When I was a movie-obsessed child I loved the Academy Awards. Each year I would beg my parents to let me stay up and watch the show. I thought the gold statues meant something real and true, and that they were doled out with wisdom and justice. This is because kids are dumb and will believe pretty much anything.
Then, sometime later in life, around the year Blue Velvet didn’t get nominated for Best Picture, I decided the Oscars weren’t about anything but money. That’s more or less been my opinion ever since. I don’t think it means I’m a hater, though for several years in my earnest early 20s I refused to watch the show at all because I thought I was above it. I just think it liberates me from the burden of having to care about anything that doesn’t satisfy my immediate need to be entertained by dumb stuff.
And when the Academy Awards are the topic, there is a lot of dumb stuff…
1. Regular folks who’re very upset about actors and movies that weren’t nominated.
The Internet gets real angry about everything all the time. Christopher Nolan, for starters. WHY WASN’T HE NOMINATED FOR WHATEVER IT WAS HE WASN’T NOMINATED FOR?! It’s truly an outrage. And your indignation will make him feel great about his fans. More importantly it’ll not only give you something Facebookish to do instead of finishing that report in time for the two o’clock business meeting, but it’ll also allow you the chance to use up your daily required allotment of REALLY?!s and SRSLY?!s. You gotta get those out of your system somehow.
2. “John… Somebody”
When the nominations were announced here in Los Angeles earlier this week, a longtime local veteran entertainment journalist—a man whose job it is to know the players and their jersey numbers—referred to character actor John Hawkes (Best Supporting Actor for Winter’s Bone) as “John… Somebody” before moving on like he’d done nothing insulting at all, and as though “Hawkes” were somehow more difficult to remember than, say, “Agdashloo.” Of course, it’s John Hawkes’s own fault for not yet being a movie star with a recognizable name and for appearing in a film practically no one saw. Who does he think he is, anyway, elbowing his way into the fancy party on accident?
3. Super Bowl fans and their extra-humbling disdain.
Sure, you painted your face with team colors and hollered yourself hoarse and put your fist through a wall when your number-one team lost the biggest game of the year. But that’s important and everyone knows it. So you’re right, sports people, your entertainment choices are clearly more meaningful than those of movie nerds and to pay attention to Hollywood is kind of like asking to live in a weakling socialist country where taxes pay for everyone’s health care. But what if I said I was going to go turn over a cop car and set it on fire to protest Mila Kunis being snubbed? Would you be in then? No, you still want to beat me up? Okay, fine, I deserve it.
4. People who can’t (or simply won’t) stop working it.
And by people I mean actors presenting awards or hosting the show who don’t already happen to be Ricky Gervais. If you couldn’t arrange to be born as Ricky Gervais then you’re in danger of being one of the rest of them. And by them I mean John Travolta and the way he’s been known to Saturday Night Fever-dance his way to the spot on stage where he’ll give out whatever award he’s in charge of. I like it when JT does that. Another star I like at this event is Tom Cruise. Remember after 9/11 when TC took the Oscar microphone to reassure the country that he was there to help keep making movies that would soothe our troubled souls? He knew things we didn’t. We need these guys more than ever.
5. Songs I’ve never heard of that are terrible.
Back in the glory days of the Best Song category, cocaine-disco stuff like Donna Summer’s “Last Dance” would win and it would be on the radio and everyone would dance to it at prom. The Oscar showcase for these songs would involve big production numbers with demented, literalist choreography and nothing made any sense for several minutes on a telecast being watched by one billion people. And then, not long after the flaming-auto-accident-of-racism ballet that accompanied whatever song that was from Crash and not long after those guys shouted “It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp,” some buzzkill authority figure decided to shut it all down. I am going to be denied the 2011 equivalent of Celine Dion holding hands with Elliott Smith and I won’t stop complaining about it until its reinstated.
6. Watching parties.
I have some friends who like a quiet, respectful, attentive Oscar-watching party. I have other friends who like to yell a lot. I’m somewhere in the middle. I want to hear what’s going on, of course, but I also want to stay awake and I want people around me to say witty stuff I can steal. Mostly, though, I want to be fed a variety of snacks and beverages. Wings are great, and maybe an elaborate make-your-own-banana-split station. Whoever can wrangle that kind of spread should message me and I’ll come over. PS. I’m fat and I eat a lot, so don’t skimp.
7. People at watching parties with a bizarre personal investment in the outcome.
True story: I sat near this one guy at a party once who had a serious Green agenda and, to that end, really wanted An Inconvenient Truth to win something, anything, everything, whatever it was nominated for. When it did, he shouted, “THANK YOU, AMERICA!!!” The room got silent for a split second and everyone turned to look at him and his jubilant face. Comment from a mean-spirited friend across the room: “You didn’t win anything.”
The best era for people stirring up controversy was the 1970s. Marlon Brando and Vanessa Redgrave turned their acceptance speeches into political point-making moments. Then there was that streaker who ran across the stage naked while David Niven commented on “his shortcomings.” The only person who’s gone off in a major way since then was Michael Moore. That was awesome, too. But again, it doesn’t go down with nearly the frequency it should. And I don’t really care what the political stance is, or if it’s political at all. I just like a good ruckus.
9. Tilda Swinton wearing a deranged Lanvin trash bag.
If US Weekly gives you an A+ for your outfit in their post-show issue then you’ve done it all wrong. No one is going to remember you for your safe, middlebrow taste. So please put the three-foot-tall headdress on, wrap that dead bird around your body, wear that suit backwards. You’re an entertainment clown and these are your costumes. If you weren’t attention starved you wouldn’t be in this business in the first place, so if I can tell the difference between you and the people who audition for American Idol dressed as the Statue of Liberty then you’re not trying hard enough to please me.
10. Getting to be a snob about everything.
I’m looking forward to February because when acquaintances run out of things to ask me they’ll turn the conversation to the Academy Awards, which will then give me the chance to say that one of my favorite films of 2010—one that hasn’t even opened in the United States yet, I’m that high-falutin’—is so awesome it will never be nominated for a grubby little Oscar at all. It's a weirdly dreamy Thai film called Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives that features a talking ghost-monkey and a princess who has sex with a catfish. And then that acquaintance will change the subject or leave me alone. That equals me winning the conversation.