Friday, February 20, 2009

Time Out for an Oscar

Oscars don't mean much. They may not mean anything.

That is not to say I don't enjoy my own, which wasn't an Oscar at all, but a going-away gift when I announced I would be leaving Geneva after one last bang-up production in the amateur company I had founded in the early 1980s, The Little Theater of Geneva. I played Evy in The Gingerbread Lady, had a lot of laughs at at the going-away party, and was off for a new life in the States. The "Oscar" says at its base, To Mary Lois Adshead/From your own creation/The Little Theater of Geneva/1981- The date of demise is left blank, in the unstated hope that the group would continue forever, but as I understand it disbanded after about ten years.

Oscars are nice keepsakes, and this one certainly is a conversation piece, sitting among my books near a bright window overlooking the rooftops of Hoboken. But as for the real ones, they probably add "bankability" to certain players whose agents know how to use them, and they give people some sense of achievement in any case. Anne Bancroft said she gave hers to her mother, who put it on top of the television set. (That was when television sets were furniture.)

The presentations of the awards for the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences almost always promise a good show, and sometimes deliver. I loved Billy Crystal as host, and look forward to seeing what Hugh Jackman does. Jon Stewart was a bit out of place, but managed to entertain. I even saw the presentation when Rob Lowe danced and sang with Snow White (yecch) and when Sammy Davis, presenting, was not given the envelope he asked for, and brought down the house with, "Ya gave me the wrong envelope??? Wait'll the NAACP hears about this!" I was living in Alabama at the time, and the line was a huge hit in the neighborhood.

The best host of the event will always be Bob Hope, who owned the show for 18 years. Smooth and slick, he always managed to sound spontaneous even though he had the best writers in the biz at the time. His running gag was that he expected to win a statuette, and would occasionally try to wrest one from a winner. On the first year he was replaced, he came breezing onstage in white tie and tails some hour into the proceedings and announced that he was sorry he was late--he had been told the event was in another location!

Nobody really cares who wins an Oscar, except perhaps the occasional tearful recipient. Not that many of us have seen the films, besides, how can we say which performance is "best"? Makes no sense. Audiences like the show because it is a glimpse of live television and something just may go wrong, or at least not as written, not as predicted. This year the only surprise for certain will be the winner of the Best Supporting Actress award. I would not venture to say who it will be among the following: Amy Adams in Doubt,Penélope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Viola Davis in Doubt, Taraji P. Henson in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, or Marisa Tomei in The Wrestler. As it happens I've seen 'em all except The Wrestler, which it would take a very powerful team of wrestlers to drag me to see. My guess is that the statue will go to Viola Davis. Every one of the actresses I saw was flawless, moving and excellent, and I have no doubt that Marisa Tomei was too (but she has one; this is not her turn). I think Doubt was a fine little film with four outstanding performances, but hers will probably bring home the gold. If I were voting, I'd give my ballot to Penelope Cruz, no, maybe I would give it to Miss Davis. Who knows? I'd like to see either of them get it. I'd like to see somebody in Benjamin Button get one, but I'm not expecting it, except maybe for Art Direction, Costumes, or Musical Score. Pitt and Blanchett were awesome, the movie was breathtaking, but they are not going to win the statue.

You see, it's about something else. It's about moneymaking, the commerce of movies, the ability of the industry to congratulate itself for its artistic merit while rewarding its achievers in the area of ticket sales. It's about sizzle at the same time that it's about steak. It's not very important, but it means everything.

And it's usually a hell of a good show. I'll be at the tv Sunday night until, if true to form, I fall asleep at the set. Again, not very important--I'll learn the big winners the next day.


Gorilla Bananas said...

Do you think Steven Seagal's in with a shout? It can't be easy to sustain a constipated facial expression for as along as he does.

Slezak said...

ALL BETS ARE DOWN ON Benjamin Button...and the winner is ????

Mary Lois said...

Ah, everybody knows Slumdog Millionaire is gonna walk away with it! It's a wonderful movie. Don't miss it! But it's been a great year for films--I loved The Visitor, (with a Best Actor nominee), and all the others. Too bad they all can't win. I hope Benj Button gets a little something.

Too bad they don't have a category "Best Love Scenes between leading players."

tangerine said...

What's with Gorilla Bananas? Does he actually think Steven Seagal is up for an Oscar?