Rant-Man’s Notebook: Deconstructing Oscar

The Oscars have become almost irrelevant to me in the past few years. I’m not sure why I still watch them, but I do, even though the last time I saw more than three of the nominated movies, people were still wearing knit ties. I’m a parent, and that means one thing: if a movie doesn’t have a Happy Meal associated with it, I probably didn’t see it. Once a year, on New Year’s Eve, we rent a pile of videos and watch movies all night, but we never seem to get the ones from the current year. We’ll see a couple of fairly recent ones, two or three classics, and some oddball thing we never heard of before, but somehow the Oscar winners seldom make it to my house.

Take this year, for example. I saw four of the nominees: Harry Potter, Monsters Inc., Shrek, and Lord of the Rings. Not a grownup movie in the lot. Sad, idnit?

The upside of this situation is that I’m not rooting for anybody to win, so that leaves me free to mock everybody. At my house, talking to the television is expected during awards shows. It’s fun. Sometimes we make our own speeches for them, other times we just add commentary, and on occasion, we translate what the winners say into what they mean.

Highlights from this year’s Oscar awards:

Tom Cruise suggested that Hollywood’s annual attempt to pat itself on the back has somehow taken on more importance in light of the events of September 11. Thousands of Americans gave their lives so that celebrities can get together and tell each other how special they are. Isn’t that nice?

Jennifer Connelly demonstrated that even with notes in hand, it’s possible to sound like a ditz. Now, I’ve liked Connelly since she was a kid in Labyrinth, but if she actually had that speech written out on paper, and it sounded like that, then she should thank God she’s good-looking, ’cause she ain’t going anywhere on her smarts. “By some beautiful twist of fate I’ve landed in this vocation that demands that I feel and helps me to learn.” Uh, hon, it wasn’t really a twist of fate. It’s called good genetics. “I believe in love, that there is nothing more important. Alicia Nash is a true champion of love. So thank you to her for her example. My son Kai is for me the greatest messenger. And so thank you to him for all of our days. Thank you very much.” Did you find that in a fortune cookie?

The producers of this year’s show, concerned that it might clock in at something less than a fortnight, have padded out the show with clips of celebrities talking about their favorite films. Of the ones I recognized, Britney Spears prattled on about how important Pretty Woman is to her. So that’s why she dresses like a hooker!

The Oscar for Best Documentary goes to a film about racial profiling in Florida, setting up tonight’s theme: letting Hollywood feel good about themselves by giving a lot of awards and attention to African-American performers so they can continue to avoid giving them any decent roles.

Speaking of which, here comes Halle Berry to give out the Sound Editor award. She reads from the teleprompter, as if she’s never seen it before, a poem that requires her to make a lot of odd noises and sound effects. Later, she’ll make a speech about dignity and respect. She will not appreciate the irony here.

Poor Ian McKellen doesn’t get the Supporting Actor award. I feel bad for the guy, after what they put him through in Lord of the Rings. When I was watching the film, all I could think while watching the battle between Saruman and Gandalf was “what kind of sadistic bastard would do that to guys in their 70s?”

Circue du Soliel shows up to do some tricks. They bear some tangential relationship to the special-effects clips on the big screen behind them. This leads into the award for Visual Effects. Amazingly enough, it doesn’t go to the people who built the lifelike Mariah Carey robot that was featured in Glitter.

Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw present the Jean Hersholt award to Arthur Hiller. (Who the heck is Jean Hersholt?) Even though Ryan O’Neal is battling a very serious illness, it’s McGraw who looks like there’s something wrong with her. She’s starting to take on that crazy cat-lady look. You know the type; trying to look like she did 25 years ago, but it comes off as scary rather than sexy, like back in high school when your friend’s mom would flirt with you, but she wasn’t attractive at all, and it kind of creeped you out. Like that.

Okay, what the hell was McCartney smoking when he wrote that ghastly song? Paul, buddy… Live and Let Die was Beethoven compared to this thing. Are you even trying anymore?

Gwyneth Paltrow wears the ugliest dress in the world as she and Ethan Hawke present the award for Best Adapted Screenplay to Akiva Goldsman for A Beautiful Mind. Goldsman asks if this means he’s forgiven for Batman & Robin. No. You’re not. And you still have Lost in Space to answer for, pal.

Kevin Spacey does the “In Memoriam” segment, starting with a moment of silence for the dead of September 11, reminding us all again how trivial this award show is. Then Spacey rings a bell and shouts “bring out yer dead!” and there’s the film clip of this year’s harvest: Bob Hope, Clint Eastwood, Jack Nicholson, Bob Barker, Keith Richards….

Halle Berry doesn’t look so good when there’s snot running all over her face. She carries on for a long time about how important the award is for black actors, without ever noticing that they gave her the award for her performance, not for being black. Or maybe it wasn’t for her performance, but for her naughty bits. I know that’s all I’ve heard from anybody who’s seen it; “Billy Bob is the luckiest man on Earth,” they say.

After Denzel Washington gets the Best Actor award, and thanks everyone up to and including his dog’s vet, the remaining awards go to Opie and his movie. The producer thanks “the profound Russell Crowe” (“profound” means “moody as hell and a complete pain in the ass), “the sublime Jennifer Connelly” (“sublime” means “she has big ones”), and then thanks Akiva Goldsman for “creating this difficult and heartrending script” (“creating” means “taking out all the icky stuff”).

At this point, most of the audience members are trying to restore the circulation in their legs after sitting for nearly four and a half hours. Whoopi hasn’t made much of an effort to keep things hopping. She concludes with a pointless remark about having New York’s back, then turns around to show “FDNY,” “NYPD,” and “PAPD” on the back of her jacket. I’m sure the brave rescue workers of New York are just pleased as punch to know that they got their initials on Whoopi’s jacket. Yeah, that’ll help.

And so to bed.

NEXT: The Torment of Roses.

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