Monday, March 8, 2010

A Monday Morning Quarterback Goes To The Oscars

When in Rome, do as the Americans do. My parents sent me to Rome when I was eighteen years old. It was important to them that I saw a bit of the world and broadened my cultural horizons, so I complied by giving my chaperones the slip whenever possible and chasing cute Italian boys. Upon my return, my dad excitedly asked me what I’d learned and what I’d chosen to bring home from The Eternal City. At this point I proudly pulled from my suitcase a five-foot tall inflatable Oscar statuette. Yes, in all of Rome, what I decided to haul back to Michigan was a symbol of Americana that ranked right up there with a World Series pennant or a Big Mac. I would have brought back one of those boys too but getting through customs would have been a nightmare.

I share this story with you Reader to illustrate the fascination I’ve always had with The Academy Awards. Growing up, there were three big nights for me: the annual airings of The Wizard of Oz and The Sound of Music and The Academy Awards. Now we can watch those movies whenever we want to, but The Oscars are one of the only programs that we still have to wait all year for, and even when they’re more insipid than exciting I love them.

Every year I watch the red carpet and wait for a glimpse of one of my favorite stars: either of the ladies Hepburn, Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Charles Boyer, James Mason, or Grace Kelly. Every year I remember they’re all dead. So, I watch for the living legends, most of whom look like they hate taking that ruby stroll and for good reason. Is there anything more awkward and creepy than red carpet interviews? The usually so smooth he glistens George Clooney looks terribly uncomfortable standing next to his silent date who he claims doesn't speak English (I know he grows these women in a lab on his property at Lake Como and someday I'll prove it. I'll prove it!). On the other hand, Sherri Shepherd interviews an extremely affable Jeff Bridges. He either knows he’s got the Oscar in the bag, or The Dude is high. My favorite red carpet moment this year came from that seasoned broadcast journalist Kathy Ireland who, after assigning Miley Cyrus the status of “major movie star,” asked her, “How do you like drama?” Well, Miley is seventeen, so I’m assuming she really really likes it.

We should all go to (enter your chosen place of worship) on (enter your day of worship) and thank (enter your chosen deity) that ABC allowed for only a half hour of red carpet coverage.

Finally the show begins.

7:32 It's Doogie! When F. Scott Fitzgerald made that crack about there being no second acts in American life he never bargained on Neil Patrick Harris. The guy has flowed through the second stage of his career on a river of moxie and pluck. What’s not to love?

7:40 First Katherine Bigelow sighting. There are a lot of things to say about Katherine Bigelow, but I find myself straying toward the superficial. The woman is 58 years old. Fifty-eight! And her face seems plastic surgery resistant. Surely she has found the fountain of youth. Thank God, she’s no longer married to James Cameron or he’d probably buy it, hang a green screen around it and make a 3D movie about Ponce de Leon and the isle of Bimini starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Leo would float around in there hanging on to a piece of Ponce’s sinking ship getting younger and younger until he turned into a blossom from the Tree of Souls.

7:48 “That’s a Bingo!” Cristoph Waltz wins Best Supporting Actor for Inglorious Basterds. The guy is pure, articulate class. Humble, soft spoken, charming, not likely to star in a Twilight movie, it’s only a matter of time before an angry mob carries him to the top of the Hollywood sign and hurls him back to Austria with a giant sling shot.

7:50 The Blind Side is introduced. It’s the gooey great story of how Leanne Tuohy and family adopt future NFLer Michael Oher and all is made right with the world. I liked the movie. It’s got football, a wiseacre little kid, and lots of great movie lines like “I'm in a prayer group with the D.A., I'm a member of the NRA and I'm always packing” and “Who would've thought we'd have a black son before we met a Democrat?” Though after reading the book upon which it is based, the neat little package the movie wraps up and ties with a bow might be Tuohy good to be true. Hmm....

8:05 District 9 is introduced. This movie disturbed me more than Mama Mia, and I didn’t think that was possible. There have been a lot of films starring man’s inhumanity to everything, but this one was a kick in the head. If an alien ship ever parks over the Earth, I hope it’s over Minnesota because we’d be a lot nicer to them. We’d give them all a hot dish and a warm coat. We’d ask, “So where are you from?” and when they told us they were from a galaxy far far away, we’d be polite enough to respond, “I’ve heard it's really nice there. Do you know Han Solo?”

8:17 What is this? It’s Ferris Bueller and Sam from Sixteen Candles! This treat quickly turns somber when I realize the only reason Matthew Broderick and Molly Ringwald would be sharing the stage at The Oscars is to pay tribute to John Hughes. For my generation, watching the montage of Hughes’ films is like watching home movies. My whole adolescence passes before me. Then 7/10 of the Brat Pack fills the stage and it’s back to stark reality. Yikes. Life really does move pretty fast.

8:30 Why is the woman who won for Best Documentary Short wearing the parachute from elementary school gym class? Oh well. To each her own, but I bet it would be really fun to get under there and watch it billow. Maybe not.

8:43 Jeff Bridges introduces The Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man. If The Dude met the guy from A Serious Man, he’d probably say, “Hey, nice marmot!” (I know that makes no sense, but who doesn’t quote from The Big Lebowski when a chance falls right in your lap?)

8:54  Roger Corman and Lauren Bacall are introduced. They, along with John Calley and Gordon Willis received their Academy of Governors Awards at a ceremony held at an earlier date. This is the first year the honorary Oscars have not been handed out at the big show. So, if I’m understanding this correctly we're treated to ten minutes of interpretive dance, a salute to horror movies, and an hour and a half of commercials, but Lauren Bacall and Roger Corman only get to stand up for two seconds to some half-hearted applause. Shame on you Academy.

8:59 Mo’Nique wins best supporting actress for Precious. If you think Precious is a devastating tale then you didn’t see the very last Barbara Walters Oscar Special. It’s impossible for me to engage in Mo’Nique’s well deserved moment after her life secrets were revealed during her candid chat with Barbara. Reader, this may not be appropriate for children. Please send the kids to the kitchen for some high fructose corn syrup while we discuss this controversial revelation. Mo’Nique suffers from extreme hairiness, a condition that precludes her from putting razor to shin. It’s a cruel world that does this to an Oscar winner. Barbara’s cameras captured a shot of the poor woman’s downy gams. I turn away. It’s just not fair. Inside I’m screaming, “I can help you Mo’Nique! Mo’Nair! Mo’Nair!”

9:28 “Ladies and Gentlemen Elizabeth....Banks”? Jeez, from the swelling music and the enthusiastic announcing I expected Elizabeth Taylor or at least Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

9:38 In Memoriam. Is it just me Reader, or do you think it’s kind of ratty when some of the people in the memorial segment get a bigger hand than others? Everyone’s clapping like crazy for Michael Jackson who had very little to do with the film industry, but writer Larry Gelbert gets only a modest ovation and producer Simon Channing Williams gets nothing? Maybe the Academy should instruct the audience to stay silent until the end, or if some gesture of appreciation is really necessary, they could do the wave. It’s inclusive and quiet.

9:54 Gerard Butler and Bradley Cooper are presenting together. The only thing I can think of that these two have in common is they’ve each shared about fifteen tabloid covers with Jennifer Aniston. Oh come on Reader, you stare at them in the checkout line too. Everyone does. What else are you going to look at? The batteries and chapstick?

9:58 The following statement was simply genius. I’m paraphrasing, but here’s the gist: Find out if history will be made tonight in the competition for Best Director. Will it be the first woman, or the first African-American? Or will one of you three white guys win and totally screw up our chance for a “moment”? Because we all know the best way to ease racial and gender tensions is to pit these groups against each other at a self aggrandizing Hollywood awards show. 

10:01 Oh Matt Damon, how I would love to stare at you longingly with lust in my heart if only you didn’t resemble my nephew Jesse so much. Gross. Moving on.

10:25 Best Actor! Come on Dude!!!!

What is going on here? We’ve got five people delivering what sound like eulogies. No wait. I think they’re introducing Nobel Prize winners. Nope, false alarm, just acting awards.

10:32 After five nominations starting with 1971’s The Last Picture Show, The Dude Finally Abides. Yes.

10:47 After five more eulogies of the female persuasion, Sandra Bullock wins for playing Erin Brokovich! I mean Leanne Tuohy in The Blind Side. Good speech Sandy, nice dress, very funny. Well done. It's getting late.

10:52 Now, you can sometimes tell that the Academy has a feeling about who’s going to win by who they pick to present a particular award. If they didn’t think Katherine Bigelow was going to win Best Director, they wouldn’t have trotted Barbra Streisand, who was totally snubbed for The Prince of Tides, out there to give it to her. Finally, a woman has won for Best Direction. I really want to say something profound right now, but looking at her, all 58 years of casually mussed hair and toned arms, all I can say is get Katherine Bigelow off the podium and into isolation. That woman’s genes must be coded for study. Stat!

10:58 Did Tom Hanks go rogue and neglect to announce the nominees for Best Picture or were they held for time? Who cares? The Hurt Locker wins!!!!

Pull curtain. Nights like these, I'm glad I watch in the central time zone.
Reader, it may sound like I’m a harsh critic of The Academy Awards, but next March nothing will keep me from watching them again and every year until I join my favorite stars in movie theater heaven. Why? Because I love the movies and if celebrating them means sitting through a sometimes silly ceremony every year, I'll gladly do it. I would spit shine the Oscar statuettes if they asked me to because since the first audience sat wide eyed in the Nickelodeon, movies have been a panacea for the broken heart, the empty pocket, or the unquiet mind, and I am grateful for them.

For a couple of hours we can let our troubles sleep while we sit in the dark with our dreams. We know the ruby slippers won’t take us home; we know leaving the gun and taking the cannoli is not the best idea; we board the Titanic even though we know it’s going to sink, and sometimes our breakfast at Tiffanys sticks in our throat, but we keep showing up outside that window. Maybe we won’t always have Paris, but when Bogie says we will we believe him, and even though we know Tara is but a facade, like Scarlet we eat the radishes at dawn hoping they’ll fill us with what we need.


  1. And this, Reader, is why she is listed among my favorite writers on my facebook stats and among my favorite people in my heart. And the Oscar goes to...

  2. As always, Ms. Radish, you excel with your style & wit.

    I loved the entire piece, no doubt, but that last paragraph was choice. Very choice.

    You have a lot of time before football starts, so keep writing!

  3. Great play-by-play post, Ali!!

  4. Standing Ovation, or the Wave if you prefer, Miss Kloster!

  5. I had no idea you were such a brilliant writer - you ROCK it!!! As a small-town gal myself from Ontonagon, your picturesque memories of the U.P. ring true to my own childhood. I am very proud of your writing, I hope to see it published soon.

    Sarah Payeur (a.k.a. sarah peterson a.k.a. memphis)

  6. So I finally got around to reading your blog because, well, it just seemed like more fun than getting any work done. DAMN, KID! You are GOOD. I loved every second of this - and I FINALLY understand "radishes at dawn"! Okay, I'm hooked - keep 'em comin!

  7. Oh Ali. How did I miss this one. Fabulous. I am amazed by your talent.