Welcome…to today, the day of the 79th Academy Awards, Hollywood’s annual presentation of self-fellation. And by “annual” we mean “something that happens pretty much every single day.”
This year, the host is Ellen DeGeneres, breaking with the Academy tradition of having a comedian host the awards. The presenters themselves include a wide variety of individuals, including Jodie Foster, who has arrived after disengaging the cryogenic freezer she’s inhabited since 1997 in accordance with the wishes of her Not My Girlfriend, Honest; the parts of Diane Keaton that aren’t synthetic; and Al Gore, who no doubt is going to be overseeing the counting of the Academy’s votes.
The five nominees for Best Picture, as always, are a perfect and proportional representation of exactly what absolutely no one went to go see in the theaters. Far from being an embarrassingly unprofitable endeavor, most directors are content to allow their baby to be released a few hours before midnight on New Years’ Day to make it eligible, and then let it die a slow and painful death to obscurity until the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards it the opportunity to put a gold sticker on the DVD claiming that it was nominated or, if the studio has spent enough money but not in an effort to specifically persuade the members to vote for their entry (cough, cough), won an Academy Award.
The Departed: This dramatic tale, set in Boston, is a movie about good cops gone bad. Or perhaps bad cops gone good. Quite frankly it doesn’t matter because MARTIN SCORSESE directed this film. The Departed has been critically acclaimed due to its gritty and realistic portrayal, provided by MARTIN SCORSESE, of the relationships between police officers and those they must deal with every day, something that MARTIN SCORSESE, who, again, directed the film, has tried to bring to the motion pictures many times before, such as in the following movies that MARTIN SCORSESE has directed but, we should point out, has NOT won an Oscar for: Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, the Aviator, Gangs of New York, Casino, Goodfellas, and Cape Fear. Since many people believe that MARTIN SCORSESE should win an Oscar, The Departed should be a lock for the win for Best Picture, since it is obviously his best work out of all the movies that MARTIN SCORSESE has directed. Ahem.
The Queen: This is the second time in a row this movie has been nominated; last year it was named Capote. (You think this gets any better? It doesn’t.) This remarkably current tale is about the royal family’s reaction (or lack thereof) to Princess Diana’s death. This particular rendition of events, where HRM Queen Elizabeth II takes more than what the media determined was the appropriate amount of time to make a sufficiently public condolence about Diana’s death somehow makes Katrina look about as slow (and as important) as ordering Combo #2 at the Chik-Fil-A.
Babel: Babel takes the attention-span-deficiency of most Western audiences and converts it into a piece of art. Or so I think; the concept appears to have done wonders for Crash. In Babel, there are three interwoven stories about different people in different cultures, using themes so vaguely generic and blandly universal they could have shot the movie with half the budget by having a WASP walk into a Taco Bell.
Little Miss Sunshine: The token comedy of the group, this film follows the trials and tribulations of a dysfunctional family that is forced to take a road trip together. Both Alan Arkin and newcomer Abigail Breslin are nominated for Best Supporting Actor and Best Actress, respectively, a shame since they actually seem to have deserved it.
Letters from Iwo Jima: This rather unusual tale about WWII takes the provocative step of filing it from the Japanese point of view. The film has plenty of merits standing on its own as a dramatic representation of a society that, despite its emphasis on martial superiority, are still conflicted with the same emotions that all individuals at war are. In this case, the contract of the two sides is readily apparent; one side becomes a wealthy superpower, while the other side specializes in insane game shows and creepy, weird-ass cartoons.
The winner should be reasonably easy to pick. Following the standard Hollywood formula, we can determine the following: Half-baked, unfocused tale that thank goodness is at least about the deficiencies of Western Culture > The story of the combatants in a deadly, crypto-fascist, repressively militaristic society who otherwise are sympathetic to the viewer because of Fat Man > A dramatic criticism of an antiquated Royal institution during a short period of questionable importance > Morality tale of justice vs. MARTIN SCORSESE WINNING A FREAKING OSCAR > Dysfunctional family road trip movie even though at least one of the characters is gay.
Outside of the Best Picture, there are still plenty of opportunities of dramatic tension. Will Jack Nicholson be sober? More importantly, will be look sober? Is this finally the year Clint Eastwood actually shoots a man onstage? Will someone let it slip out why Leonardo DiCaprio keeps getting work? Will some viewer, somewhere in America, actually have heard of any of these movies? Tonight…we shall see.