Who Are You (Oscars 2017 Edition)

Friday 3 March 2017

First, you’re Warren Beatty.

A few moments earlier, someone handed you an envelope. You didn’t really inspect the envelope, but if you had, maybe you would have noticed that printed on it were the words “Actress in a Leading Role,” not “Best Picture,” the award you are presenting. The nominees have been reviewed, and now you’re opening the envelope. And now you’re a bit confused. Because the card inside says, “Emma Stone, La La Land,” and you know that doesn’t make sense for a Best Picture award. Those awards go to the producers. Emma Stone is an actress.

You know this isn’t right. You know something has gone terribly wrong; this isn’t the way the world is supposed to be. But you have the power to right this wrong. You have the power to avoid what is to come – a disaster, a situation that extends far beyond yourself. You aren’t fully responsible for this problem, but now you’re a part of it, and you have a part to play in fixing it. There may not be one right way to move forward, but avoiding the problem, choosing to ignore it, transferring it to someone else, hoping it will go away: that would be cowardice, and that is not you.

Now, you’re Faye Dunaway.

You don’t understand why Mr. Beatty is taking so long looking at the card and doesn’t just get on with it. The show’s been going on now for more than four hours; get it over with already.

He then turns the card to you.

And of course it says “La La Land.” You don’t think twice about the other words on the card, you just blurt it out. You voted for it, after all. And so did so many friends you know, white and older though they may be. But still. Who wouldn’t want to be taken back to the Hollywood of old, when everything was glamorous and golden? Who wouldn’t want to go back to the days before identity politics, before #OscarsSoWhite and #BlackLivesMatter? Who wouldn’t want to “Make Hollywood Great Again?”

Now you’re Brian Culliman.

You hear Ms. Dunaway say La La Land – and you know that’s not right. That’s not right at all. In fact, you and Martha Ruiz are the only two people in the world who know the truth, who know that Moonlight, not La La Land, was voted Best Picture. You look in your briefcase and pull out the envelope for Best Picture. You realize your mistake: you had given Mr. Beatty the wrong envelope, a duplicate from the previous award.

But now it’s been a full minute, and you’re still not on stage. You’re still not using your body to shut this thing down, to correct this wrong. You’re implicated in this, big time, and you realize it now. You’ve discovered your place is the system, your role in the injustice, and you know you need to take action. But you don’t want to rock the boat too much, to cause a commotion. You don’t sprint out on stage with the envelope, call a halt to things right there and then, before the speeches can be given, while the rightful winners marinate in the sting of defeat. It’s more important for things to be proper—or as proper as possible, given the circumstances—even if that means extending the suffering of those who’ve already been suffering far too long.

Now you’re Fred Berger.

You’re holding a golden Oscar statue tightly in your right hand, a statue you’ve dreamed of winning your whole life. It’s been 90 seconds since Faye Dunaway called out the title of your movie, a movie you spent countless hundreds of hours pouring your time and soul into, a movie with six Oscar wins before this one. Your co-producer Jordan finishes his speech, and Marc, your other co-producer steps forward to begin his. And you start to notice the commotion next to you on stage. You try to stay in the moment, but it’s impossible. Someone in a headset comes up and inspects Jordan’s envelope, the one Mr. Beatty had opened just two minutes ago. You see Emma Stone’s name on it, and you know it’s all a mistake; you didn’t win at all. It’s the wrong envelope, obviously. But that’s not the problem, for if your movie had actually won, no one would be on stage, trying to fix this.

But then Marc says your name, beckoning you to take your turn at the microphone. You know you don’t deserve this moment. But you step up and start talking anyway. They called your name, your movie’s name, after all, and the show must go on, right? You’re caught up in the moment, sure, but you still know this is wrong. Why not sit back, for just a moment, to let things get straightened out? You’ve had you turn at the Golden Globes and too many other award events to count. Would it be so hard to step back and share the spotlight?


In the end, they got it right, but why did it take so long? Why didn’t Warren, or Faye, or Brian, or Fred – YOU – why didn’t YOU stop it sooner? Why didn’t you step up when you had the chance? You had the power and the opportunity. You have the power, and the responsibility to make change happen, to right the wrongs of the past and of the present, so they don’t continue to be wrongs into the future.

Now you’re you.

But who are you? And who are you going to be?

eric’s Oscar preview

Saturday 6 March 2010

Usually I’m totally on top of the Oscars, but this year (perhaps because I’ve found it hard to be in one place for more than a few weeks at a time the last 3 months) I’ve been lagging in my movie viewing.  I wasn’t able to make it to any showcases of the nominated short films like I did last year, and as you’ll see, have a surprisingly small percentage (in my mind) of nominated films that I’ve viewed.

That being said, I couldn’t let the Oscars go without a mention and some thoughts and predictions, so here you go.  Click here to see a complete list of nominees.  Check out the IMDB Road to the Oscars section for other insight and information on other awards shows.

Before I hit the Oscars, though, I want to tell you about another great awards show you shouldn’t be missing — though it has already taken place — the Independent Spirit Awards.  For the past 10 years or so, I’ve been more smitten with indie film than “Hollywood” film, to be sure, and while you won’t see movies like Avatar or Inglourious Basterds featured there, there are tons of amazing movies you might otherwise miss if you weren’t privy to independent film, so check it out.

Best Picture
This year they went with 10 nominees in the Best Picture category, so maybe it’s understandable that I couldn’t keep up!  I have seen 5 of them so far (and hope to see a few more sometime soon, I just wasn’t giving myself a Oscar awards deadline) — The Hurt Locker, Up in the Air, Precious, Avatar 3D, and Up (the only one I saw on DVD).  From what I’ve heard, it’s a two movie race between the big (Avatar) and the small (Hurt Locker).  While I won’t be upset if either of those takes the award, I think my vote would go to Avatar.  While the visual effects were truly amazing, the story was what drew me in and made it worthwhile.  I’ve heard it’s too similar to Dances With Wolves, and if I had seen that movie, maybe my vote would be different, but for now, I’m sticking with Avatar.  The Hurt Locker is a pretty amazing movie, too, and the scope of the two films is so different that it’s really hard to pick — thus, I’m excited to see who it is!

Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay
While a lot of people try to see the best picture nominees, I usually seek out the nominees in this category (and the next one on my list here), and I’ve been particularly disappointed I have only seen 4 of the 10 total nominated films in these two categories (2 in each category).  That being said, I don’t know how good my thoughts can be, but I’ll try anyway.  Original Screenplay will likely go to Hurt Locker (it would be my vote), if only to make sure it gets its due if Avatar is the big winner.  Adapted Screenplay is a bit more tricky.  Without having seen An Education, I would be fine if that won, and then the two I’ve seen were Up In The Air and Precious.  While both of these were great movies, too, I might have to go with Up In The Air because (from what I hear) there was a bit more adapting done to make it work, and it’s probably the only place it will be recognized.
–Perhaps my biggest beef is that (500) Days of Summer wasn’t even nominated! — though it did with Spirit Award, so that made me happy.

Best Documentary
This is the other category of films I try to get myself to, and perhaps 2 of 5 isn’t bad when many of the movies are very selective in where they’ve played.  I did see the two apparent front-runners, The Cove and Food, Inc., both great in their own way, revealing things people should know about the a wider audience.  While I’d love for Food, Inc. to get out to a wider audience, The Cove was such an excellent “caper” of a film, getting such amazing raw video in secret, that I have to pull for it.

Best Actor
Is there any doubt this is Jeff Bridges award to lose?  He’s won (nearly?) every pre-Oscars award he could, and I think his performance was great.

Best Actress
I’m usually horrible at seeing the movies with the nominees of this category, and this year is no different.  I’ve only seen Precious, and Gabourey Sidibe gave quite the amazing performance, and I’d probably vote for her.  However, the debate has been going over two veteran actresses, Sandra Bullock and Ms. Oscar herself Meryl Streep. I’m kind of rooting against Bullock simply because it seems the only reason she’s getting looked at is for playing “against type,” which really means simply you dug yourself into a type in the first place and now, look, you’re changing!  If Sidibe doesn’t win, how about another young actress, Carey Mulligan (An Education)?

Best Director
In another Avatar/Hurt Locker competition, it’s ex-spouses James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow.  I truly think Bigelow’s achievement in directing is the best, but watch out to see if Quentin Tarantino‘s fans could pull him through for Inglourious Basterds.

Best Animated Feature
So, I’ve only seen Up and Fantastic Mr. Fox.  Both were great in their own way, but Up was such a roller coaster of emotions and drama, it read like any live action film (perhaps that’s why it also finds itself in the Best Film category).  Either could win and I’d be happy, but it seems to be Up’s trophy to lose.

Best Supporting Actress and Supporting Actor
The final two categories I’m going to profile also seem to be locked up, with Mo’Nique getting the nod for Precious (another “against type” billing?) and Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Basterds.  In a rare achievement for me, I’ve seen ALL the actresses in this category and NONE of the men.  Of the nominated women, Mo’Nique’s performance is definitely tops, and for the men — well, I just can’t say.

I hope you enjoyed this rundown.  Check out the Oscars live Sunday night, 7 March on ABC, and of course, coverage to be found elsewhere, too:
Entertainment Weekly
Yahoo! Movies
ABC News

big money sports

Sunday 7 December 2008

I was half watching the BCS and bowl game selection show coverage on ESPN, thinking about why Northwestern (my alma mater) got passed over by certain games and why Ohio State again gets to attend one of the lucrative BCS games while someone like Boise State, one of only two undefeated teams eligible for bowl games, will instead be playing in a bowl game sponsored by — get this — the San Diego County Credit Union!  It’s easy to see why, really, and most people, even those involved in the system, don’t try to hide the reason: it’s all ’bout the benjamins, baby (or the money, for those not up on their slang the past decade or so).

Bowl games, for the most part, have the right to choose who they will select to attend their games, so why not bring the teams to town that will sell the most amount of tickets and bring the most number of fans to the city to spend money and get excited.  Oh, and the TV stations, of course, want to get the most amount of people to watch the games to sell ads at higher prices.  Because Iowa would bring more fans than Northwestern, the Wildcats were passed over by a bowl with earlier pick of the crop to select Iowa, who had lost to Northwestern during the season.

It got me thinking about some words of Noam Chomsky shared, which can be viewed in the documentary movie “Manufacturing Consent,” which I highly recommend.  And while Chomsky’s words aren’t directly related to money, there is wrapped up in “big money sports,” be it college football or anything else, the idea of getting fans wrapped up in a frenzy and committing their time to sports instead of other things.  Here’s what he had to say:

“Now there are other media too whose basic social role is quite different: it’s diversion. There’s the real mass media-the kinds that are aimed at, you know, Joe Six Pack — that kind. The purpose of those media is just to dull people’s brains.  This is an oversimplification, but for the eighty percent or whatever they are, the main thing is to divert them… Get them away from things that matter. And for that it’s important to reduce their capacity to think.

Take, say, sports — that’s another crucial example of the indoctrination system, in my view. For one thing because it — you know, it offers people something to pay attention to that’s of no importance. [audience laughs] That keeps them from worrying about — [applause] keeps them from worrying about things that matter to their lives that they might have some idea of doing something about. And in fact it’s striking to see the intelligence that’s used by ordinary people in [discussions of] sports [as opposed to political and social issues]. I mean, you listen to radio stations where people call in — they have the most exotic information [more laughter] and understanding about all kind of arcane issues. And the press undoubtedly does a lot with this.

You know, I remember in high school, already I was pretty old. I suddenly asked myself at one point, why do I care if my high school team wins the football game? [laugbter] I mean, I don’t know anybody on the team, you know? [audience roars] I mean, they have nothing to do with me, I mean, why I am cheering for my team? It doesn’t mean any — it doesn’t make sense. But the point is, it does make sense: it’s a way of building up irrational attitudes of submission to authority, and group cohesion behind leadership elements — in fact, it’s training in irrational jingoism. That’s also a feature of competitive sports. I think if you look closely at these things, I think, typically, they do have functions, and that’s why energy is devoted to supporting them and creating a basis for them and advertisers are willing to pay for them and so on.”
(Excepted from freepublic.com, where commenters obviously don’t agree with Chomsky’s point.)

Now, I think there is likely some middle ground here to be had, but I do find Chomsky’s point intriguing and thought-provoking.  I’ll confess that I’ve played some fantasy baseball in the past few summers, spending time picking people for my team and assigning them to starting line-ups for certain days and such — and I think it’s important for all of us to have hobbies.  However (and now my point opens up to more than sports), when something begins to take up so much of our time and energy and interest that we allow ourselves to become oblivious to what’s going on in the worlds of government and economics and war and science and religion, areas that affect us whether we like it or not — when we forget about these areas to deal with things that have no personal relationship with us, we do ourselves and others a disservice.

It’s important that we prioritze our lives and recognize when things like sports or entertainment or other such areas of life can take over our time so much that we loose connection to the rest of the world around us.  We need to have the knowledge to make informed decisions about things like elections and investing our money, and if we spend too much of our time in other areas (even overwork can lead to this), it can become problematic for all involved.  So take some time to examine your time choices and make any adjustments you need to.  I’ll be doing the same for myself.