Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Oscar Has a Way of B-o-l-o-g-n-a

The brilliant actor turned social commentator Charles Grodin explained in his book, We’re Ready for You, Mr. Grodin, why he had no use for awards shows.

Not only are they subjective, Grodin opined, but they’re comparing apples and oranges—or something like that.

“The best way to find out who’s the better actor is to see the nominees play the same role,” Grodin said with both common sense and impracticality. “But the way it is now, it’s like having a food contest: ‘The nominees are steak, chicken, and spaghetti. And the winner is…spaghetti!’”

I see where Grodin is coming from, and I can’t say that I disagree. But it’s spitting into the wind; awards shows aren’t going anywhere—and neither are the Oscars, which invade your living room this Sunday night.

At least with steak, chicken, and spaghetti, I’ve tried them; I know what they taste like. When it comes to the Academy Awards/Oscars, there’s always something that not only have I never tasted, I’d never allow onto my plate.

I’ve always thought the Oscars to be too ethereal and hoity-toity for my liking, though I find myself plunked in front of the television every year, watching them. The Academy has had an annoying habit of falling in love with films that I would either find too boring, too dark, too deep, or just plain uninteresting.

Not that they’re not cinematic masterpieces in their own way. I think my problem lies with the films that Oscar doesn’t even consider—read: comedies.

For whatever reason, if it makes you laugh, it must not be a great piece of filmmaking, according to Oscar. A flat-out comedy is hardly ever among the nominees for Best Film or even Best Screenplay.

It’s ironic, because many actors and directors will tell you—and even some critics—that playing a film for laughs, and mastering the timing needed to elicit those guffaws, is one of the more slippery slopes to negotiate in movie making.

Yet comedies are repeatedly snubbed by the Academy. We must instead have dark, or cerebral, or heartbreaking, or artsy-fartsy.


And why are the Oscars held on Sunday night? The show notoriously runs long, and ends after midnight on the East Coast. Why not Saturday night, which is a typically weak night for TV anyway?

They used to hand out the Oscars on Monday night, and it was on Mondays that director Woody Allen would play his clarinet at a jazz club in New York—even on the Monday when he was up for Best Director back in the late-1970s.

Call me morbid, but one of my favorite parts of the Oscars is when they do the montage of all the people in the industry who passed away since the last Oscars. There’s always someone in there who I didn’t know died.

As the late, great Detroit Free Press columnist Bob Talbert would say, “You too?”

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