Monday, February 28, 2011

Hola, Oscar

Did you know that Oscar is a Latino?

While movie fans may think the coveted statuette which will be
presented at the Academy Award ceremonies tonight is as American as
apple pie, it’s actually closer to carne asada.

It turns out that when MGM's art director Cedric Gibbons, an original
Academy member, was selected to supervise the design of the trophy,
he found himself in need of a model.

Gibbons was introduced by his then wife Dolores del Río to Mexican
film director and actor Emilio "El Indio" Fernández. Although
initially reluctant, Fernández was finally convinced to pose nude to
create the statue. He thus became the first film buff.

This bit of trivia is by way of introducing the subject of the day:
The Academy Awards, a subject about which I know not so much.

I know this, however. On Academy Awards day, the womenfolk of my
family descend on my den like seagulls on a landfill to watch the
entire broadcast, from the first anorexic actress slinking down the
red carpet to the last endless thank-you speech. I stand dutifully by
with wine (which I pour) and food (which I serve), silently efficient
like a bit player in “The King’s Speech.”

I’ve always been a bit blasé about the Oscars. Maybe it’s because I
was born in Hollywood and have spent most of my life nearby.
Familiarity breeds indifference over time. Let’s face it, not
everyone in Pasadena goes ga-ga over the Rose Parade every year.

Or maybe it’s because I’ve met many people who possess Oscars, Emmys,
Grammys, Tonys and the like. Some are larger than life. But most are
talented people who simply work hard and do their jobs well. The
difference between us and them is that while we may get a raise, they
are rewarded with thunderous applause dressed in tuxedos and gowns
on worldwide television.

Then there’s the overkill factor. By the time we are subjected to the
Golden Globes, the Peoples’ Choice Awards, the MTV Awards, the
Critics’ Choice Awards, the Writers’ Guild Awards the Directors’
Guild awards and the Screen Actors Guild Awards, among others, the
results become predictable. The Academy Awards becomes a spectacle,
not a drama.

What I really dislike about awards shows, and the Academy Awards in
particular, are the acceptance speeches. Sure, there have been some
genuine moments over the years. But put an actor on live TV without a
script and chaos lurks. They often end up embarrassing themselves,
the Academy and on occasion the human race.

Let’s dump the thank-yous entirely. That means we would miss a lot of
tearful tributes to parents and spouses and children and agents along
with the occasional political rant which mostly serves to alienate
rather than educate.

The only acceptance speech I ever enjoyed came from Roberto Benigni
(Best Actor for “La Vita e bella” in 1999) who said, “I feel like now
really to dive in this ocean of generosity. This is too much . . . I
would like to be Jupiter and kidnap everybody and lie down in the
firmament making love to everybody."

Unfortunately, most fail to rise to this standard.

While were at it, let’s quit fooling around with the Ellen
DeGenereses and Hugh Jackmans and return Billy Crystal to his
rightful position as permanent host. He’s done it eight times and
each one was a gem.

And let’s dump the Best Song category, which officially died in 2005
when a happy little ditty called "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp” won
the Oscar. Can you name the last three award winners? Neither can I.

Jettison a few categories like the Best Foreign Documentary Under 30
Minutes That No One Will Ever See and we’re getting somewhere.

The whole show could be wrapped up in two hours or less.

And I’d get my den back.

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