Oscar the Slouch

I watched uncomfortably as the 81st Annual Academy Awards stumbled across my television screen last night. I have always loved the Oscars because I have always loved movies. Even though many of the greatest movies ever made have never been recognized by the Academy, it feels like it is an official validation of movies as an art form. I love the idea that art can be something as approachable as a 90-minute movie. It is a somewhat less desirable idea that a man best known for playing a superhero with retractable claw-blades can present awards for these films while singing off-key in a top hat. Art.

The 81st edition of this elaborate dress competition started off in an amusing fashion. Tim Gunn lispingly interviewed celebrities as they scuttled their way down the red carpet in dresses that more closely resembled an accessory in a Houdini performance, if Houdini had cleavage. He showered praises on one woman after the other, including telling Marissa Tomei, who appeared gratuitously naked in The Wrestler, that he loved seeing her with her clothes on. Gay or not, that is impossible. Tim was faking it. I also loved how star struck he was with Brad Pitt and Angelina, and only bothered them to tell them how beautiful they were. After they thanked him, he squealed like a 7-year-old girl in pigtails and hopped up and down in one spot until the camera cut away to someone else interviewing Frankie Muniz.

The ceremony was filled with moderately interesting events. Sean Penn scared me almost as much as Mickey Rourke would have if he won. Sophia Loren, bless her heart, looked like a robot made of melting waxy flesh which was originally meant to look like an aged and abused Hungarian prostitute. Christopher Walken and Whoopi Goldberg proved that, to present a major award, one need not be relevant, sober, or non-offensive to look upon. And the host of the show, Hugh Jackman, showed that you do not have to be a comedian to make horrible jokes and display your uncomfortable lack of talent in front of a quickly diminishing worldwide audience.

When I was younger, I looked at these awards as a beacon of what movies were actually good movies. I printed a list off of all of the movies that were nominated since the founding of the Academy. I took this list with me to the library which, just so you pubescent boys out there know, has a wide array of R-rated movies available to you if you are willing to lie about your age to get a library card. I checked out these movies five at a time and watched them between the hours immediately after school and immediately before school started the next day. I suffered from insomnia sometime around my Sophomore and Junior year of High School. Though my grades and my mental stability suffered, I was grateful for that time as it allowed me to see nearly all of the movies on my list, having been granted the opportunity to fill up the time I would usually waste restoring my body’s necessary functions through sleep.

Come to think of it, I am not sure if I watched all of the movies because I wasn’t able to sleep or whether I wasn’t able to sleep because I watched all of the movies. There has been some crazy stuff nominated for best picture in the past. I remember watching The Deer Hunter at the tender age of 16. I sat through the first three hours of the movie which consisted of an elaborate wedding party filmed in real time. The wedding was then rudely interrupted by a scene of Robert DeNiro burning innocent Vietnamese villagers alive with a flame-thrower in their rice paddy. For those of you who have not seen the movie, I don’t want to ruin it for you or anything, but a lot of people get shot in the head. That is kind of the leitmotif of the film. And you don’t see that little James Bond-ish black bullet mark in the forehead before they amusingly fall to the floor. No, as the captured soldiers play Russian Roulette in a Vietcong tree-house prison, the eventual loser’s head turns into a water-willy sprinkler full of V8.

If the gratuitous amount of blood wasn’t enough to get me off of the R-rated fare, surely Stanley Kubrick would be able to contribute. I am still not sure what the plot to A Clockwork Orange happened to be. As far as I can recall, a thug with eye-liner in some not-so-distant British future beats a woman to death with a sculptured phallus and is then rehabilitated by having his eyelids peeled back so he can be subjected to videotape of unspeakable acts shown on a continuously looping reel. I think I may have actually vomited somewhere in the course of this movie. Thank you Mr. Kubrick; not only did you destroy my allure for Nicole Kidman (blog entry forthcoming!) and add to my increasing distrust of anyone named Hal, you caused a teenage boy to suffer from insomnia, which, truth be told, was preferable to the incessant nightmares involving Malcolm MacDonald.

These two were not the only Oscar nominees that have haunted my thoughts and skewed my moral compass. I remember how refreshing it was to hear the three lines of dialogue in Platoon that did not include a conjugated form of the F-word. I remember regretting my choice of beef jerky as a movie snack while watching The Silence of the Lambs. It wasn’t much of a game, but I definitely was crying after 72 minutes into The Crying Game. I had to endure watching Gwenyth Paltrow go bare-breasted in Shakespeare in Love while sitting next to both of my parents. I had to watch Chariots of Fire; nothing particularly traumatic about that except for having to endure the movie itself.

Sitting in front of the television Sunday night while my wife and children had already gone to sleep, I thought about these past experiences with the man they call Oscar. Yes, I have seen some horrific fare in my quest to absorb all knowledge concerning film, but I was also able to see some wonderful movies. The point is that even through the trauma of those years of my life, at least I was able to see some movies. I can quickly glance over a timeline of my life and measure the years by how many movies I watched. My peak, of course, was during my insomniac years where I gave Roger Ebert a run for his money—watching nearly ten films a week. During college, I would frequent the theater at least once a week and the guy behind the counter at Blockbuster knew my name. I started dating Miranda and my theater attendance slid a bit as most of our time was spent at restaurants and discussing if we were actually dating (blog forthcoming on this one too). We wed and I rarely went to the theater anymore, but I still befriended the patrons of the local video store. We then had children which has forever doomed me to only watching the first 20 minutes of a random animated film before my son begins to cry in fear and the occasional Redbox film that I end up paying seven dollars for the 15 minute increments in which I view the movie throughout the week. So, as I watched the Oscars now, I realized that I had only seen about three of the 40+ films that were nominated. For someone who used to watch nominated movies religiously, this was a definite low-point in my quest for movie-buffdom.

My head was filled with these thoughts as I slowly slipped into a deep and peaceful sleep right there on the couch just before the Best Picture nominees were announced. I am now insomnia-free and my dreams are no longer filled with cockney futuristic thugs or tortured Vietnamese children or even Gwenyth Paltrow’s breasts. I have come to enjoy the insomnia-free dreams that I now have between the hours of falling asleep in front of the TV and waking up to comfort one of my children crying in the middle of the night. These dreams usually involve talking cartoonish elephants, but they are much better than the mumbling horribly-disfigured Elephant Man.


mh said...

Thanks for the laugh! I must not be a movie buff, because I have only heard of one or two of the movies you mentioned! I must admit, I am very excited to read your forthcoming posting on whether you and Miranda were actually dating!
Maybe someday I will tell you my side of that story! Ha ha!

Kara Thacker said...

That is funny and much waiting for the 2 anticipated blogs!!! Moviedom will return when the kids sleep more regular hours...hopefully by the time your oldes is in 1st grade. Unless fate likes you enough for you to be blessed with lots more kids. :)