Department Of Sneak Previews
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And The Oscar Goes To….
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
I love movies, and love going to the theatres to see them. By the end of the year I’ve usually seen a good many of the films which will garner Golden Globe and Academy Award Nominations.  Every year I strive to see every movie nominated for best picture (and also as many movies as I can that have writing and acting awards). Every year, I fail to achieve this goal.
This year I succeeded! Well, as per my scorecard. I saw eight of the nine films nominated for Best Picture. (The one directed by Mel Gibson…no need for me to frost my butt in the theatre for that.)
IMHO, awards for any kind of performing arts are, in essence, silly and subjective PR fests. Many talented and influential actors, films, etc. which we now consider classics were either overlooked at their time of release, critically panned and/or never won awards.  Although I happily concede to the ultimate insignificance of it all, moiself has opinions. When I’m watching the Oscar telecast I usually have definite preferences about who should win what award. Then ask me two years (or sometimes as little as two months) later which movie won Best Picture or which writer won for best adapted screenplay or who for Best Supporting Actor, and it’s…huh?
As last Sunday’s Academy Awards show began I looked over the list of nominations, and loved the fact that, for the first time in many years, I thought that all the nominated films were mahvelous. I’d high hopes for my underdog favorite, Hell or High Water, but was prepared to toast any of the other nominees (with the exception of the one directed by that religious fanatic/racist/misogynist/anti-Semitic/drunken hack Hacksaw Ridge).
MH and I hosted one of our Movie Awards Dinners ® . These MAD events consist of us providing “movie food” (hot dogs in all permutations,  popcorn, Junior Mints, plus chips and guacamole  and champagne) served up on TV trays. The feast is lovingly consumed by MAD attendees as we watch the broadcast and mark our very own Oscar ballots as each award is announced: MAD attendees each have a ballot containing the list of nominees for the 24 broadcast award categories. We mark each category twice – in red ink to indicate, for example, which actor we personally want to win the Best Actor award, and in blue ink the actor we think is most likely to actually win the award.
At the end of the ceremony we tally up our scores in two categories: how many of our red ink/personal faves actually won Oscars, and how many of our blue ink/predictions took home a trophy. We have our own brief awards ceremony for our two categories: Me and Them. Winners receive a $25 gift certificate to a local theatre chain.  And the losers…well, we know it was an honor just to be nominated.
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Department Of Acceptance Speeches I Loathe
Aka You Are A Working Actor And Not A Special Snowflake
As per the afore-mentioned balloting game, I was pleased when Viola Davis’ name was announced for winning the Best Supporting Actress award. Besides the petty thrill of having chosen the winner (she was my personal fave in a strong field, and I also guessed correctly that she would be the Academy’s choice), she is an actor whose other work I have admired.
My admiration quickly faded as I listened to her acceptance speech. Several days later, when I kept running across articles touting how “inspirational” her words were, I wondered if anyone besides me had actually heard what she’d said?
Let’s face it: most acting award acceptance speeches are faux-humble paeans to Self. Those in which the actor’s invisible friends are mentioned are the most cloyingly and self-righteously annoying of all – how nice of you to hold us captive while you praise your Lawd for taking time out from his busy schedule of ignoring the cries of schoolgirl Boko Harem rape camp victims to personally direct your career and give your parents the oh-so-extraordinary honor of raising you. 
This declaration in particular, early on in Ms. Davis’ speech (transcript here), I had a hard time getting past:
I became an artist—and thank God I did! —because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.
The magnanimous part of me is hoping that Ms. Davis was caught up in the moment and really had no idea what she was saying. The more sarcastic pragmatic part of me thinks her speech sounded just like what it was: rehearsed. Which means she had to have thought about that pretentious, self-congratulatory, elitist declaration before she spoke it.
Tsk tsk tsk upon cynical moiself. I suppose I should actually be relieved – thankful, even – on behalf of the rest of us little people. From teachers to social workers to engineers to radiologists to landscape crews to mail clerks to hospice care nurses to nursing home attendants to baristas to food cart vendors to journalists to Peace Corps workers to fire department EMTs to parents and day care workers – good news for us all! After putting in long hours every day caring for others and ourselves, which often includes sharing our hopes and dreams and victories and defeats with friends and family and co-workers, we no longer have to bother with thinking about or even remarking upon anything related to existential, meaning-of-life issues. We can and should shift that burden to actors and other artists and stop wasting our time contemplating that which we can never truly understand, because “they” occupy the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.
Calling all (self-considered or otherwise labeled) artists:  what y’all do is important in its own way – at the very least, you ofttimes afford the rest of us a bit o’ momentary entertainment. But holy fucking inflated-sense-of-self-importance-disguised-as-cinematic-celebration – maintain some perspective. Clutch your trophy, say Thank you, humbly and briefly reflect upon the whimsies of luck and your red carpet privileges, and then sit your designer-swaddled buns down.
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Department Of Nobody Is Listening To Me, But If They Were…
How To Make The Oscar Awards Show Telecast Better…
Or at least shorter. Which would be better, I think we can all agree.
I have many opinions on the subject. Attention, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Scientists, y’all can start by considering this one: The Oscar Awards telecast should not have any musical performances, whether by the original artist/songwriter or guest singers, of the songs which are nominated for Best Song. These individual song performances plus their intros add 25 – 30 minutes to the show.
The Oscar telecast usually features brief (as in 15 second, tops) clips of the nominated acting performances, but doesn’t have anyone – either the nominated actors themselves or stand-ins – acting out the pivotal, five minute scenery-chewing soliloquies which merited each nomination. Why can’t you do the same with the nominated songs? A measure or two is all we need.
We can and will hear the movie’s songs by watching the movies, just as we can see the acting by seeing the movies…just as we can see the movies, by seeing the movies.
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“When a woman writes a book that has anything to do with feelings or relationships, it’s either called chick lit or women’s fiction, right? But look at Updike or Irving. Imagine if they’d been women. Just imagine. Someone would have slapped a pink cover onto ‘Rabbit at Rest,’ and poof, there goes the Pulitzer.”
(From the J. Courtney Sullivan novel, Commencement)
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Department Of Gloria Steinem Stole My Neologism!
But since I like her so much, she can have her variant, with my blessing.
Background info: For years (a search of my documents shows at least since 2010) I’d been sharing my idea/gripe with friend and fellow writer SCM and others, about how we need counterpart terms for the almost-always-used-dismissive literary and cinematic classifying labels, chick lit and chick flick. I decided it was only logical that dick lit and dick flick were up to the task. But I’ve never heard anyone else, outside of my circle of disaffected cynics acquaintances, use the term….
That is until yesterday, when the eminently quotable Gloria Steinem, in a NY Times op-ed, wrote about the quandary of a fellow passenger on her recent New York to Seattle flight. When passengers were offered free movie viewing to placate them during a long tarmac delay, a young man, frustrated by the available movie choices, sputtered, “I don’t watch chick flicks.”
Chick flick; chick lit. We all know what is meant by the terms.  Steinem briefly used the man’s dilemma to illuminated the double standard (read: sexism) that has been long-noted by and for women in fiction reviewing and classifying…
I wasn’t challenging his preference, but I did question the logic of his term. After all, much of what we read as great literature in school may well have been called “chick lit,” especially if it had been written by women.
Think about it: If “Anna Karenina” had been by Leah Tolstoy, or “The Scarlet Letter” by Nancy Hawthorne or “A Doll’s House” by Henrietta Ibsen — if “The Invisible Man” had been “The Invisible Woman” — would they have been hailed as classics?
… before advocating, rather tongue-in-cheekily, that the young man deserved a label to direct him toward films he might prefer (my emphases):
I realized the problem began with the fact that adjectives are mostly required of the less powerful. Thus, there are “novelists” and “female novelists,” “African-American doctors” but not “European- American doctors,” “gay soldiers” but not “heterosexual soldiers,”….
As has been true forever, the person with the power takes the noun — and the norm — while the less powerful requires an adjective. Thus, my fellow passenger was left with only half a guide.
Bias is, as always, unfair to everyone. Inspired by the blood-and-guts, monosyllabic war movie that had taken us off the tarmac and into the air, I realized the answer by the time of arrival. The opposite of a “chick flick” is a “prick flick.”
I nearly jumped out of my chair when I read that. For some reason, I felt as much like crowing, “You’re welcome,” as Right on!”
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May you have the chance to share a collective consciousness moment with Gloria Steinem;
May you enjoy the simply if petty pleasures of watching silly awards shows;
May you know when it’s time to gush and when it’s time to sit your ass down;
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
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 Except for the years when the BOOM BOOM CRASH CRASH PUNCH PUNCH FIGHT FIGHT pictures dominate.
 Peter O’Toole, nominated for Best Actor eight times – zip. I tried to pass this wisdom along to younger members of my extended family who were incensed about certain Grammy awards: (“What does Beyonce have to do to win record of the year?!?!?”)
 Read: some vegan/veggie dawgs for us wimps.
 Not standard movie theatre fare but that’s what we like…and I make a hot damn fine guacamole if I do say so moiself (and I just did). Secret: white pepper and finely diced white onion.
 Go big or go home, I always say.
 (“My parents―I’m so thankful that God chose you to bring me into this world.” Really? I mean, sure, thank your parents for their support, but get over yourself, Ms. Viola.)
 And as a fiction writer I would be and have been included by some in this category.
 In movies, a chick flick is a movie which has, as Steinem succinctly puts it, “more dialogue than car chases, more relationships than special effects,” and its plot depends more on how people live than how they are killed.