Friday, February 22, 2008

Reviews of the Ignorant: Thanking the Academy Edition

Well, here we are folks, back for the 1st Annual 2008 Academy Awards ignorant review. I'd like to thank the dancing Snow Whites for that beautiful musical number based on the score for "3:10 to Yuma" (Yuma? Ima. Ima. Uma.). Considering that I have not seen any of the best picture nominees, or any of the nominees for best actor, best actress, best supporting actor, best supporting actress, or best director (not to mention best art direction, best costume design, best foreign language film, or best short live action or animated, or best adapted screenplay), I feel I am particularly ignorant in my comments on the upcoming awards ceremony. (I will mention that I do have a solid pick in sound editing, which would be a film sadly overlooked for best picture, or at least best picture based on a line of toys: "Transformers". Those "whrrrr-rrrr-rrreet!" sounds of the robots changing into GM vehicles make this a shoe-in. If there was a category for best ass-kicking robots, I think we all know what film's name would be in that envelope.) However, I sit down to write this with a heavy heart. This is not only due to the fact that I just ate an entire bowl of Bac-O's covered in blue cheese dressing. It is also because, well, when it comes to these awards, no real person outside of LA or parts of New York, including me, really cares.

Now don't get me wrong, here. I know, I know, ABC has told us again and again that this is the most important thing on television in the month of February, and we should all be grateful that the writer's strike has ended so that we can again hear excruciatingly lame jokes while dozing off to excruciatingly boring acceptance speeches. In fact, if you go to the "Official" website, you can see that you only have to wait 2 days 19:19:54 ( 47...) before your dull, grey life is visited by the gold-plated Ken doll of filmatic honor. And I appreciate a great film, which, of course, I define as having one or more of the following: 1) running time of less than 90 minutes, B) explosions, robots, and/or exploding robots, III) Jennifer Connelly, 4th) the ability to transport you and teach you to see something in your own life differently. And there are a lot of great films that have that. Heck, some of the films nominated for an Oscar may even have one or more of these things (although I, shamefully, do not see a "Jennifer" + a "Connelly" listed anywhere. I'm going to assume this is just a result of the writer's strike preventing her name from being written.) So, yeah, run with it and honor them, Hollywood. More power to you.

I also understand the need, in the wet winter month between the Super Bowl and March Madness, to find something to, shall we say, place gentlemanly wagers on. I'm all for gentlemanly wagers. To assist with that, I have provided a comprehensive list of the guaranteed winners in the following post (and, of course, by 'guaranteed' I mean 'not guaranteed'). So wager away, gentleman. Just save a few dollars for March.

No, my ennui, as they would say in "Les Mozart Des Pickpockets", one of the films nominated for Best Live Action Short Film, is based primarily on the self-importance of the whole thing. When it comes down to it, no one really cares about Best Swollen Forehead Visual Effect or Best Costume That Allows Boobs to Be Visible But Still Covered Enough for a PG-13 or even Best Picture. Life goes on. Yet we are told repeatedly by all media that this is equal to the war that I think is still going on in Iraq, even though I haven't seen any news on it for a few months, or the 2008 Presidential Election. We are provided with ballots to make our own picks, bombarded with dresses and "red carpet" critiques, even treated to a second by second countdown via the website (now 2 days, 19:01:35...32...28...) All of this is overkill, and relates very little to the real life of the people in flyover country.

Every quarter, my place of employment calls all employees who haven't called in sick that day down to the cafeteria where a few of our number are called up to the podium and recognized for some accomplishment or other (as in "Best Excuse for Calling in Sick" or "Most Creative Use of the Copier") While these employees don't get to give an acceptance speech (in fact, they usually just look embarrassed and kind of twitchy in their desire to sit back down) and they usually get a $5 coupon to Subway rather than a golden statue and not only does no one care what the other employees wore to work that day ("And here is Thompson from HR, looking stunning in a creative ensemble of a blue shirt and a pair of khakis"), the goal is no different than the goal of the Academy Awards. And, like the Academy Awards, no one really cares who gets recognized anyway. The difference between the Academy Awards and my work's Cafeteria Awards is that no one tries and pretends that the Cafeteria Awards are important. We understand it is just another lame attempt to get through another day without performing so poorly that there is no excuse not to fire us and force the company to try and find someone else who can pass a pee test. Yet we are told the Academy Awards are important, we should listen to the endless, masturbatory congratulations and half-informed political diatribes ("And I'd like to dedicate this statue to the people of Darfur. I understand you may have just had your hands and feet cut off, so here I stand, holding this for you. Stop the madness, world, stop the madness. And stop global warming, too."), we should follow with intense interest who is wearing what and walking with whom down the red carpet, even though there is little separating this awards ceremony and the slightly more greasy one held in the employee cafeteria. The Oscars are the "most important night in show biz". To that I respond as they would in the Best Animated Feature Film Nominee "Ratatouille" with a resounding "Bull-merde".

I'm going to send an email to ABC and let them know that the Cafeteria Awards at my work are usually around 1 pm on the first Thursday of the month, see if they can come out and broadcast it around the world. At the same time, I'll email the E! Network to let them know they may want to be there around 12:55, to catch all the excitement of the employees walking down the black, non-skid mat to find a seat where they are least likely to be seen dozing off. Watch your local listing for that.

Meanwhile, I was going to write an ignorant review for each of the best picture nominees, but I really don't have any interest in any of them any more than anyone has any interest in reading my blog about any of them, so, instead, I'm going to go through each of the top three categories and compare a leading nominee to a real-life equivalent, see who comes out on top. This should be fun. Or, if not fun, it at least should be long.

Race #1: Best Actress

Ellen Page in "Juno" vs Tamika Rollands in "Pregnant Teen"

Ellen Page is the adorable pregnant teen we all love as she struggles with hard decisions, including finding a family who will love and support her unborn child. This quirky comedy is a feel-good slice of life. Tamika Rollands is the despised pregnant teen who was raped at a house party by six of her brother's drug connections, thrown out of the house by her mother, has now dropped out of school, and is supporting herself through prostitution. This dirty tragedy is ended when Tamika is sliced across the face by a knife and left to die behind the swingset of a neighborhood park.

Winner: Ellen Page! Because we all know that the Academy Awards are the most important thing.
Loser: Tamika Rollands! No one likes an irresponsible teen who selfishly burdens the welfare system.

Race #2: Best Actor

George Clooney in "Michael Clayton" vs the town of White Top, WV in "Drinking Carcinogous Plastic"

Playing a corporate lawyer, the ever-charming George Clooney works hard to clean up dirty cases. But, when he realizes he may be playing for the wrong side, he sees how dirty his former corporate friends can be and finds his own life is on the line! This relevant and thought-provoking thriller will leave you on the edge of your seat! Meanwhile, in the dying mountain town of White Top, the only employer is a multi-billion dollar plastic manufacturer who, rather than pay hundreds of millions of dollars to properly dispose of carcinogous waste, is able to increase the bottom line by paying a few million dollar fine to the EPA every year and continue to dump the by-product into the Wanahatchee River, the only source of water for the town. Faced with the choice of destroying the primary source of income by driving the plastics manufacturer out of town (the CEO has already advised the City Council that, if any legal action is taken, the town of Hatchet Springs, about 50 miles north, has agreed to provide a 100 year tax abatement) or continuing to ingest water that has led to a cancer rate 200 times the national average, the town of White Top does the only thing they can do- they die! And their children die! And the executives of the plastics manufacturer drink only bottled water when they tour the plant once a year.

Winner: George Clooney! Because the Academy Awards are the most important night of the year!
Losers: The citizens of White Top, WV! Because they're dead AND soon to be unemployed when the plastics manufacturer moves the plant to Hatchet Springs anyhow. And they're still dead, because the carcinogenic waste stays in the water for 2000 years plus Hatchet Springs is upriver and it will still collect in the White Top reservoir. And no corporate lawyer will take the case anyway because the plaintiffs are both poor and dead.

Race #3: Best Picture

"No Country For Old Men" vs "Dead John Doe" vs "Unnamed Mexican Family"

What a thrilling three-way race! In the grand "No Country For Old Men", the Coens do it again, bringing stylized violence and intense storytelling to this tale of vengeance and danger in the drug traffic along the US-Mexican border. Filled with thrilling performances, stunning scenery, and an intense yet tranquil story, this film is the best Coen Brothers work in years! Dead John Doe is approximately 48 years old and, although his body is so badly decomposed when found lying in a ditch behind a public library that he cannot be identified, police will never learn the truth of his non-thrilling, non-stunning life. Living with a never-diagnosed schizophrenia, "John", or, as his mother called him when he was a boy, Steven DuChamp, started doing drugs when he was 14, selling them when he was 16, and was homeless and addicted by 17. Bouncing in and out of jail, including 2 years in prison for burglary, John ends up beaten and strangled by his own nephew as a result of a missing $20 bill from a drug sale. He's buried in a single grave at the county's expense along with two other unclaimed, unidentified bodies. Finally, Unnamed Mexican Family consists of a father, a mother, and four kids, including an infant of less than 9 months old, who, struggling to escape an oppressive government and non-existent opportunity in their native country, pay almost four months wages to two men who promise to get them to San Corina, California, where there are plenty of jobs picking strawberries for $1.20 an hour. Instead the men lock them in the back of a box truck for almost two days with no food or water during the hottest January on record with daily temperatures of almost 101 degrees. Finally, after two days of living hell, including witnessing the death of their baby, the family is released from the truck, where the father is promptly beaten and robbed and the mother repeatedly raped in front of her children by the men who were supposed to be helping them. The entire family is left in the desert to die, only to be picked up a day later by border patrol and taken back to Mexico, where the father is promptly put in a Mexican jail and never seen again. And the body of the infant is never found and assumed eaten by coyotes.

Winner: "No Country For Old Men"! Stunning cinematography and edgy direction make this a deep and unforgettable classic. Plus, the Academy Awards are the most important thing.

Loser: "John Doe"! How hard is it to get a job? There are plenty of jobs, honestly!

Super-losers: Unnamed Mexican Family! There are right ways to come to the U.S. and wrong ways to come to the U.S. If you play with fire, you are bound to get burned. Or eaten by coyotes.

My Rating: 2008 Academy Awards- 0 Stars for assuming that someone who's home is in foreclosure and scheduled to be auctioned next week cares what Keira Knightley is wearing, or that the 85 year old who has just had her pension cancelled and been forced into a Medicare drug program finds news of the Vanity Fair After-party entertaining.

However, in the Cafeteria Awards, I am proud to report I, myself, am the recipient of a solid paper $5 Subway coupon for "Best Acting at Being Busy While Typing a Blog Posting at Work".

Enjoy the Oscars, really. But just keep in mind that it is not the most important night of the year and most definitely not worth counting down (2 days 17:43:00...58...55). It is really just an expensive employee recognition program.

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