Sun, 7 March 2010 - Hollywood As the Devil points out in Stanley Donen's "Bedazzled," seven is a magic recurring movie number. Seven, Seven Seals, Seven Dwarfs, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers... Witnessing the 2010 Oscars put me in mind of the Seven Deadly Sins, with even a few left over. You know: Greed, Anger, Pride, Gluttony, Lust, Envy, Sloth. Specific vices, special vibes, each with a certain life-wrecking quality. This year, all were celebrated, by famous stars, in the Entertainment Capital Of The World. SEVEN DEADLY OSCAR MOMENTS CLOTHES TO YOU Greed This one's easy. Sandy Powell, Costume Designer, has already won two Oscars. She wins a third, for "The Young Victoria." Her speech: "I already have two of these, so I'm feeling greedy." Pig. You can let her dress you up - but you can't take her anywhere. WILD AND CRAZY NAZI Anger Steve Martin's alleged joke (that the "Inglorious Basterds" Nazi would find plenty of Jews to hunt, in the Kodak Theatre) was obviously in poor taste. Worse was cutting from it, for reaction, to Ethan Coen, Director of his unsung Jewish-themed masterpiece “A Serious Man,” (Ethan seemed angry - wouldn't you?) That cut just underlined and highlighted Steve's gaffe. TRIPLE THREAT Pride - Gluttony - Lust Let's knock down three Deadly Sins at once. Pride, Gluttony, aaaaaaaaand Lust. I refer of course to the vain and proud and seductively odd Actor ego-feeding, just before the Best Actor and Actress awards. Catch it? Uncomfortable. Downright creepy. Remarkably Hollywood-familiar. It's an AA meeting, or Group therapy, or Rehab. Some Actor's casting couch Audition. Or Funeral. Or Autopsy. I don't really care what it is, or what they replace it with - Performing Dolphins are not out of the question - but that thing's gotta go. Whatever feel-good intentions, it's poor showbiz. Mutual weirdness undermines any good association with the nominated performance. Very twelve-steppy, too. I expected, "You've been sober 10 years. Here's your 10-year coin, er chip, er Oscar. Now, go make movies, one day at a time." Poor Tom Hanks wrapped it up hastily, I hope he washed his hands. The congratulation orgy just went toooooo long. Director asleep? MUSICAL BUT DEADLY Sloth Every year, Movie People die, and become part of the Oscar Memorial. Their pictures play, with sad music. This time, the Academy picked The Beatles "In My Life," (my favorite) as the sad music, and lazily picked James Taylor to lazily sing it, lazily. Perhaps because his performance has so little energy, it made death seem preferable. If James had sung hanging upside-down in a tree, sloth-like, it might have had less energy, but I guess we'll never know. The Oscar Memorial also lazily omitted several celebrities who passed away this year. Among them: Bea Arthur, Val Avery, Gene Barry, Farrah Fawcett, Henry Gibson, Dan O'Bannon, Paul Wendkos, James Whitmore, and Edward Woodward. HUGHES THE BOSS Envy I worked in an office down the hall from John Hughes, so I met him a couple of times, and I love his movies. "Ferris Buehler's Day Off" and "Some Kind of Wonderful" both brought me to the edge of sensory overload, they're so good. Lea Thompson and(Director of "Some Kind of Wonderful") used to come to my improv shows, and invite the cast home for parties, so I have good associations, and really love John Hughes's films. I'm really sorry Mr. Hughes died last August, but his life was a good one, and isn't that what matters? Why assemble all his formerly-teenage Actors onstage, apparently as props for his memorial? I think he and they deserve better. John Hughes was a great writer, and made wonderful movies. He left Hollywood at his peak, when he wanted to, and he lived a satisfying life on a farm afterward. The sin here is mine - I envy him. He did the best you can do at this game. I hope his unproduced screenplay, "Grisbys Go Broke," floating around Hollywood, gets made. A NEW SIN We've worked our way through the Seven Deadly Sins. All are covered, yet sinfully-uncomfortable moments remain. While not specifically a Deadly Sin, I say STUPIDITY oughta be, so I'll list these last 2010 events under that catch-all heading. GENERAL STUPIDITY There was a Horror Film tribute, all monsters and zombies and blood, which seems to me as fun as a salute to anthrax. It fell remarkably, and I admit satisfyingly, flat. It had several films that are not horror films, and left out many films that most assuredly are horror films. Stupidity. (Seeing Stanley Kubrick's blood-filled elevator reminds me of two things. I've been through "2010" before. In 1984, we did the sequel to "2001." And this date, eleven years ago, Stanley Kubrick passed away. Too bad). And speaking of spinning on one's head, I have to admit, there is nothing better than having a bizarre and stupid dance, in this case break-dancing, resurrected decades later, as an Oscar musical number. Thank you, thank you. Hard to say what those interpretive dances had to do with movies, but somewhere, I know Chuck Barris is banging a gong. SPECIFIC STUPIDITY KANYE TOP THIS Stupidity What caused that ugly mic fight, when "Music By Prudence" won an Oscar, for Documentary Short? Here's the time line: Roger Ross Williams raises money, Directs the film. Elinor Burkett removes herself from it. It gets nominated. She sues for Producer credit. The film wins. Roger's accepting the award. Elinor jumps onstage, over Roger's 87-year-old mother. Elinor pushes Roger off-mic and blathers, until the pianist plays them both off, to "Thanks For The Memories." Indeed. Listen to Elinor vamp, over what should have been Roger's speech. Read her assertion, she really should be the Producer, because she lives in Zimbabwe. What? Stupid! Very poor form. Brava! BOMB SQUAD VS. BLUE PEOPLE Stupidity My Oscar Report back in 1999 compared The Oscars to Prom Night. "Elegant and crummy. Beautiful and petty. Glamorous and vulgar. All at once. Sound familiar? It should. It's the prom. Just like your high school prom. I'm serious. I've seen enough of them to make a judgement of some kind. Now I understand that quote of George Lucas's that "Hollywood is High School." As usual, George is right. The Academy members are the Student Body, and the movie stars are the cool kids, and the Technical Awards are the AV club's geeks and copterheads. That's why they have their own ceremony the week before, so they won't embarrass the cool kids on tv." Maybe you read it. Apparently Bill Maher did, too.
In 2003, I said the Oscars are part Parent/Teacher Night, part Used-Car Event, part Real-Estate Open House. Or something. Point is, the Academy Awards ceremony is just a sales event. Gets you civilian folks off the couch and out to see or rent the latest movie products. That's it. Except...when something "very important" must be taught to America. Get the message? Hear the sermon? Can't think of another explanation. This is important: "The Hurt Locker" is the lowest-grossing Best Picture winner, ever. No Oscar Best Picture has ever made LESS money. That is not really a selling point, but I'll get to that. The Oscars is about selling movies and The Movie Biz. Oscar-winning movies are usually profitable movies. Ordinarily, a dog like "Hurt Locker" would be remaindered to the Wal-Mart five-dollar bin, or be shot straight to video. It actually almost was. Instead, this year, it won the Best Picture Oscar. Why? I suspect "Hurt Locker" won because the Academy wanted to give the Oscar to a woman Director. Pretty clear, since they had Barbara Streisand present the award. At that, I am surprised. They usually go to great lengths to show the voting is secret and impartial. Having Babs pass the feminist baton quite so transparently gives it all away - they know what's in that envelope. I am surprised they were so obvious. "Hurt Locker" did not move me in any real way. Directing was workmanlike, but nothing special. Gritty realism. Great explosions.
So, call me crazy, but I don't believe they'd give it Best Director, or Best Picture, if it weren't a political decision. Avatar has flaws, and it's not very sophisticated in many ways, but it is rock-solid entertainment, under its political claptrap. It also made a hatful of ticket money, and I'm all over that. I admit it's odd that Cameron's blue people aren't all that...Alien. (You should excuse the expression). In fact, they're all quite human, and quite...sensuously...well-endowed. What? Animators sneaked blue naked girls into this movie? In 3-D? I am shocked. Like that's never been done before to sell tickets. James Cameron's ex-wife, Kathryn Bigelow, was smart and hired "Hurt Locker's" special-effects coordinator, brilliant expert Richard Stutsman. (For whom I worked, on "Dante's Peak.") The only Best Picture surprise was me, asking "Why?" In my opinion, "Avatar" was a much better picture than "The Hurt Locker." It earned much more money than any other picture this year, I expected it to sweep the awards. "Avatar" is a game-changer. Like Cameron's "Terminator 2," the whole business will now change overnight, because he's changed how pictures are made. Tomorrow, they'll all rush to make 3-D video game pictures like "Avatar," with all new techniques and toys. That's its legacy. It didn't win Best Picture, but it will affect every movie from here on out. I honestly can't imagine "The Hurt Locker" even being remembered in a year or two. "The Hurt Locker," is extreme Naturalism, (characters lack volition), which I don't care for. Honestly, when it was over, I just wanted to bathe. The setting is wretched, the characters are wretched, yuck. I prefer Romantic movies, (where characters have volition). I want some Entertainment in my Entertainment. I recognize "Avatar's" story problems, and its um, debt to other movies. (See if you think "Avatar's" story is just Disney's "Pocohantas"). Although I don't appreciate "Avatar's" shrill preaching, I still prefer it to "The Hurt Locker's" shrill preaching. This year, I was rooting for Nick Park for "A Matter of Loaf and Death," (Animated Short) and Mark Gustafson, Animation Director of "Fantastic Mr. Fox," (Animated Feature). I met Mr. Park at previous Oscar ceremonies, and know Mr. Gustafson from animation days in Portland, and a riotous screening of "The Magic Christian." Those films didn't win, and I still owe Mark twenty bucks. Thanks for reading. We both have movies in common. I hope you see some really good movies, and that some of them are mine. Best to you, Sam Longoria filmmaking secret film school
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