Washington and Hollywood are both experiencing a similar phenomenon: a complete disconnect between the so-called elites and the rest of us. Just as our lawmakers are creating programs and policies that have nothing to do with what the people want or need, so our filmmakers are making more and more pictures that no one is going to go see. They’re working wholly for themselves in both cities and then both celebrate themselves as being too far above the masses they despise to be understood and appreciated by them. Ptui.
Which brings me to the Oscar nominations – increasingly a consolation prize given in lieu of audience appeal. I mean, much as I dislike Avatar for the childish stupidity of its worldview, it deserves a nod as a technological marvel and as a crowd pleaser. And I even have no problem with the occasional you-missed-it-but-we-loved-it critics’ choice like, say, Hurt Locker. But Precious for best picture? Did anyone see Precious? No, really, did anyone even in the Academy see it? This is the film that John Nolte over at Big Hollywood called “porn for people who confuse wallowing in depravity with some kind of important existential statement about life, or worse, art.” And Nolte’s not like me. He’s actually a nice guy. I got a free screener DVD of Precious and I’m using it as a coaster for my beer while I watch the post-season football. Works pretty well, too. Maybe it should’ve gotten a nomination for Best Coaster.
On the positive side, it’s kind of nice Sandra Bullock got a nod for Best Actress in The Blind Side. Given the field, there’s a chance she could actually win – which would mean the Academy would be giving an award to a movie star who is actually a movie star, by which I mean an actress the public enjoys watching. Because of the elite/human being disconnect, most current “movie stars” aren’t really movie stars at all. They’re just people the media like and write about. If you take a look at one of those lists of biggest money-making actors, you’ll see, say, George Clooney as number four. Then take a closer look. They’re adding together the take from Up In The Air, which few people saw, The Men Who Stare At Goats, which no one saw, and The Fantastic Mr. Fox, a cartoon in which Clooney did voice work. Two bombs and a cartoon all added together and Clooney is a money-maker, sort of, as long as you don’t subtract production costs and what-not. Of course, by this logic, the extra who played Evil United States Marine #5 in Avatar was the biggest money maker of the year.
Someone should explain to industry insiders that stars are people we like not they like, that, in fact, the job of movie makers is actually to entertain us not each other. Giving Oscars to films no one wants to see is like giving Barack Obama a Nobel Peace Prize. And who would do a ridiculous thing like that?