And I’ve talked about that in seemingly every example of venue from sports to academics to our country’s leaders. I’m tired of how soft we’re getting and what that’s doing to the quality of our product in these various areas.
So if you don’t like that particular attitude, now would be a good time to change channels or to go to the figurative kitchen for an imaginary snack. Because this is going to be more of the same…

I realized yesterday that the Academy now nominates ten movies for their “Best Picture” Oscar. Apparently they did this last year as well, but my malaise when it comes to Hollywood these days prevented me from noticing. And this strikes me as incredibly ironic: at a time when Hollywood’s product is as mediocre as it’s ever been, when the industry is under fire from all forms of media and entertainment competition, NOW is when they choose to “dumb down” their standards and give every moviemaking kid a ribbon.

They’ve made Hollywood pass/fail.

They’ve turned the Oscars into a multiple choice test with more than one right answer.

They’ve erased “first” place from moviemaking’s most famous award, and instead stamped “participant” across Oscar’s chest.

Do they think that in naming ten movies instead of five they’ve increased my interest? They haven’t; my eyes glazed over when I got to the fifth nominee and realized there were five more.

Are they doing it to increase sales? Do they think that in having five MORE movies that can shout “Nominated for BEST PICTURE!!!” in their ads and posters that more people will come out to see them? I doubt that will work.

Or have they just gone the route of all those other brain addled governing bodies?

You know—like the ones that ruined one of the greatest sporting events of all time by moving Indiana to a class basketball system for their high school state tournament. Now there are more "BASKETBALL STATE CHAMPS!!!" signs littering the city limits of Indiana towns then there are corn stalks west of Kokomo, and much less excitement and interest. Back in the day, Indiana would jam up to 30,000-plus fans into the Hoosier Dome to watch one winner take all championship game; now, fans from the eight or ten schools playing (see, I don't even know how many CLASSES they have now) traipse in and out in shifts...less than four or five thousand for any one game. Dude, our SECTIONAL (the first round of Indiana's high school tournament)
use to draw 3,000 for games between six little schools!

Or the stroke of genius that puts HALF of the National Hockey League into their post season--which can now potentially add nearly 30% more games to a season--and allow someone like the Minnesota North Stars of 1991 to qualify for the playoffs and go to the Stanley Cup Finals; beating the teams with the two best records in hockey over the course of an 80 game season, and where if they'd won the actual NHL championship, they'd have finished with a record one game below .500--a Stanley Cup champion with a losing record.

Or the brilliance that WON'T give us an NCAA football playoff for Division 1 (or the championship division, or the BCS division, or the big shots division, or whatever the hell they call it now) but WILL give us bowl games that stretch for a month—and ten days into the new year—and give virtually everyone who goes .500 the chance to play in a bowl. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the pinnacle of college football excellence: Florida International (6-6) vs. Toledo (8-4) in the Little Caesar's Bowl in that tropical football landscape of Detroit.

Ah yes, excellence rewarded at the lowest common denominator. Each a winner and none outsanding.

Well congratulations Oscar. Because now instead of rewarding a true genius in your genre three or even four times…you’ll anoint some wild-card winning entry that shouldn’t have even been there. The good ol’ “I want to see someone DIFFERENT win it…” school of thought.

How charming.

Well count me out. I haven’t watched you for years, and this just closes it. I’m going back to my season-long anthologies of Dexter, Spartacus, and Weeds. Yes, TV productions. Pat yourself on the back Academy, you’ve disenchanted another lifelong fan.

And in what may be one of the truly great cinematic twists of all time, the Academy Award for Being Average goes to…THE PLAIN BLAND MANILA ENVELOPE PLEASE...the Academy!

1 comment:

  1. Hoov. Trophies for every kid that plays little league is in that category as well. It does cheapen the award when too many are given. But by nominating 10 movies, they figure that more people will tune in to see their favorite win. Indeed, pictures like Inception, that are crowd favorites might not get nominated for best picture if they don't have ten. So in a way they are including more of the people's choices instead of getting 5 movies along the lines of "the Kings English" which 5 people saw. And it will probably win. In fact, i know it will win, because handicapped Brit, excuse me, Englishman with a disablilty, always is a sure thing.