Oscars, Super Bowl Allow Americans to Dream the Dream
by Dan Ehrlich

America has become a spectator nation, locked in a memory of its lost rugged individuality. A third of the American population is reported to have watched the Super Bowl on TV earlier this month. The annual sporting spectacular featuring teams of gargantuan athletes is so popular even the costly advertisements rate their own hype and special showings … “The best Super Bowl ads.”

The big game has really become part of the annual winter movie award season, designed mainly to enrich the coffers of multi media conglomerates by immersing the TV watching public in fantasy. And it couldn’t have come at a better time this year. With the Middle East in unprecedented turmoil and our domestic situation not much better, an elongated dose escapism is just what the public needs and loves.

Ever since film studios and television networks wound up bed-mates in the new corporate reality, the public has been inundated with unreality Hollywood style with everything from The Bachelor to Dancing with the Stars. But annually the most hyped and talked about bit of fantasy on air is the Academy Awards AKA The Oscars. Yet, even with all the hype and glamour, the Oscars can’t equal the Super Bowl for audience size.

The game itself, which could easily be played in 90 minutes, has been transformed from an athletic event to a television entertainment spectacular lasting more than three hours. But, at the end, at least the best team on the day wins.

The same can’t be said of the hyped up film and TV award shows which have become more about politics and payola than artistic merit. First, regarding the Oscars, the performance awards are so general that all film genres, such as comedies, dramas and action films, are lumped together, which is rather absurd.

Second, these aren’t awards given by critics or even the public. The Academy is made of film industry actors, executives and technicians. They first are supposed to see the films and performances in contention and then vote on them. The problem here is obvious…the same charge that was leveled at Bristol Palin on Dancing with the Stars…friends or studios can block vote, actors and producers can lobby academy members with all manner of gifts…films that are great but not politically correct may get the cold shoulder. We, the public, have to depend upon the honor of the academy members.

But, even the nomination process is flawed when so many superior films appear in a particular year. Only five spots can be allocated for all awards except the best picture, which has been changed to 10. The curious thing about this is, the directing award, which often goes hand in hand with the best picture remains at five nominations.

This brings up the even more curious case of this year’s Best Supporting Actress Award…. One of the nominees was Hailee Steinfeld, the 13-year-old star of True Grit. That’s right, the star, and the main player in the film. Yet, because all the leading role nominations were taken, she was demoted to a best supporting actress, which sh couldn't possibly win because she wasn't a supporting actress.

Yet, when the subject of Hollywood politics comes up, the case of the highly praised and successful Millennium Trilogy takes the cake. The first Swedish film of three book series, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, won rave reviews and big audiences all over the world (it was well dubbed into English). The movie was so successful Sony bought the rights for a major Hollywood cover version, directed by David Fincher, which is due out next December. Fincher has been nominated for Best Director this year for the Social Network, which received a Best Picture nomination.

However, the Swedish film and its star Noomie Rapace, who now has been earmarked for Hollywood stardom, was ignored by most US awards competitions. Do you see why? If Fincher’s film is as good as the original, look for the nominations to appear next winter.

The main reason for televised film award shows is money, from TV ads, ticket and video sales. Hype from an Oscar nomination and win will boost profits of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Mark 2. And, if it’s successful, there are the other two films in the series to remake as well. One can only wonder at the corporate pressure exerted to snub the original for the Oscars.

So, if the economy has got you down, your lack of a job has given you thoughts of suicide, there is a short-term fix. Bury yourself, for a few moments, in the fantasy that only Hollywood can manufacture. I just too bad Ricky Gervais isn’t hosting the Oscars. He’s the only guy with balls enough to say two and two equals four, on his way to the bank.

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