Saturday, February 21, 2009
So, the Academy Awards are almost here. Am I alone with the whoop-de-do feeling? I used to like to watch the Academy Awards. But then, I actually could claim to have seen the movies. Remember when "Titanic" was nominated? I don't know if the movie was as good as I thought it was, but at least I saw it. Last year the only movie I cared about was "No Country for Old Men." This year..... Well, I'd care if "The Dark Knight" had been nominated. And that's kind of the crux of it for me. The only draw to the awards show this year is to see if Heath Ledger wins for "The Dark Knight" and to see my favorite crush, who just happens to be hosting this year, Hugh Jackman. I guess I'm not alone either. While cruising the net today I came across this article about this year's show and the lack of interest-- even among the celebrities who were nominated. I can report that this year's producers are privately complaining that the biggest movie stars in the world like Jack Nicholson, Nicole Kidman, Angelina Jolie, George Clooney, and Kate Winslet gave them reasons galore -- some serious, some trivial -- for why they didn't want to present awards, once considered a huge honor. (For instance, Kidman said she [won't] appear onstage without the "right" hairdresser. George Clooney wouldn't reschedule his current visit to Darfur refugee camps in Africa. And Winslet, the Best Actress shoo-in, claimed she was too "nervous" to take it on.) One of the few bigtime actresses who didn't balk was Reese Witherspoon. These behind-the-scenes embarrassments are one reason why the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences took the unprecedented step this year of failing to make public the list of Oscar presenters. There's even talk now of bringing back those official $100,000+ Oscar baskets of expensive freebies that used to be given to the show's presenters and performers (before Uncle Sam decided to tax the giveaways) as a way to bribe Hollywood into lending its star power. And Meanwhile, a group of online bloggers has led an audience boycott of the Oscars among the predominantly male fans of The Dark Knight because of the Academy voters' snub of the $1 billion-in-worldwide-grosses comic book caper for a Best Picture nomination and its Chris Nolan for Best Director. And that's yet another problem that hurts viewership: this year, too, the most popular movies aren't in contention for the major category Academy Awards. That drives away younger viewers. So it's little wonder that ABC in this economic freefall scrambled to drop prices for 30-second ads and replace two of the key sponsors for its Sunday broadcast, General Motors and L'Oreal. Not even the prospect of 30+ million U.S. viewers could lure advertisers who've cut their TV budgets to the bone. Prices for Oscars spots averaged $1.7 million last year, but now are going for as cheap as $1.4 million. The result is that, in a departure from tradition, parent company Walt Disney had to let its rival movie studios buy time on the telecast. Wow. Where has all the glamor gone? I have stated before that I believe that the biggest problem with the way Hollywood passes out awards these days is that honest-to-goodness good movies aren't really in the running anymore; at least most of the time. It's become all about the vehicle movies like the yearly Holocaust films like "The Piano" and "The Reader" that are almost automatically nominated due to the fact that they have a Holocaust setting-- not based on merit. Perhaps the new breed of Holocaust films came into existence due to the wide respect movies like "Schindler's List" received, but just because a movie is set during the Holocaust doesn't automatically mean it's good. Ditto for suburban angst films. That isn't to say all the nominees are bad. I've heard that "Slumdog Millionaire" is really a good film; one that isn't in the dark, depressing mode of the majority of the other nominated films. Bottom line, I miss the days when movies like "The Godfather" and "Rocky" won the Academy Award. I would give anything for another "Silence of the Lambs" to be nominated. If the Academy could recognize "Titanic" then how can "The Dark Knight" be overlooked. Where did all the pretentiousness come from? I don't know. I just don't know. As much as I love Hugh Jackman, I may not watch. Well, maybe I'll watch long enough to see if Ledger gets a posthumous award. After that... I think I'll watch a movie on DVD. I hear "The Dark Knight" is good.