Even rational, secular people need their rituals - organised events to mark the passage of time. And even if we think that all criticism is ultimately useless, we seem to need to have things ranked in order and have someone tell us which is best, then we can huff and puff and scoff at the very concept. It's order in chaos, with a hint of masochism and the lovely human tendency to engineer situations just so as to complain about them. Hence, the 78th annual Academy Awards. For even the ritual of saying 'bloody Oscars / Brits / BAFTAs / Turner Prize, every year the same bloody gay cowboys / Kaiser Chiefs / Judi Dench / serial killer made of elephant dung in a shed made out of a bicycle' - even that's a ritual we seem to cherish.
Of course it's far too easy to be scathing about the Oscars, and about actors themselves. We should remember that they do make a valuable contribution to our lives - even if only by providing targets for our bile - and as such are due a little recognition for their efforts amongst themselves. People like to think of them as the expensively-clad devil incarnate, with their disgusting money and self-indulgent mental breakdowns (yes, boo fucking hoo, it's your own fault for taking so many drugs and wanting so much attention), but what would we be left with if they all went on strike? Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, that's what. And it may be the greatest game in living memory, but can it do the 'Funny? Funny how? Like a clown funny? How the *fuck* am I funny?' scene from 'Goodfellas'? No, it can not.
Actors live in a different dimension to us - they have to split themselves in two for a living and attempt to stay sane. They might be irretrievably mangled inside, but they're not *evil*. It's sort of nice to see them congratulating each other, smiling sincerely, and also nice to see them smiling to mask *moues* of oh-so-human boiling envy and bitterness. Hell, it's only what we'd do. Why we expect more of them is a mystery. Probably we don't like feeling loomed over by such robust images of perfection, so we seek out their flaws and crack the fuckers open like rotten conkers. However, George Clooney doesn't actually have any flaws, except for a slight air of superiority which is unbecoming but frankly, unavoidable. The chisel-jawed, smokey-eyed fuck.
This year, although an uninspiringly lacklustre affair, was as good as any for drinking in the gorgeousness and for going 'aw' at some of the little moments where you patronisingly think 'they're just like us, almost, except so much more fucked up'. Jennifer Garner tripped onstage, and said 'Thank you - I do my own stunts'. Aw. Phillip Seymour Hoffman chokingly thanked his mother in his Best Actor acceptance speech, saying that she had raised four kids alone and had always supported him. Sniffle. But overall, it was a grumpy year. The set was meant to evoke the golden age of cinema in lustrous silvery-greys, but just looked grumpy. The Aardman team won for the Wallace and Gromit film, and wore very silly ties and were gawky and English, and the men who made the penguin documentary brought big penguins on stage and made penguin noises into the microphone, but still. Hollywood is not a very happy place at the moment, disillusioned and humourless as the rest of us.
Even Jon Stewart, whose satirical bitchslappings relentlessly reinvigorate the sense of outrage about Bush, didn't go down too well. He came out of one ad break saying '...And that is why I think Scientology is right, not just for this city, but for the country.' Somewhere at the back a rat shat on some tissue paper and everyone turned to see what the noise was. He did get a laugh for suggesting that Bjork, whose preposterous swan dress is a thing of legend, hadn't made it because Dick Cheney had shot her - but they're not very good at laughing at *themselves*, these actors. Who do they think they are?
So yes, it's easy to rip into the Oscars. It's also easy to rip into the nominees for Best Film, so we might as well do that too.
Cowboy: Man, that sure is beautiful scenery. So poignantly photographed. Could turn a man's head.
Other cowboy: You sure are hot. I mean, objectively, in a manner which transcends gender and all that awkwardness.
Cowboy: Hell yeah - in fact, I'm objectively hotter than you, so why I'm not the lead I'm darned if I can fathom.
Other cowboy: But we can't possibly have a heart-rending affair that spans decades and is delicately wrought in such a way that most reviewers don't even think of it as a gay thing as such, in what is really quite an astonishing cinematic achievement even for such supposedly enlightened times.
Cowboy: Why not?
Other cowboy: Because despite the gushing accolades and tear-stained plaudits and Hollywood's staunch stand against all that is Republican and small-minded and nasty, the Oscars just aren't ready to go all-out fag. I mean, they only just gave a black woman Best Actress a couple of years ago. They're still recovering. Give 'em some space.
Cowboy: OK. Let's just stay here and make out and piss off a load of closet-cases in Wyoming.
Other cowboy: Sweet.
Truman Capote: Yes, I was the fat ugly awkward one in 'Boogie Nights'. And the ugly awkward fat one in 'Magnolia'. What of it? Check out this *voice*. I worked for months crushing my larynx and balls in a special device of my own making for this divine mouselike wheeze. Anyway, I just thank God no one thought of casting Charlize Theron in this role instead. Do I get to play a Bond villain now?
Don Cheadle: Racism... is *bad*.
Sandra Bullock: I didn't think so at first, but by the end I started to realise that yes, racism *is* bad.
George of the Jungle: It's very complex and not as simple as, y'know, black and white, but yes, racism is bad.
Ludacris: I think I might be the best thing about this film.
Thandie Newton: Actually that'll be me. I might even be wasted here. And I have a very interesting point to make about racism.
Ludacris: So do I, but yes, you are indeed quite luminous, and also you really make it clear that racism is bad.
Don Cheadle: This is why we make lumpen metaphors about crashing into each other... just to *feel* something. And inexplicably use Stereophonics songs just to ram the point home at the end. I mean, the *end* end, not the five other endings that led up to it.
Ryan Phillippe: I wish I was at home with Reese Witherspoon. Racism bad. Can I go now?
Matt Dillon: I was so much better in 'Factotum' but no one's seen it. Hell. Anyway, I may not realise it because I'm a hard-ass cop drawn in the kind of broad strokes you can only achieve with a paint-roller, but I guess on some level I understand the inherent badness of racism. Sigh.
Paul Haggis, director: I'm so incredibly surprised and pleased to win Best Film. I mean, I wasn't sure we'd even be in the running, since we half-inched the title from a film that's less than ten years old and thought they might have got confused. But moreover, I just didn't think the Academy would be able to grasp the whisper-soft-subtle message of 'Crash' - I mean, it just isn't obvious that the underlying theme is that racism is really, really b(orchestra starts up with an almighty crump)
Eric Bana: Look, this is a serious film. Stop shouting 'you wouldn't like me when I'm *angreee!*' at the screen, you semi-literate fucks.
Steven Spielberg: The world is a cruel and violent place into whose dark heart I seek to unflinchingly plunge my directorial scalpel, and I've long since proven that I'm exceptionally good at that - but man, sometimes I just want to film unconvincing rubbery sharks. (Shambles off sadly humming the music from
GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK...
George Clooney: I sure am hot. What do you mean, you wouldn't know this film if it hired you at $200 an hour and snorted lines off your ass?
And once again - it did win after all - CRASH...
Black guy (suddenly acting like crackhead for no apparent reason): Tee hee, I've seen your Patron Saint of Travellers on the dash and I'm going to reach into my jacket to pull my own version of it out while laughing maniacally like a big crackhead.
Cop: Hey, hey, hey, that really looks like you're going to pull a gun on me, and I'm understandably pretty paranoid, especially as the writers are contriving to have you act like a crazy person. Quit it.
Black guy: I'm upset by the implication that you think I'm going to get violent, just because I'm laughing maniacally and am refusing to tell you what I'm doing and now getting a bit defensive. I suppose I could just tell you that I'm going to show you my Patron Saint of Travellers, just like the one you have, and then you'd understand as the audience already do that really we're All The Same, but it's more important that you shoot me and then burn the car. So hurry up and do it. Come on. The tension is just too lumpen to sustain.
Cop: Get your hand outta there! This is just ridiculous. The bit with the car crash with Matt Dillon and Thandie Newton was in fact remarkably moving but now I don't know what the hell they think they're getting away with.
Black guy: I've still got my hand in my jacket, I've really been caused to lose all sense of reason by the writers who are blinded by the dazzle of their own REMARKABLE INSIGHT, am acting completely and suddenly out of relatively mild-mannered character, and apparently really want you to shoot me. If they keep up with this for much longer, the audience is going to go away with the message not that 'racism is bad' but 'black people are bit stupid'. Which would be pretty bad. Anyway, come on, get with it. Even the deliberate and permissable sense of artifice about this film is wearing thin right now.
Cop: Oh, alright then. *Blam*
Black guy: *Thank* you.