09 March 2006

About Sunday Night....

"For those of you keeping score at home...Martin Scorsese, zero Oscars. Three 6 Mafia, one." -- John Stewart

I really hadn't planned on writing about The Oscars. I didn't watch them (I made a point of being at my writing desk, working during the show) and haven't in a number of years. Like a lot of people I had dreams of standing on stage, thanking the Academy, but I think my days of getting the 'Best Actor' nod are long gone ('Screenplay,' however....hmmm...). On the whole I've 'gone off' most award shows: I did see a bit of Halle Berry's and Denzel Washington's acceptance speeches ,but not the rest of that years awards, but the last time I watched the Grammys was the year Madonna turned "Vogue" into a Marie Antoinette fantasia. Sometimes I'll watch the Tony Awards, in part because its fun to see who shows up with their same-sex partner (something only Sir Ian McKellan does at the Oscars). I did, however, correctly pick the winners in the top four categories (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress) Saturday afternoon over lunch -- and I have 3 witnesses to prove it!

So -- nothing about the Oscars. I will however say this: Some have touted this year as being "The Gay Oscars" with 'Capote', 'Transamerica', and 'Brokeback Mountain' getting good reviews, nominations, and two of the films winning top awards. Some over here on this side of the sexual orientaion street are claiming this as some kind of a victory, or herald of a change in attitude in Hollywood toward depictions of gay/lesbian/bi/transgendered characters. Forgive me if I remain skeptical.

Ignoring the fact that none of the key players in the industry is comfortable enough to be 'out' or the fact that no major American actor is 'out' either (did Jody Foster go back into the closet or was her coming out a figment of my imagination?), it just seems to me other groups have been here before. The success of "La Bamba" was supposed to usher in a new wave of films about Latinos. The Oscars to Berry and Washington (and before that John Singleton's nomination for director of 'Boyz in the Hood') were signs of the begining of a new day for films by and about African Americans. Every few years the success of a couple of motion pictures somehow means a veil has been lifted in Hollywood and suddenly they notice this whole group who'd been ignored/badly depicted in the past, and That Will Never Happen Again. The Millenium keeps on approaching, but somehow never arrives.

Film has always been both Art and Commerce, (and heavy on the Commerce, please, with Art more often stumbled into accidently or 'smuggled in') or all eyes on the bottom line. And the industry, for all it's much vaunted 'liberalism' has always been very concerned about how it is seen by Middle America. They know they can be only so 'far out' or else Mr & Mrs Average (white heterosexual) America won't come to the box office or rent their film from Blockbuster (which in some cases won't even stock it). The promise of higher grosses and keeping everyone pacified and happy trumps just about all. For example: last weekends #1 movie? 'Madea's Family Reunion'. Yeah, the Millenium is here alright...

PS: I wonder what Robert "Honorary Oscar" Altman, the creator of the modern multiple character multiple point of view film, thought of seeing 'Short Cuts' -lite AKA 'Crash' win for Best Picture?

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