Oscars So… Popular?

The now Oscar-winning Avengers: Infinity War was being touted as the new gold standard of how art meets commerce among many industry executives backstage..

Hangover 4 rebooted the entire franchise with its recent Oscar win and Warner Bros. is now talking multi-episode story arcs along the lines of Star Wars as Bradley Cooper circles a revamped multi-pic deal with the studio through his freshly-minted Wall Street-backed production company as director-producer-star…

Of course, THE viral moment of ANY Academy Awards ceremony occurred back in in 2019 when seven-time Oscar nominee Glenn Close, finally a winner for that year’s The Wife, was forced to pick up her trophy during a commercial break in a filmed off-camera segment and tersely growled I’m not going to be ignored! – an oft-quoted line from her box-office hit Fatal Attraction – before justifiably storming offstage and out the doors of the Dolby Theatre…

Oh yes, it can happen. And more.

Don’t toy with me, Chairy

This week the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences announced without warning to its 6000 plus membership – and us – that its Board of Governors voted for some noteworthy changes to future Oscar ceremonies that include:

1- The addition of a new Oscar for Best Popular Film.

2 – The presentation of some Oscars off-camera (who knows, it may even be backstage)…during commercial breaks…in categories to be determined

3- An earlier airdate from late February to early February.

This is certainly not an emergency situation given what is going on in the world at the moment. Still, if you’re an inveterate Oscar watcher – whether as cheerleader or snide, smack-talking comment-maker – it is one more assault on one more of the dependable and seemingly scarce growing pleasures left on the planet Earth.

but for real… when does it end?

It seems that millions and billions of dollars in profit should be enough, doesn’t it?   No. Michelin will soon be awarding 4 or 5 stars to the top McDonald’s franchise, People Magazine will no doubt be forced into doing a Sexiest Armadillo Alive issue for disenfranchised pet lovers and the Nobel Peace Prize for Best Villain Whose War Was Prevented by a Treaty of Nations could most conceivably and likely be awarded to our current sitting American president at some future date he deems to his own liking by way of Oval Office pressure privately applied.

The latter analogy is apt because changes by organizations like the Motion Picture Academy don’t just happen, even when they seem to be doing so. That’s like believing the mere election of a Person of Color as a U.S. president created the corrupt crop of American racism aka Nationalism that is sweeping the country. It pays attention only to the mere tipping point without acknowledging the tides of this nature that have been sweeping and swirling about for decades, if not centuries.

ABC-Disney broadcasts the Oscars and the show’s ratings have been steadily declining in recent years. In fact, last year they dropped a whopping 19% to an all-time low of 26.5 million viewers, marking the first time in 10 years they registered at less than 30 million.

Big Bang Theory has the highest weekly ratings on TV with approx. 18 million viewers per week. #PERSPECTIVE #embarrassmentofriches

This means that even though The Shape of Water was a genre film and more popular than the previous year’s indie best picture winner, Moonlight, it didn’t seem to matter. In fact, research over the last few decades showed the only times the ratings could be counted on to seriously tick up was when blockbuster grossing films like Avatar or Lord of the Rings were in serious contention.

Nevermind the general decrease in television ratings among younger demographics and the competition of online and streaming entertainment. Something had to be done.

The urgency of this can be certainly be attributed to commerce. Networks justifiably do not like to lose money, especially when we keep being reminded of how well the economy is doing.

But…well…there is something about these changes that smell a little to those with a sensitive sniffer – or who are just sensitive (Note: Which used to be the euphemism used for all artists, not to mention the gays and lesbians among and outside them).

See, Disney – that is half of ABC-Disney, in case this is becoming too complicated – is also the distributor and defacto partial financier of all Marvel Films. That’s pretty much the majority of all the Oscar overlooked superhero hopefuls.

So yeah.. basically this.

It’s also the distributor and defacto partial financier of all Pixar Films. That’s pretty much the majority of all of the Oscar overlooked animated films before the installation of the best animated Oscar category in 2002.

Not to mention, it also distributes and serves as the defacto partial financier of all the Star Wars/Lucasfilm movies.

These are all very POPULAR FILMS. In fact, consistently among the MOST POPULAR. Though certainly they are not among the biggest Oscar winners. And often they are…gasp…not even in contention.

Well… except for Best Visual Effects

As a person with year-round season allergies, even I CAN SMELL something rotten here in Hollywood beyond the phony Donald J. Trump Walk of Fame stars some right wing conservative group pasted directly onto the streets last week.

BARF

We seem to be living in a world where money is not enough and massive amounts of fame proves to be inadequate for the insatiable. The next bastion seems to be legitimacy in the form of some type of higher class of award or recognition usually reserved for the artistic and/or intellectual.

Next, we resurrect Edward G. Robinson to give away the award for best false idol

Of course it’s impossible to argue at this point that all Oscars are consistently high class, intellectual or even the most artistic. Yet if over the years you compare the winners to the Golden Globes, People’s Choice and MTV…well, our standards are our standards.

Yet somewhere it has now been decided that the producer/director of a short film or documentary who did something brilliant and/or original (and is likely maxed out on their credit cards) doesn’t deserve that kind of international attention for artistic achievement, especially if it can be given to someone the world is already familiar with.

Sort of like an American president pushing the president of a tiny country – say, Montenegro – out of the way in order to get one more photo op to add to the many millions accrued previously or to be added in the future.

There is no known cure

Never mind the fact that all outstanding leaders in their fields deserve some attention, even those of more modest means, in those rare moments when the spotlight happens to turn on them.

The more categories included, i.e. the more awards given, the more diluted and less prestigious any honor will become. This is one reason why the Oscars has managed to maintain whatever star quality and specialness it has left – it limited itself to 24 categories, eliminating some others while adding a few more over time.

Then, some years ago, when ego and commerce and the omission of a best picture nominee like Dark Knight dictated – rules were changed to include up to TEN best picture nominees – with hope for some more superhero or at least commercial inclusion, if not winners.

because all movies are the same…. right?

When that didn’t work…well…now there’s the popular film – dragging along all the other Oscars along with it so they can be awarded TWO OR THREE WEEKS earlier in hopes they can at least capitalize on some additional amorphous awards buzz along with everyone else. Forgetting entirely that sometimes you want to stand out from a group instead of delivering a cheap imitation of what everyone else has already grown so used to.

This kind of strategy slowly makes irrelevant not only a date of broadcast but the very awards themselves.   Much like a bad leader can do to any organization, corporate leader or country.

Wicked Cast – “Popular”

 

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Carrie On

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Directly after Carrie Fisher’s funeral this week, her brother was spotted carrying away a sizeable urn in the shape of a giant Prozac pill containing her ashes.

I’d love to report this was her joke from the grave, a surprise last bit at her funeral for survivors and fans – both public and private. In actuality, the idea is credited to her brother Todd and her daughter, actress Billie Lourd.

It seems that one of Carrie’s prize possessions was this oversized tribute to the famed anti-depressant that she picked up years ago and she always treasured it as some sort of comic talisman (or taliswoman, as she might write, though probably in a much funnier way).

A true original

A true original

So after going through various other options that “didn’t seem quite right,” they figured why not permanently contain her in something that truly gave her joy – not to mention permanent stability, at least metaphorically.

Full Confession: The sight of this drug literally carrying Carrie around for all eternity made me laugh out loud. And more than once. Because I kept clicking on article after article just to keep getting more details and as many different perspectives of the image as I could.

It seriously never gets old

It seriously never gets old

See, renowned for her wit, her writing, her portrayal of Star Wars’ Princess Leia and her Hollywood pedigree, she also joked that she was equally famous for “being crazy.”

But what this really meant was that she was equally known as a tireless mental health advocate and for sharing her lifelong battles with her own bipolar disorder in books, interviews and pretty much any other avenue available to her in an attempt to help both herself, and perhaps one hundred thousands of others like her, cope with the seeming unreality of their realities.

You certainly brought it, Ms. Fisher. #thankyou

You certainly brought it, Ms. Fisher. #thankyou

There’s a lot of unreality floating around right now so it’s more important than ever to remember that even when everything is so serious you yourself can’t always be that way because it will literally make you crazy crazier. If nothing else, this is something Carrie Fisher leaves us and in her memory it would be a fitting tribute to act on it accordingly.    That is, aside from dressing like Princess Leia every so often on Halloween.

To this end, I often imagine what it must be like when Trump showers in his gold gilded marble bathroom – mirrors everywhere – and catches that magical 3-D reflective glance as his numerous selves get out of the shower. Delusional though he might be – what do you think he sees? Bradley Cooper? Jon Hamm? Even more age appropriate John Kerry? I don’t think so.

Please stop there!

Please stop there!

More like a balding Jabba the Hutt –the white fleshy overhangs of age moving every which way; a naked, liver-spotted pate up above topped not by a sea of combed over shining, swirling straw but by long limp clumps of sad, wet droopy side tresses of unruly human waste.  A forever Queens, NY version of Jabba the Hutt, twaddling around his newly chosen nest but never able to quite break free of what a lifelong indulgence of personal vices and himself have caused him to become. At least physically. Sure, it might be no longer than a second or two but that is enough. Daily. And as I imagine it during the tough weeks it amuses me endlessly and differently. Each time.

What.. too graphic? #ahhhhh

MAKE IT STOP!

Now perhaps this makes me a less than good person but I don’t think so. In some real sense, it just makes me human. For humor is very personal and I’m not Carrie. But neither are any of us. Point being, you’re not awful or unserious if you occasionally indulge your dark side (Note: And, um, Star Wars, duh!). Especially if it gives you fuel to keep fighting the good fight and relieves some tension.   And unlike drugs, drink, food or violence, the worst it will give you is a sick laugh. Imagine, that’s the absolute worst. My former worst was as a kid telling those god-awful Helen Keller jokes. And I bet most of you have done no worse – despite what you may advertise to the world or what the world thinks you or your secrets are guilty of.

On that note, what do you think they stored Antonin Scalia’s ashes in?

Too soon?

Oh Chairy #meanit #loveyou

Oh Chairy #meanit #loveyou

Okay, then imagine David Bowie. Or Nancy Reagan. How about Prince? Now c’mon, you know he’d have come up with something genius had he even put a fraction of that brilliant mind to it. But he had music and other stuff to keep him perpetually amused and entertained. Not all of us are so blessed.

There was that time he went on the Today Show dressed as Bryant Gumbel

There was that time he went on the Today Show dressed as Bryant Gumbel

This past week I watched Ava DuVernay’s thoughtful and troubling 13th, a documentary on the history of Black enslavement in the US, and I found myself talking and shouting back at almost all of the white people onscreen who, even when caught with their racism showing, figured out a way to rhetorically wrestle themselves away from reality. I see this same marginalization reflected by too many contemporary white supporters of Trump, not to mention others – though not all of them would look as repulsive as him getting out of the shower.

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psycho-by-hitchcock-1

no more Chairy! I just can’t take it! #myeyes #myeyes

So what do you do – that is aside from demonstrating, donating, ranting or running against them, and generally fighting against their regressive views of humanity?

Well, spewing a sea of snide retorts at them either virtually or in person when you get the chance helps immeasurably despite what most rational thinkers will advise. Don’t consider it the surefire thoughtful antidote or magical bullet. Rather a small but very, very useful tool among many in the arsenal of your survival.

Sort of like your own personal melon baller or kitchen paring knife.

The Hype Awakens

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What exactly is contained in a can of Darth Vader Campbell’s soup? The label says it’s pasta with chicken in chicken broth but really – what evil concoction do you think is secretly hiding inside? Hint: It’s the same ingredient contained in the Yoda, C3PO and R2D2 Campbell’s soup – at least as advertised. Yes, they are ALL pasta with chicken in chicken broth! At least according to the label.

This is what you get when you go to your local market and buy STAR WARS CAMPBELL’S SOUP. And if you don’t believe there is such a thing – an authentic Star Wars version of Campbell’s Soup that you too can have for about a buck a can at your local food dispensary – check it out!!

How many nerds will never open this?

There are Cover Girl make up tie-ins (Black Avril Lavigne eyeliner anyone?). Subway tie-ins (well, now that Jared’s not a viable pitch person…) and even Duracell battery Star Wars (at least that makes some sense when you think about it – sort of).

Experts say over the next 12 months there will be $3-5 billion generated in merchandise sales alone tied to The Force Awakens – the first Star Wars film in 10 years. And $11-$20 billion in five years, according to a recent LA Times story.

Even if that’s a bit overinflated, it’s still in the billions. Yes, that’s a B. And we’re only talking merchandising tie-ins.

The force is strong in those.... grapes?

The force is strong in those…. grapes?

I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to this sort of stuff. Watching the finale of one of my guiltiest TV pleasures in the world last week –The Voice – I see Missy Elliot and Pharrell do this bizarre and somewhat catchy song called WTF. (Note: They had me at the title). It’s a bit edgy and sexy and revels with a lyric about repeated TONGUE action. I thought, good for them – it’s primetime network TV and they got some tongue in. Then this weekend I hear it again – on a Verizon/Samsung Galaxy commercial. The same lyrics but somehow they’ve managed to de-sex it for a Saturday afternoon. Is nothing sacred?

Chairy... please

Chairy… please

I’ve been left behind. It used to be where I could sneak Playboy’s annualSex in the Cinema” issue and as a teenage gay guy manage to see naked pictures of men while pretending to look at naked women. I always felt so proud of myself for the forbidden, successful sneak.  But I mean, what’s really forbidden these days? Certainly not guns. I can buy enough firepower to shoot you in the head a Google times and still not one person could legally blame a corporate overlord.

It’s all about personal responsibility. Or is it?

Well I, for one, am responsible for my choices. Do you know that the night the new Star Wars opened I was at home watching a DVD screener of The Martian? Then, on that Friday night I actually went to the movie theatre to see the new Italian film Youth. Do you know there is a Star Wars: The Force Awakens screening at the WGA just about now with JJ Abrahams speaking afterwards that I was invited to and am NOT attending? (Note: Full admission – I tried to RSVP but it was a day after I received the email and it was sold out. So screw him/them). Still, there are three other screenings I can get into at 11, 2 and 8:30 today and I’m not going to any of them. Nor am I going to the theatre to wait on those damn lines. I’ll show them. I’m waiting until the next industry screening at the DGA on Dec 28th that I did manage to respond to in time. Take that corporate overlords!!!

Whattup Santa!

Whattup Santa!

I can remember seeing Star Wars when it came out in 1977 at the theatre during its first week. It was fun and original. Then I went to a Fox screening room three years later to see Empire Strikes Back. I liked that too, though not quite as much. Then it was Return of the Jedi – I liked it a little less but it was fine. Which was followed years later by the first prequel, The Phantom Menace. Oh, dear, I fear Jar Jar Binks did me in. Though in fairness, it wasn’t entirely his fault.  There came a moment where even I finally stopped going to Cher’s Farewell concert tours.

... but I will follow her on twitter forever.

… but I will follow her on twitter forever.

Yeah, I know Force Awakens recaptures the verve, fun, spirit and storytelling of the original. And I’m going to see it. Just as I’m going to see Creed – which reinvents and captures a lot of the energy of the first Rocky – which I adored at the time and still really like much to the chagrin of so many of my intellectually snobby film friends who can’t let go of the fact that it beat All the President’s Men, Taxi Driver and Network for the best picture Oscar that year. Come to think of it…oh, never mind.

Alright already! It's been 40 years!

Alright already! It’s been 40 years!

Still, there are limits to how excited I can get about revisiting the past. I do this enough with old friends. Which is wonderful. Though sometimes it makes me feel like a relic. An all-warm and fuzzy, much loved relic but old and pasteurized nevertheless.

The key to evolving as a person and a species is to keep active, not retire and, most importantly, NOT LIVE IN THE PAST. Nostalgia is good but even better is moving forward. When you stagnate in art you remain frozen in time or are perpetually looking back in time in real life. You become not only irrelevant but lazy. You’re not a leader but a follower. If you’re not out to pasture you might as well be. Certainly, you’re making room for some younger or more hard-working upstart to pass you by and take the reins of the evolutionary spiral.

Cough Cough

Cough Cough

There’s a lot of talk these days about America being the leader of the free world. How we are the best, the most exceptional, the top innovator, the #1 purveyors of moral authority and brilliance. But you can’t be brilliant or original or innovative – or really lead into new, uncharted territories – if you’re merely looking back and always nostalgic for the former, trying to recapture what you’ve already experienced.

The future is scary because it’s unknown. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. We used to know that.