A week ago Sunday, the first signs of Spring came -- following a long, depressing Winter. It was Oscar Time, the eve of my younger Son Guy's birthday, and my elder Son Jason called me up, asking that I write for his birthday, in August 2010, an original screenplay on the theme of CASABLANCA, a favorite of his. I said that I would.
Guy and I set about to prepare for Spring by watching the Oscars.
After casting sad (if not secret) eyes on our our Hitachi-II, which has blown its fuse, and which we can't afford fix, Son Guy and I repaired to the corners of our personal space: He to his cave-like walk-in closet, where he has installed a second-hand TV monitor; I to my trusty iMac. He was going to watch the Oscars on ABC, using a weird rabbit-ears-like device, and I was confident that I would be able to explore the new wonders of "live streaming." The rabbit-ears worked for Guy; but, as it turned out, for legal reasons I don't completely understand, the "live streaming" did not come through for me.
After we had admired the gorgeous ladies and natty guys "On the Red Carpet," beautifully clear on the iMac, we began to realize that the whole preliminary was being repeated. Refreshingly casual as were a fellow named Chuckerman and an attractive Lady-in-Red (plus a new TV child star, out among the fans), we decided seeing them twice was not what we were here for. A law suit between Comcast and ABC, settled only hours before the Big Night, had interrupted all "live" computer plans, and soon Guy was shouting to me from the mouth of his cave, "Christoph Waltz just won Best Supporting Actor!" Thus, because two Big Fellows like ourselves can't fit comfortably into that closet space, I had to take as accurate Guy's postmortem, three hours later, "The Oscar Show was pretty neat, Dad!"
[I had spent another hour trying to unlock the live streaming on the Internet . . . but succeeded only in signing up for applications to half a dozen quasi-institutions of higher learning -- like "The University of the Rockies" -- on promises that if I did, I'd at least be plugged into the feed. Their promises proved as valuable as their degrees probably are!]
And so, nevertheless, thanks to Guy, I do have the final results of the 82 ACADEMY AWARDS Contest.
The yearly BIG SEPTEMBER LUNCH was at steak [sic], when the BEST FRIENDS FOREVER Macresarf1 and BAMBO-BAMBO (now in Oklahoma) prepared to cast our Oscar bread upon the waters of San Francisco Bay to see who would select the most WINNERS.
And so, as the evening wore down, Macresarf1 almost blew a comfortable lead. BAMBO-BAMBO came on strongly in the last half hour. And both of us beat the San Francisco pro, Mick LaSalle, in a close race. BAMBO-BAMBO and I will go dutch for our customary Oscar Lunch this time because I owed him one from last year. I hope to see him bounding by the Bay very soon.
As for the Oscar Show itself, I can say very little, except for the fact that, possibly owing to a good audience, the evening generally radiates a little more class than the Golden Globes, where the stars are sometimes sloshed early -- or the Music Awards, which often display artists who are doped up and vulgar.
This year, simply on the basis of the Red Carpet conversations I saw, Guy's reports from his Platonic Cave, and later commentaries, I gather that the normal snobbish-type criticisms were leveled: Martin and Baldwin were [or were not] ready for Prime Time; THE HURT LOCKER is either a Right Wing or a Left Wing Plot; Christoph Waltz was either charming or creepy; Vera Vermiglia's gown was entrancing or a mess [I'm crazy about her]; Quentin Tarantino got his comeuppance -- or he was robbed; the Oscars were politics as usual -- or full of entertaining surprises!
As I commented to Andaryl, my colleague at Epinions, on his excellent assessment of the recent Oscar Night:
We often forget (or ignore) that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Awards were indeed sort of whipped up by Cedric Gibbons for a clubby private brunch in 1929. But as "The Oscars," they have now become an extravaganza known as a symbol for America all over the World, and as such, they are an institution older than the official adoption of our National Anthem, "The Star Spangled Banner." They were in the American consciousness over 35 years before we put "God" in our Pledge of Allegiance. Fueled by a kind of New Deal populism, many Americans were rather proud of Hollywood and the Oscars as a representation of our Democracy -- until Films became more International, and until the dichotomies revealed by Oscar Nominees gave rise to political, social and commercial embarrassments for resurgent corporate interests.
"You can carry this democracy stuff too far," was the criticism. And so, since the late 1970's or so, it has become fashionable to point out that the Academy is a club (or a guild of clubs, as it originally fancied itself), and to bash the political and commercial choices The Club makes from year to year.
[And why exquisitely elegant actresses, in often equally tasteful gowns, are pilloried for their appearance on the evening, I've always thought to be REALLY no class by self-appointed fashion critics. The evening should be a Party, for god's sake!]
I thought the big winner this year, THE HURT LOCKER, and the show that largely celebrated it, was just fine. For one thing, the film has been widely accepted as a serious, old fashioned artistic effort on the subject of "the war on terror," our most serious foreign policy blunder in over a hundred years; a picture costing a modest $11,000,000, compared to a $237,000,000 CGI fantasy like AVATAR, or an absurdly self-indulgent parody like INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. [Think of the hue and cry, had either of those expensive crowd pleasers (with their opposing subtexts) won!] But THE HURT LOCKER was attacked politically by both the Right and the Left, and so Kathryn Bigelow must have been doing something right!
The show, which I heard only fitfully from the mouth of my younger son's cave, appears to have been as equally modest (but alas, not nearly so indignant) as a similar evening would have been in the 1970's over what has been done to our nation (or what has been done to others in our name).
Andrew Breitbart's BigHollywood has not won yet, but The Oscars as we have known them probably ARE on their way out. Oscar winners will not boost worldwide profits as they once did. The decline of interest in "serious" movies at the box office has been accelerated by a plethora of lesser "awards evenings," Television reality shows, DVD's, and now "streaming" (not to mention the elephantine, depressing contraction of the American economy). All of the above are killing the movie theaters (going to the dustbin of history in the same fashion as other familiar artistic institutions of the preceding 400 years in Western Culture).
It will be sad and interesting to hear the lamentations and nostalgia which will arise when the Oscars pass from the scene -- to be replaced, no doubt, by some sort of cyber-blog.
But Spring was on its way.
The next night, Jason and I celebrated Guy's Birthday with a drink at the Ha-Ra Club on Geary Street (poured for us by the venerable Jerry Hill), another at the Geary Club (presided over by the vivacious Lilianne), and a modest meal at Osha's Thai House. Then, as this week grew on the weather warmed, and today, St. Patrick's Day, we have a positive heat wave (71*)! No word from Maria, but Gwen S., my old teaching colleague, was out from Kansas. Laura K. was just back from Thailand. And there was hope that Melinda might call on Saturday.
I must get down to writing that screenplay for Jason on the theme of CASABLANCA. I think that I shall call it : FRAN N' FRISCO.
Meanwhile, may I recommend my Epinions colleague Andaryl's most thorough and interesting assessment of THE 82nd ACADEMY AWARD Program ("Who's the King of the World?"):
Causes Alex Fraser Supports