Friday, March 06, 2009

Oscars and Issues

Read Pictures at a Revolution which was a sorta dull, straightforward history of the five films nominated for best Oscar in 1968. The premise is that was the exact year when old Hollywood supposedly succumbed to the new Hollywood, though that premise isn't given all that much analysis.

That's pretty much the problem with "Revolution": a lot of wind about "what" but not much about "why."

However, I've always been curious about Sidney Poitier - one of the primary topics of the book - because he was such a mainstay and huge star for a long time and then seemed to drop off the face of the planet. From what I can gather, he was the dual victim of black activism and white tokenism. On the one side, he was getting flack from black activists because he always played "good, safe" black men, and on the other side, he still wasn't considered for every leading role (read "leading roles meant for white guys") and was typecast as, well, Sidney Poitier. You wonder if he would've gotten past that had he not folded to the pressure to stop taking "Sidney Poitier" roles.

Aside from that, got two good pieces of trivia:

- Morgan Fairchild was Faye Dunaway's stunt double when her character had to drive because she couldn't drive a stick.
- The famous "Elaine!" scene in the church at the end of The Graduate where Hoffman had his arms out like he was Jesus on the cross was really just a "fix" because when he pounded on the glass (as he did on the first take), it would wobble and looked like it was going to break - it was not symbolic crucifixion as many critics at the time claimed.

TLD: Reading about The Graduate spurred a thought. When I worked at a vid store many moons ago, a couple stoners walked and asked for a surfing movie, so I gave them Apocalypse Now, which they loved, and forever after sought me out for recommendations. If that were today and someone walked in and asked for a movie on cougars, I'd hand them The Graduate.

And speaking of the Oscars, my wife and I used to view the Oscars as our superbowl, since neither of us are into professional competitive sports.

However, the type of movies that get nominated anymore are the tedious dramas with "plots" that used to be contained to the swamp of the literary fiction genre (incest! adultery! pedophilia! children dying! sexual predators! misery!), or spirited and preferably non-white foreigners overcoming something, or all gay all the time stuff (which knee-capped Broadway, so the movie folks better pay heed to the empty theaters showing Milk).

As this fun article points out, the Oscars are worth watching only if you've actually seen the movies that are nominated, which a larger portion of the movie-going public probably had not this year.

This jab from a "loved it, hated it" article made me laugh: "[T]the show bogged down with that somber bunch of Best Supporting Actresses intoning like they were going to banish the winner to the Forbidden Zone with General Zod." Those little ego-orgies were a bit much. Anthony Hopkins appeared to be especially mortified when his turn came to polish some nominee knob.

Ben Stiller's funny yet cruel impersonation of Joaquin Phoenix's publicly disintegrating mental health was a guilty hoot. Which led me to wonder about Tropic Thunder which I saw recently and was appalled at how unfunny it was. Why can't Stiller write and direct anything funny? He's great when he's doing someone else's material, but nearly everything he's written and directed has been on that edge of being funny; as you are watching it, you see how close it comes to actually being funny, but it just doesn't get there. So how can he be so funny in a context like the Oscars and/or improv, but just blow at movies? A question for the ages, apparently.

The self-righteous gay politicking got to be a bit much for me. For new readers (assuming, here): I don't feel marriage is a right, so framing it as such is silly and actually undercuts the goal of expanding the definition of it. Frinstance, are the polygamists attempting to frame it as a right? I think if the gay factions that do succeed, the polygamists will jump on that bandwagon, but they haven't gone down that road themselves, because they know everyone would laugh them out of the chamber if they suggested that being married to several women (or men) at once is a right. So hearing folks at the Oscars equate it with real human rights struggles is just an eye-roller.

Anyway, in a barely related tangent, I had a realization lately when I let my eldest (re)watch the two "Legally Blonde" movies.

But first, a little background: we'd let her see them with us they first came out, because there was a cute little doggie, and we thought the more adult stuff would go right over her head (she was about 5 or 6 I think). That was the case with the first one, but the second one prominently featured a subplot where we discover the cute little doggie is gay. They hammer on that so hard and draw such a complete picture that our little one finally asked what "gay" was. We were furious that we suddenly had that topic to vet, hoping she would be older before we had to have any sort of sex talk. Now, blame us, the parents, first, because we let her watch the movie before we knew what it contained. But they had so many toy tie-ins to the movies (she was cradling her own stuffed "Buster" ensconced in his Elle purse as we watched), I guess we didn't suspect that it would flounder so long in that particular realm of adult sexuality - or worse, attach it to the one character a child would fixate on.

So, I'd always wondered why they went that direction because it made the movie - which comes off like a GLAAD/PETA (the leader of PETA is gay) infomercial - nearly unwatchable. I suspect because it was because the first one, while trying to be sensitive by having a gay character, still takes a few swipes anyway. For instance, Elle solves the case by figuring out the guy who's supposed to be cheating with the wife is actually gay because he knows what brand of shoe she's wearing. And she carries Buster, her chihuahua, around in her purse (a PETA no-no).

So, the whole second movie is penance to GLAAD and PETA. And it feels like it. Who'da thunk a trifle about a valley girl who follows her BF to Harvard but ends up a lawyer would've been turned into a spinach movie for the sequel. Notice there was never a third movie, which is typical when Hollywood haps upon a franchise.

NOTE: Yes, I'm about a week late posting this since I gas on about the Oscars. It's been a busy time, lately.


Whisky Prajer said...

I only watched some You Tube highlights, and liked Hugh Jackman's opening number.

I also enjoyed Tropic Thunder, actually. Stiller gets me larfing quite consistently, but TT was really helped out by Downey in blackface. I still giggle when I think back to the opening scene where Downey is blubbering but Stiller can't work up the tears. But then I'm fond of Zoolander too.

yahmallah said...

I did like the "full retard" speech. But I expected to guffaw, and I merely smiled a lot. (Not a bad evening, mind you.) If I were across the aisle from Ebert, I would give it a mild thumbs down, but would still suggest if you had nothing better to do…