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A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Oscars

Dateline: Pickled in a motel room on Sepulveda Blvd.

Oscar time comes like the rain in Los Angeles - once a year, hot, sticky, and causing alarm for the Hummer drivers. Where the red carpet runs and the buffalo roam, the heat becomes so severe under the glare of flashbulbs and arc lights and the collective breath of several thousand expectorating gawkers, it's a wonder some of the cheaper plastic surgery doesn't begin to melt. Over here in the City of Angels, new standards are being set in social development. Britney Spears has become the new poster child for the inevitably well-adjusted, emotionally-healthy type of young woman who embarks early in life on a successful career, carefully guided by loving parents and corporate benevolence, graduating to a life of spiritual and physical well-being in Bush's Moral America.

Here's Oscar:
  • Red Carpet Ride
  • The Oddscars
  • Best Song Won't Be
  • Geeks & Freaks
  • But it's been a controversial year, perhaps the most controversial year in Hollywood history since Fredric March and Wallace Beery arranged an impromptu wrestling match to determine which of them would take home the statuette after they tied for the 1931/32 Best Actor Oscar. Why, I have no idea. Such upright citizens as Mel Gibson, Michael Richards, and Isaiah Washington continue to spread peace, love, and understanding in the most noble Bush tradition. Gibson in particular has reinforced his public pronouncements that reveal his deep and nuanced view of history with insight into Mayan culture in Apocalypto, which, after The Passion of the Christ's fascinating reportage of the techniques of crucifixion, gave an anthropologist's-eye-view of Native American practices of impaling and heart-removal. Kebabing the cast is certainly a novel move for a non-vampire film. Apocalypto will be competing against Clint Eastwood's Letters from Iwo Jima in a new category, Best Fake Foreign-Language Film.

    It was a disappointing year for Eastwood, releasing two films on the same subject, neither of which many people went to see, the only way in which he can be compared with Jude Law. A more pleasing double-header for studio chiefs was Leonardo DiCaprio appearing shirtless in The Departed and Blood Diamond, showing career progress from jerky to beefcake that would make Charles Atlas proud. The Departed would be a sure thing for Best Picture if it wasn't a remake of a Hong Kong film, though perhaps giving the top award to a remake would balm the consciences of risk-averse executives set on remaking every film ever made. There is, nonetheless, the feeling here that this is Martin Scorsese's time at last. After 30 years of important, challenging, intellectually and emotionally stimulating art, he has finally pulled of the career coup de grace necessary to gain an Oscar; one of his films made money. Rumor has it that Boston Southies are becoming as litigious towards the film as the cast of Borat. That highly successful film has been sorely neglected in the Best Documentary category, apparently because the Kazakh Film Board was reluctant to submit it for consideration on the grounds they were worried that in a cooling period for American support overseas, it might be seen as an overly-cozy view of the U.S.

    It has been officially announced by Buckingham Palace that Trainspotting is more likely to get a royal command performance than The Queen, though that's perhaps more to do with Elizabeth's penchant for reciting Sick Boy's Pussy Galore speech than any reflection on the Stephen Frears film. It's all part of Royalty's new chill-out philosophy - on the long couch in front of the television, watching Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle, complaints are apparently rife that Charles bogarts the joint and Phillip asks if the little brown fellow was in Superman Returns. Helen Mirren's turn as Queen Elizabeth II, however, has been hailed by various world leaders desirous to see themselves played by younger, more attractive people, giving hope that the long anticipated The George W. Bush Story, with Matthew McConaughey attached, might finally be greenlighted.

    If anyone is going to upset Mirren's accession, it probably will be another possessor of a title that reinforces class divisions favored by reactionary opponents of the glorious socialist state - Judi Dench - who shares the limelight with Cate Blanchett in Notes From a Scandal. Reacting to criticism for not rewarding the gay-cowboys-eating-pudding film from last year, the Academy might decide to smile on this charming, progressive portrait of Dench's lesbian crush cutting across social constraints, and many Hollywood types are not unfriendly to Blanchett's pursuit of a bit of the barely legal, either. Blanchett has, however, apparently been reduced to running a Sydney theatre, due to lack of cinematic work this year. She has now joined Kevin Spacey in turning to the big, easy money of stage work in a time of declining interest in film.

    DiCaprio, who delivers Brando-esque electricity in his role, will, however, probably lose out to the current fads for celebrity impersonators (Beery may well have bitched the same about George Arliss putting on a Disraeli mask back in '29) and African horror stories - to wit, The Last King of Scotland, with Forest Whitaker's Idi Amin, who, having died a natural death after a reign of blood, cannot sue. We welcome the truly great Whitaker's return to acting and hope an Oscar encourages him to give up directing films like Waiting to Exhale and Hope Floats.

    This year's UNESCO award for Promotion of International Brotherhood goes to Babel, one of three highly-rated films by Mexican directors - the other two being Guillermo Del Toro's Best Foreign Language Film shoe-in Pan's Labyrinth and Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men, whose burial by its studio is inexplicable unless perhaps its vision of economic, environmental, and social collapse seemed to spell out the Green Party platform, making Hollywood folks worried about encouraging people to vote Nader again. Some have referred to Babel as this year's Crash, a misinformed epithet if ever there was. Only someone deaf, dumb, blind, and devoid of critical faculties could confuse the two films. Obviously, however, there are a large number of such people in the Academy, because Crash was the Best Picture of last year.

    Well, that's about all I can be bothered reporting on, readers. I'll try to be soused until Sunday, when I'll be squeezing into my tux, dragging a blunt razor over my face, and heading down to drink and weep with the also nominated.

    Roderick Heath is our drunken Hemingway-wannabe foreign correspondent from Oz.


    Posted on February 22, 2007

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