We interrupt this Tuesday "Media-roundup" episode of the Shelf with a special program:
I'm not going to waste too much time in this edition of The Shelf expounding upon the Oscars themselves- I'll let Roger Ebert, Libertas, and others give you some great commentary on the significance of the Oscars and who won. Rather, I want the Oscars to kind of be a starting point if you will for a discussion. And for those of you who feel that pop culture has no historical value, or importance to greater society- allow me to point out that this is a perfect example of how popular culture is affected by, reacts to, and is reflective of society and current (and sometimes old) social and political issues. So nyah to you.
I would like to start off with a disclaimer- I have not seen any of the films nominated or that won. I intend to see Wallace and Grommit however- so maybe that will add an edge of authority. I also did not see the Oscars. I have better things to do with my Sunday- especially knowing that I can "catch up" Monday on the internet. Besides, I made my assistant Pinky watch, so he could fill me in later. It's not like he's got anything else to do, right, Pinky?
I also have nothing against anyone seeing any of the films per se, other than to say I have no interest in seeing Brokeback Mountain, Crash,.. or, uh... let's see. Oh yeah, Capote... and...um... I think, what was the other one? You know, the Clooney one. No, Pinky- not the one with the beard. The one in black and white. Oh, right - Good Night and Good Luck, and uh- well, you know them all, right? I mean... yes! Munich! Yes, that was the other one! See, I'm in touch. Anyhoo- You see, I want to see movies that interest me, or that I think might entertain me in some way. They could be political in nature, they could be serious, they could be funny - or even stupid. But I know what I like and I'm just not all that interested in what these so called "small, independent films" that were nominated had to offer. One thing I don't like is being told how I should think, what I should like, and what I should see. That is where I think the current "Hollywood" mentality fails to realize they are losing ground.
The Oscar broadcast viewership was down by at least 8-11% this year. Was it a reaction to the films that were nominated? Well, who's to say? I can't possibly know why Martha and Ed in Topeka, Kansas didn't watch this year. I know why I didn't - and why others I know didn't. Personally, award shows bore me to tears. What difference who won "Best Actor" could possibly make on the film, other than a boost to the bottom line (that's why they do it anyway, Shelfers- make money and look good while doing it)? It doesn't mean a hill of bird droppings to the poor around the world. Is there anyone, other than an elitist, who doesn't have their stomach turn just a bit when they look at how much swag a "presenter" gets for less than 5 minutes "work"? I mean, free blackberrys, cruises, vacations, electronics, etc.? Couldn't one of these self-righteous, know-it-all, preachy "artists" take that swag and auction it off and donate the proceeds to a charity, a homeless shelter, or to a kids organization? I think most of them toss it in the closet with the other stuff. How many celebrities are truly going to use that free cruise anyway? There's too much of a chance that they'll have to be close to the hoi pilloi.
For the most part, a lot of individuals that I asked had two answers to "Why didn't you watch the Oscars?" 1. Didn't really see any of the films. (Busy watching Harry Potter and Batman Begins) -and- 2. We already figured out who won.
But did they? Well, it seems as if the answer is no. You see, many banked on what alot of the cultural elitist were expecting: a win for Brokeback Mountain. You could see it in the papers, in the newsmedia, the internet, and on television. My gosh, even when the local news was covering so called "Oscar parties" from around the area I saw Pink Cowboy hats galore. I haven't seen that much gay cowboy wear on TV since that episode of Behind the Music on the Village People... that I, uh... watched on accident.
Anyway- the point is, is that the media had an odds-on favorite and they told us over and over again not only who to expect to win, but who should win. Does that remind you of anything? Some shades of Presidential campaigns of the recent past perhaps? And now that Crash has won- well, the first reaction by some of the good people in the press and in the Hollywood Community has been shock and disappointment. You see, according to them. Brokeback Mountain was supposed to win. It was a done deal. In fact many have stated that Brokeback was robbed. A crime happened here, folks- and it was an inside job! They expected it to win, because they demanded it to win. And the fact that it didn't win, that it didn't resonate with enough voters doesn't mean that it was the fault of the movie. Why, that must mean something is wrong with the voters! Holy shades of 2004, Batman!
Brokeback Mountain lost (hold on- this is a shocker) because it didn't get enough votes from Academy members. Yes, a majority of voting Academy members felt that Crash was the Best Picture. Brokeback never had it's name engraved on the statue. Crash didn't come in and execute dirty tricks and fooled the media. Crash won, plain and simple. That's how these voting things go. And this one minor event is very illustrative of several truths in our society.
1. Cultural and political elites do not like, nor trust the average person, and therefore they do not trust democracy and the things that make it work.
2. Cultural elites are, by definition and virtue of their actions narrow-minded and anti-democratic. Yet they want the general public to support and defend them.
OK- sure. Maybe you think I'm generalizing a bit, but I believe our example will bear me out. This was a movie produced and financed by a production company, which has stated goals to bring about social change through the production of social issue films. They bankroled and PR'ed the film like it was a political candidate and pretty much accused anyone who didn't see it, much less vote for it, of being a homophobe. And when it didn't win, the claws (no puns intended) came out. An outcry of unfairness went up over the land (at least the two coasts), and then excuses for why it didn't win started to pour out. Shouldn't we be examining why a picture did win? No- in this case, the cultural elites decided for us, what was good for us, what was approved, what we should think and what should win. And when it didn't -well- that's why voting and democracy and leaving what should prevail in the hands of others is wrong. But wait- cultural elite- I wasn't on the Academy. No one I know was a voting member of the Academy. I bet a lot of you were- and that you know the others. So what's the problem? I think that in the words of many - it wasn't as good of a film as Crash. Remember- these are about films- not which social issue is more important. But some critics and cultural elites don't think that way. They say, to wit: Brokeback lost because the country is full of homophobes and people who are too spineless to stand up to them. Oh, and they are a bunch of racists, but that isn't as important as being a bunch of homophobes. Yeah. That's the ticket.
Consider some of the critic responses- some of these are downright pretty narrowminded and snotty and in the case of one, a lover of stereotypes. We know when you resort to that whole "Red state vs. Blue state" thing that libs love to tout and make fun of Red state people as Hillbillies, that you must be desperate. We know that you truly think that way. It's just a cry for help. Really.
Nikki Finke, from Deadline Hollywood Daily:
I knew there was a chance that, even without seeing the movie, Oscar voters could feel guilt-tripped or succumb to a herd mentality to vote for the gay-cowboy movie and strike a blow against Republican wedge politics and extremist religious hatemongering. But they didn't, and Brokeback lost for all the Right's reasons.
So, red-staters licking their lips to give Hollywood a verbal ass-whooping will be chagrined tonight. I've been keeping a running tally on just how political were the 78th Academy Awards. And the answer is overwhelmingly hardly at all. GOP politicos hoping to use that old saw of "Boy hidey, those show-biz folk are just a homo-promotin', liberal-media-embracin', minority-lovin', devil-worshippin', pimp-hustlin', terrorist-protectin' bunch of pansies, commies and traitors" are going to have to find another way to discredit Hollywood's actor activists when they campaign come the midterm elections in November. Turns out Hollywood is as homophobic as Red State country. In touch, not out of touch.
Oh, I see. Well- she also gives her definition of Oscar worthy as film that is "about something"- IE: a social issue she agrees with. Every film is about something, darling Nikki, but not every film is the "best film" of the year. And guess what- not every film is about or supposed to be about a weighty matter that you like browbeaten into everyone's heads. Some people want to be educated. Some want to be enlightened, some want to laugh, some want to cry, some want to be scared, and some want to thrill. All of them want to be entertained, and nobody likes to be told how to think.
Jeffrey Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere:
Is anyone besides me seeing the irony here...the irony that howled and flooded the skies above Los Angeles last night? The very thing that "Crash" laments -- prejudice against people of different stripes and persuasions -- is what tipped the vote and delivered the Big Prize?....So let's all keep it going and dig into our hearts this morning and extend some of that "Crash" compassion to the small minds and timid souls who voted against (and in many cases probably didn't even see) "Brokeback Mountain." I'm not talking about those who love and respect "Crash" for what it is -- they're fine and approvable. I'm talking about the duck-and-hiders.Squeamishness, old-fogeyism (not the kind you can measure in years but which can be found among people of all shapes, ages and nations) and puptent-phobia snuck into the room, and then slowed and stalled the "Brokeback" bandwagon and finally turned it down an alley.
I think Roger Ebert got it right:
What is intriguing about these writers is that they never mention the other three best picture nominees: "Capote," "Good Night, and Good Luck" and "Munich." Their silence on these films reveals their agenda: They wanted "Brokeback Mountain" to win, saw "Crash" as the spoiler, and attacked "Crash." If "Munich" had been the spoiler, they might not have focused on "Crash." When they said those who voted for "Crash" were homophobes who were using a liberal movie to mask their hatred of homosexuals, they might have said the same thing about "Munich."
This seems simply wrong. Consider Finke's "anecdotal evidence" that puts Hollywood's homophobia on a par with Pat Robertson's. Pat Robertson? This is certainly the most extreme statement she could make on the subject, but can it be true? How many anecdotes add up to evidence? Did anyone actually tell her they didn't want to see the movie because it was about two gay men?
My impression, also based on anecdotal evidence, is that the usual number of academy voters saw the usual number of academy nominees, and voted for the ones they admired the most. In a year without "Brokeback Mountain," Finke, Turan and many others might have admired "Crash." Or maybe not. But it's a matter of opinion, not sexual politics.
Now the anger and dismay has turned into sour grapes and even more excuses. Now the claim is that Crash out PR'd Brokeback, and flooded the Academy voters with DVD's of the film.
Um, hello? All the voting Academy voters receive copies of most, if not all of the nominated films, in case you didn't know. (Remember the uproar concerning these DVD "screeners" falling into the wrong hands and piracy?) Not that they see all of them, but they get them. They have little time to see the 200-300 movie eligible for the awards. Crash may have sent another wave of screeners out, and Brokeback didn't - but without a doubt the five nominees were seen. Besides, the free publicity that Brokeback enjoyed made it impossible to miss or not consider. If nothing else, Crash producers were doing what most if not all film producers do around Oscar time- hype their product. Are the Brokeback backers pissed because the were out-hyped?
Also, now the loss is apparently being spun as a win, only in the way a cultural elitist would understand. According to them, the film and the loss has started "discussions". Discussions are always a win-win in a cultural elitist's playbook. They know words are more important than actions, right? Here's the thing - in this country and in this day and age the freedom to speak and think are more important than ever. In some cases the people who shout "Free Speech" are, in actuality, desparate to take away your freedom to think and speak- or at least make you ashamed of it. They want you to think like them and agree with them- and they believe their "freedom of speech" is more important, more socially respectable, and more responsible than yours or a dissenting view. Therefore, your "speech" must be talked over, humiliated, or otherwise eliminated. Fascism much? They may not win a true debate about thoughts and ideas, but they bet on the fact that they could win a shouting match.
Anyone ever hear of Plato's Allegory of the cave? Tell the truth, Shelfers- you skipped that class in Western Philosphy, because it was a morning class and the night before you and some of your college buddies... well, let's leave it at that. Here's a cliff notes version:
Humans are chained inside of cage- facing toward the cave wall. They can't move anything because of their chains. Above and behind them is a blazing fire in the distance and a low wall. Behind that low wall people pass and carry objects along with them. The fire casts the shadows of these things along the wall. The chained prisoners think and interpret these shadows as reality.Suppose then that the prisoner is unchained and compelled to come out of the cave. Once released, the prisoner is taken outside- it is difficult and painful at first, but eventually the once chained individual realizes that they have only seen mere shadow and now, outside the cave they can see the true forms of these objects and people. They now understand that the sun is the source of light and not the fire created by someone else.
Cultural elites and others who want to control how you think, are like the person who created the fire and chained the prisoner in the cave. They want you to see and think what they want you to see and think. They don't want you to turn around and see them as the creator of the shadows on the wall. They want you to think that the shadows on the wall, that they created, are real. If you brake the chains and come out in the sun and see things as they really are- the shadows are exposed for the lies they are and become, at the least, no longer important or significant. It may be difficult at first, but we've all got to brake the chains and come out in the sun and see reality. If we all do - they will become even more insignificant and less importance will placed on them, who they are wearing, and their romantic and private lives.
The pundits and cultural elites were turned on their ear this week. And they are groping for reasons to understand. I don't want to see gay men having "simulated sex" on the screen. And it's not because I hate homosexuals. I don't hate anybody. I'm not gay- and I don't necessarily identify with the lifestyle... but I don't want to see that "stuff" on the big screen. Well -guess what - I don't really want to see much sex on the screen anyway. Call me a prude or whatever. I don't agree with it. I leave that to individuals and private matters. I also don't like gore and excessive violence on the screen. That's not to say that it isn't thrilling to see a car chase or a good guy take down the bad guy. It's not to say that it isn't great to be surprised, held in suspense, or frightened in a movie. It's also not to say that it isn't romantic or sexy to see a great kiss, or romantic dance, or even clever wordplay and flirting in a film. It is - it all is fine. The difference is class. You can do it with class- or without. And it can be done without forcing an audience to see everything- we're not that dumb. And it can be done without preaching or talking down to an audience- we're not mindless. What we are is fed up and tired of what passes for entertainment. We are tired of being told what to think and feel. And we are tired of having everything in our face.
Brake the chains- come out into the sun and always see things as they are. Don't buy the news item, or storyline, just because someone with a TV show, or a column, or a movie told you should. But never underestimate the cultural elite, Shelfers- just ignore them and live your life. And remember the Shelf motto- Think for yourself.
We now return you to regularly scheduled... oh, never mind. Don't worry Shelfers, The media roundup will return next week.
If a man cannot choose, he ceases to be a man.