So I’m in bed next to Mrs. Cornell and I’m flipping channels last night, when I stumble across Daniel Day Lewis winning the Best Actor Academy Award. It was only then that I remembered the Oscars were on. And yet I kept flipping channels and finally settled on watching Chris Noth bust perps in Law and Order:CI. I only returned to see the Coen Brothers win Best Director, and I flipped back to Noth before I had to endure an acceptance speech. That was about it – I missed Best Picture, which didn’t matter, as the only nominated film I had seen was Juno, and it had no chance of winning.
So Oscar night came and went, and I caught about 90 seconds of it.
How did I come to this point?
Early in our marriage, my wife was appalled that I insisted on watching the Oscars every year. That first year, Braveheart won Best Picture, which made me happy, although it would have been fun to have seen Babe win, but that seldom happens, because, as evidenced by the Juno shutout, comedies don’t generally get the Oscar love that serious dramas do. I remember as a kid cheering like crazy when Chariots of Fire pulled an upset and won out over Warren Beatty’s dreary Reds, and I remember the devastation I felt when Star Wars lost out to Annie Hall for Best Picture of 1977. (I’ve since seen Annie Hall, and I still think that was a travesty.)
My parents went to see the Academy Awards live in 1976, and we kids tried to stay up late to see if we could spot them, but we didn’t. We fell asleep before they got to Best Picture. That was the year Rocky won. Long after, I wondered why none of the sequels were nominated until I was old enough to realize they were pretty much crap.
I remember being bugged that The Fly didn’t get anything but technical nominations in 1986. I remember being enraged by Tom Hanks’ win for the mediocre Philadelphia when Anthony Hopkins was slighted for the finest screen performance in history in Remains of the Day. Then I remember cheering for Hanks when his Forrest Gump crushed the execrably overrated Pulp Fiction the following year. I dug it when the pseudo-Oxfordian film Shakespeare in Love beat out Saving Private Ryan for Best Picture, but when I actually saw Saving Private Ryan later, I decided that Spielberg and Co. were robbed. I lamented Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings losses two years in a row – to the vastly inferior films A Beautiful Mind and Chicago – until his Return of the King triumphed in the third year with 12 awards and made up for it.
So how do I get from there to here?
Well, for one thing, I don’t see many movies anymore. It’s fun to watch the Oscars when you’ve got something to root for, but even my love for Juno wasn’t enough to get me interested in watching Hollywood pat themselves on the back for three hours.
Also, as I’ve become more politically astute, I’ve become sensitized to just how reprehensible Hollywood really is. I was grateful to see Daniel Day-Lewis win, because I was dreading a George Clooney victory, despite the fact that I haven’t seen either actor’s movie. I just think George Clooney is an anti-American turd, and the last thing I wanted was for him to have a good night.
Much has been written and said about Hollywood’s penchant for self-congratulation, and much of it is accurate. Performers are a bottomless pit of need, and they crave approval and recognition in ways that less narcissistic folks don’t. But so what? Hollywood, at least in my eyes, used to have a veneer of class and grace that made the whole vapid exercise fun to watch.
That’s pretty much gone now.
Even growing up, I never watched the Emmys or the Grammys or – yick – the Tonys. Award shows were tedious affairs, but somehow the Oscars were different. Maybe it took me this long to realize that they really aren’t different, and that they don’t measure actual achievement so much as elitist fashion, and that the people who make these movies usually have contempt for the people who watch them.
It was really cool, though, the year Marisa Tomei pulled a stunning upset and won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for My Cousin Vinny.