I use hands to help my fellow man / I use hands to help with what I can / But when I face an unjust injury / Then I change my hand into FIST OF FURY

Here is my post-Oscars comments

This column used to be about movies, not Bush, so what the hell. I’ll do an oscar column. If you don’t give a shit about the oscars no problem, go read something else by me, such as my book. thanks.

I like to watch the oscars but I got a sixth sense for not being able to guess what’s gonna win. Every once in a while it fucks up on me and I guess one of the dark horses. I knew Polanski was gonna win for THE PIANIST, to name the one example. But for the most part, I am not an individual to be betting on any oscar pools. This year, I really thought BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN was a lock. My feeling was, this is not only widely acclaimed and award winning, its also a great movie that everybody seems to like. I can’t tell you how many people I know who were just like me, surprised how much they liked a movie about gay shepherds. It’s just one of those things like ice cream or root beer or something. Who likes movies but doesn’t like BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN?

People tried to turn it into a gay thing, like “oh, Hollywood is trying to prove they’re enlightened so they’ll vote for a gay movie.” But I don’t think that’s even it. It’s just a good movie. And I should point out, Larry McMurtry wrote this movie. The guy wore jeans and cowboy boots to the Oscars. He wrote LONESOME DOVE. He doesn’t have a computer and still writes on a typewriter. If this guy is okay with the gays then maybe it’s time to figure this type of tolerance is normal and not something you need to brag about in 2006. BROKEBACK deserved it not because we gotta prove a point about a shepherd’s right to love another shepherd, but because it’s a real good movie.

I mean if it was up to me it woulda been A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, but that wasn’t nominated. And of course alot of people didn’t like KING KONG as much as I did. But this is the first time in my life when I’d seen all the best picture nominees when they announced them, so I can truly say it’s a good lineup. You got BROKEBACK. You got CAPOTE, which was another one that surprised me. It was real creepy and tense and managed to paint Capote (or CUH-POE-TAY as both me and Jack Nicholson pronounce it) as a complete scumbag without making you hate him. Even Gore Vidal, who despised the real Capoté, said it was a pretty good movie.

MUNICH is definitely in my top three but have you ever noticed that Israel is a touchy subject for some people? I noticed that one time. So even though it’s my favorite of the five, I didn’t expect it to win and wasn’t all that surprised how it could be nominated for best picture and director without hardly even being mentioned in the broadcast or any of the coverage. It’s the invisible classic.

Then you got GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK, that’s a good one. Felt a little small to me but it was beautifully directed and acted, original in its approach and obviously made a strong point about our world today. I’d be surprised if that won but happy for Clooney and friends.

Shit, I’d be happy if any one of these movies won, especially MUNICH or BROKEBACK, the two I can most imagine people will still watch years from now. We did good with these, this is a day we can all be proud of as Americans. The only thing that could go wrong would be if they chose CRASH but I mean, come on, why would anybody take that group of movies and then actually think–

oh jesus. Of course CRASH had to win. It’s so obviously wrong that it makes it a shoo-in. I really had an election 2004 kind of moment there where after Nicholson said it, it took me four or five seconds for my brain to even process it. I really thought he was gonna say he was kidding. I even checked IMDB afterwards in case it was gonna turn out everybody got on stage before he finished saying he was joking. A big mixup. I didn’t even see what happened on stage there, I got kind of dizzy. There’s some missing time there, I hope nothing was set on fire. The Oscars this year were like the movie HIGH TENSION – pretty good until the twist ending that makes all that came before turn to shit.

I mean come on. I think I hate CRASH less than anybody I’ve ever met. I know Roger Ebert loves the shit out of it but that’s his thing, he’s a smart guy that is often spectacularly, crazily wrong. But I can’t give the entire Academy a Roger Ebert get out of jail free card. The idea that that many people actually chose it as the best movie of the year is a complete headscratcher to me. Somebody really relates to that silly overwrought horse shit? Maybe the right wing crazies are partly right about how isolated “the Hollywood elite” are. So that’s what people mean when they talk about “self-congratulatory claptrap.” I don’t care if it’s a good cast and means well, that doesn’t mean you gotta pin a fuckin ribbon on it.

I don’t want to come down on Paul Haggis too hard because I liked MILLION DOLLAR BABY, and let’s be honest, I’d probaly like WALKER, TEXAS RANGER if I sat down and watched it. But I expect more out of America than this. Some weirdo Canadian throws some shitty new age music on his silly fantasy play about race relations in L.A. and it convinces us the thing is deep? We know better than that. Let’s get it together, Americans.

I don’t know, I guess I don’t travel around the world talking to people about CRASH, but I honestly haven’t met or heard from anybody that liked it yet. My feeling is that it’s a movie to be enjoyed by a certain type of Hollywood people and critics who are easily won over by well-intentioned mediocrity. But normal people who enjoy movies don’t like that type of shit. Not as far as I can tell. The nerds on Ain’t It Cool hate it. The people I know in real life, who don’t usually agree with the nerds on Ain’t It Cool, hate it. I thought it had redeeming moments but was mostly silly and sometimes unintentionally hilarious.

Of course, if you look at the history of the Oscars, a mediocre to bad movie is much more likely to win than a really great and timeless one. That’s just the way it works. I was fine with MILLION DOLLAR BABY and RETURN OF THE KING in the last two years but let’s not get too comfortable here. Just go backwards through the list and it’s uncanny how often it happens.

2002 – CHICAGO

2001 – A BEAUTIFUL MIND

2000 – GLADIATOR

1999 – AMERICAN BEAUTY

1998 – SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE

Five years in a row of overrated fluff. The year before that was TITANIC which at least could be argued was better than the other nominees (THE FULL MONTY was really in there?) But in 1994, FORREST GUMP won over PULP FICTION. In 1990, DANCES WITH WOLVES won over fucking GOODFELLAS. (GHOST was nominated too, surprised that didn’t win.) When ORDINARY PEOPLE won it was over RAGING BULL and THE ELEPHANT MAN. KRAMER VS. KRAMER beat out APOCALYPSE NOW. 2001 wasn’t even nominated. The fact that UNFORGIVEN was is a god damn miracle. Check out a list of best picture nominees and you’ll see a whole lot of movies, highly acclaimed at the time, that not too many people give a shit about anymore. Maybe giving the Oscar to a movie like CRASH is an act of charity, making it a part of history so that some people will still rent it in a couple years, just for academic purposes.

If you look back at the ’70s it gets a little better. ’75 was a good year, check out the nominees: BARRY LYNDON, DOG DAY AFTERNOON, JAWS, NASHVILLE, ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST. I think that’s the only year I found where all five nominees are still respected and re-watched to this day. ’76 isn’t bad – it’s a shame to see TAXI DRIVER and NETWORK get the shaft but ROCKY is still a good one so you can’t be mad at Rocky. He’s an underdog, man, that’s what he does is win.

So the one bad movie in a group of five pulls off a surprise upset. That’s some bullshit, there should’ve been chairs flying in there, but at least it’s part of a longstanding Oscar tradition. It’s not unprecedented. The thing is, there’s gotta be some balance here. If everything is right in the Oscars people are gonna start thinking there’s justice in the world. The world had to suffer a CRASH victory in order to get the thrilling victory of “It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp” in the best original song category. This is another example of my extreme incorrectness about Oscar winners. In my review of HUSTLE AND FLOW (another one I’d rather have seen nominated than CRASH), I mentioned that “It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp” SHOULD win the best song oscar but would never even be nominated because it’s about pimps. So you could argue that I was wrong about that.

Of course, the performance of the song cannot be seen as a victory for artistic excellence. It was almost as funny as the invisible cloak scene in CRASH. Not only did the song’s writers “3-6 MAFIA” perform the song with funny TV-safe alternate lyrics, they also added disco violins. And interpretive dancers portraying hookers, johns and undercover cops. It looked like HUSTLE AND FLOW ON ICE. One interesting note though, these guys were told which swear words they couldn’t say on TV, but they were allowed to say “bitches” and “hos.” They decided to self censor because kids might be watching, which is why the new chorus mentions “a whole lot of witches jumpin ship.”

They seem like cool guys, I liked their speech where they thanked Gil Cates and George Clooney. I think this might be the only time we ever hear “know what I’m sayin, Gil Cates” said on the Oscars, or anywhere. You’d expect somebody called “3-6 Mafia” to play tough and unimpressed but these guys were fucking delighted to win an Oscar. Maybe it’s time to retire the “You like me, you really like me” jokes and only do “know what I’m sayin, Gil Cates.”

This is of course the second hip hop song ever to win the Oscar, but the first one performed and accepted. Eminem won for “Lose Yourself” in 8 MILE but he didn’t show up and claimed he didn’t even watch on TV. The ingrate. (He shows up at MTV awards though, and gets in fights with puppets.)

Another more subtle musical breakthrough is BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN’s win for best score. That was a real memorable and effective score played on guitars, it’s amazing it could win over some standard orchestral business. Maybe this will pave the way for a future RZA or David Holmes type score winning. (Not fuckin likely.)

Of course, it raises the question of how the hell an Argentinian guy ends up scoring a chinese director’s American movie that’s shot in Canada. I guess it really is a world of laughter and a world of tears, a world of hopes and a world of etc.

Other than the twist ending the show was pretty good. John Stuart I thought did a good job, it’s nice to be free of fucking Billy Crystal and god damn Whoopi Goldberg for a couple of years. I think there was only one agent joke and one about the length of the broadcast. And thank god they dropped all that bullshit from last year like giving away “lesser” awards in the audience. I liked the best actress and sound design smear ads they played. Also good to see George Clooney win and I liked his speech about being proud to be liberal. I would’ve added a “take that, motherfuckers” at the end but that’s why I’m me and he’s the new Cary Grant.

Did you notice nobody really cried? Reese Witherspoon and P.S. Hoffman got close. Not too many memorable speeches but nobody I wanted to throw shit at. Nice to have a 100% Zelweger free broadcast for once. “Oh my god, I can’t believe I won an award, this is such a surprise to win yet another award”

And you know what BROKEBACK fans, never fear. Let’s remember that LORD OF THE RINGS never won until they finished the trilogy. Maybe Oscar voters are waiting for ESCAPE FROM BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. Of course, I already learned when I picked BOSS’N UP for best picture that straight to video isn’t eligible. But maybe the academy didn’t know.

Ah damn, I was trying to talk myself out of being mad, but for crying out loud, the more I think about it… sheeit. You got 4 out of 5 reasonable choices and you choose CRASH – that’s as bad as Dick Cheney missing all the retarded wingless quail on the ground and hitting a dude in the face. It’s like you’re TRYING to fuck it up. Is it possible that the increasingly younger academy was voting ironically? You know how those young fuckers are.

Let’s try this. If anybody out there really believes CRASH (not the Cronenberg one) is a truly great movie, please email me. I’m not gonna argue or make fun of you, you read this whole column so obviously I gotta respect you. I just want to see if I can find anybody besides famous actors and some critics who love it. If you want to defend it or justify your love that would be cool but I won’t make you.

Or even if you don’t like it but you know somebody, like your elderly parents or some guy you saw at the grocery store who likes it, let me know. I want to figure out who it is that likes this movie. There must be SOMEBODY. This type of shit doesn’t come out of nowhere.

Anyway enough on that. thanks everybody.

–VERN

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Monday, March 6th, 2006 at 3:27 am and is filed under Vern Tells It Like It Is. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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