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February 02 Issue

OSCARS : A Night for Projectile Vomiting.

Dermot Sullivan
on a rant - The Oscar for least interest in awards goes to...
we feel compelled to stop and stare at it, just like we do at the most horrendous car crash

In just over a week’s time we will be subjected to that cinematic love-in called The Academy Awards®. There are few things outside of human rights abuses that are guaranteed to make you reach for the sick-bag like the Oscar® Ceremony. Yet we feel compelled to stop and stare at it, just like we do at the most horrendous car crash on the motorway.
Let me start with me first pet hate: The Foreign Film Oscar®. It really ties in with the Best Film award. The Americans seem to be under the illusion that the best film of the past year must be in English (preferably American). I will never forget watching the ceremony for the year that the English Patient cleaned up (I actually liked that film, by the way). The fluent French speaker Kristin Scott-Thomas was presenting the award with some old fat American male. Scott-Thomas was clearly very embarrassed. You see, with the Oscars® you can’t just say ‘here are the nominees’; no you have to have a little bit of unfunny repartee beforehand. So the fat American said ‘Did you know Kristin, that all over the world right now there are people speaking a foreign language?’ Jesus! I think that has got to be a contender for the most stupid statement ever! With an I.Q. at that level he could be a contender for President!

There is a technique for winning the Foreign Film Oscar®. Get a cute young child. Have him act alongside an older man. Make the film sentimental, though in the European way that Americans seem unable to emulate. Maybe throw in a serious subject matter, like the Holocaust . Then have Miramax promote it. There’s nothing wrong with films like as 'La Vita E Bella', But when they triumph over the likes of 'Kandahar', 'Farewell My Concubine' or 'Central Station' then one has to question the validity of the award. I think we can discount the likelihood of a film about the plight of the Palestinian people shot on Digital Video ever winning the award.

Remember that if you want to win any of the top five Oscars® (film, director, actor, actress and screenplay) then you have to have a ‘worthy’ film. 'A Beautiful Mind' is a fine example of this: Russell Crowe is a maths genius that develops schizophrenia. He battles ‘adversity’ and all comes well in the end. Don’t forget to also leave out all the awkward parts of the ‘true’ story, like his bisexuality. That won’t sell to the American heartland. Does bisexuality detract from your worthiness? Apparently so in America, but the film grossed well over $100 million so no one cares too much.

The Oscars® are not about quality but the illusion of quality. One knows what an Oscar winning film feels like: it’s not depth but breadth. How could Miramax push 'Chocolat' onto the Best Picture nomination list? How did 'Forrest Gump' beat 'Pulp Fiction'? How come that 'Fight Club', one of the most original and subversive films to come out of Hollywood since the 1970s gets totally overlooked? No, Oscars® mean that you have to have a film about a disabled lesbian who battled adversity to climb Mount Everest and found her piece with God which enabled her to overcome the death of her infant daughter who was killed when she played with Mommy’s gun (and have it promoted by Miramax). All the film is spoken in English naturally, even the sherpas who guide her up the mountain. If the character is to be a lesbian (brave decision there, a round of applause) then the protagonist must remain chaste throughout.

By solely awarding this sort of film they not only debase the whole system, but it means whole genres of films are totally overlooked. I already mentioned the lack of foreign films, but what of comedy? There was a time when Robin Williams was a comedy genius. Now all he does supports actors with excessive orthodontic work and ‘emote’. His performance in 'Good Morning Vietnam' was fantastic. Obviously that’s not good enough for the Academy Awards®. Eddie Murphy also is clearly someone else who is not worthy of the Academy’s love. Seeing though that in the history of the Oscars® the only black man to win has been Sidney Poitier, Murphy can forget it. I find it genuinely amazing how race is such a big deal for Americans. It is though and it is their loss.

It is good to see that 'The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring' has been nominated, but I would be very surprised if it did actually win. These sorts of films usually pick up technical awards. 'The Matrix' should have been a contender for Best Film, but instead the Academy focused in on the special effects.

Finally, no award ceremony would be complete without acceptance speeches. Who could forget Gwyneth Paltrow’s tears, Tom Hanks proclaiming that there was one more angel in heaven or Sally Field enthusing ‘you love me, you really love me’? Believe me, I’ve tried to forget. I wish I could scrub it from my mind with a nailbrush. I have been scarred by the whole event. Every year is a grotesque repeat, like an Oliver Stone Vietnam flashback, which I have to endure. What ever happened to talent? What ever happened to sanity? What ever happened to the concept of the best film winning? Probably down the toilet, which is where the whole ceremony should be flushed. Dermot Sullivan would like to recommend Peter Biskind’s book ‘Easy Riders, Raging Bulls’, about Hollywood in the 1970s when the auteur theory ruled and films kicked arse.

© Dermot Sullivan March 2002

And the winner is?
Well hacks will be doing a round up of what should be getting awards later this week. The New York critics picked 'Mulholland Drive'. but we'd go for 'Shrek' or 'The Royal Tennabaums' anytime. Watch this space for our own
"Vitual Oscars'

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