Monday, February 26, 2007

Say It Ain't So, Oscar

I stopped watching the Oscars about five years ago. I used to love the telecast, and I'm not sure whether I changed or it changed, but it all got so self-congratulatory that I just couldn't stand it. Now, though, I'm annoyed that I can't exclaim, "I am never going to watch again!" in protest over the recent awards for Best Screenplay. Two years ago, I was astonished to learn that Sideways won. I thought the movie was truly, truly terrible - pretentious, not credible from a plot or character standpoint, difficult to watch except for Virginia Madsen, who was lovely, and, all in all, more like a parody of a bad HBO special than anything else. Reasonable people can differ on the film, I suppose, but it's hard to understand how this mess won a writing award. A consolation prize, maybe?

Then last year Crash won the screenplay award. Great subject matter, some great acting, but incredibly sophomoric writing. In fact, one of the reasons I was so impressed by the acting was the banality of the lines the actors had to overcome. The consolation prize theory got blown to hell when Crash also won Best Picture. Adding insult to injury, Match Point was also nominated in the screenplay category last year, if I remember correctly. Now there's an intelligent, snappy script (even if the credits didn't include the acknowledgment to Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy that they should have).

It's hard to believe that things could actually get worse, but last night the downward trend took an alarming plummet (not unlike the one Al Gore shows we could relatively easily achieve in carbon dioxide emissions at the end of An Inconvenient Truth, which I watched instead of the Oscars). The screenplay award went to Little Miss Sunshine, one of the stupidest, lamest movies I have ever had the misfortune to see. Oh, there was some wonderful acting pretty much across the board, and those kids were charming, but this thing played like a silly sitcom. Like it for its dysfunctionality, if you must, or for the beautiful change in Greg Kinnear's expression when he first rebuffs, then quietly accepts Alan Arkin's sympathy for the failed business venture, or for that great bit where the boy writes the girl the note that says "Go hug Mom." But a writing award? I don't think so.

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