On the one hand, the Da Vinci Code portrays priests behaving badly. Got to love that. Self-flagellation is gross, but it's the jesus freaks doing unto themselves - and I love a good conspiracy. On the other, we have a bit of sexism. Ok, a lot. Really, the women are pretty much just wombs(!) (or less... why does "whore" seem to roll off the french tongue so easily?). But to discuss the irony here is to spoil, so stop reading if you don't want to know what happens. (Yes, someone out there doesn't know - as the gasp at the "revelation" that Mary Magdalene may not have been a whore demonstrated).
Annie Proulx breaks the happy facade of Hollywood and dishes up some steaming invective. Who doesn't love it when an insider shreds the curtain and speaks some honest, angry words? Read the whole piece if you're feeling it.
Roughly 6,000 film industry voters, most in the Los Angeles area, many living cloistered lives behind wrought-iron gates or in deluxe rest-homes, out of touch not only with the shifting larger culture and the yeasty ferment that is America these days, but also out of touch with their own segregated city, decide which films are good.
....None of the acting awards came Brokeback's way, you betcha. The prize, as expected, went to Philip Seymour Hoff-man for his brilliant portrayal of Capote, but in the months preceding the awards thing, there has been little discussion of acting styles and various approaches to character development by this year's nominees. Hollywood loves mimicry, the conversion of a film actor into the spittin' image of a once-living celeb. But which takes more skill, acting a person who strolled the boulevard a few decades ago and who left behind tapes, film, photographs, voice recordings and friends with strong memories, or the construction of characters from imagination and a few cold words on the page? I don't know. The subject never comes up. Cheers to David Strathairn, Joaquin Phoenix and Hoffman, but what about actors who start in the dark?
Another Crash bash(ing) courtesy of Queer Beacon. He's got the whole text (a good read from the Boston Globe), but this passage stood out to me as a bit more insightful than a lot of the horse race banter that I'm sure we've all read enough of this week:
It's fine for Hollywood to urge gay tolerance. But it should give America an actual homosexual to tolerate first.
The defeat of ''Brokeback" exposes this blind spot all too clearly. Best-director winner Ang Lee praised the fictional ''cowboys" in his movie for their bravery. But the real -- and truly audacious -- Truman Capote went unthanked in best actor winner Philip Seymour Hoffman's acceptance speech.
The culture of the movie business isn't all that different from the military or sports. An accusation of homosexuality can turn a star litigious or, in some cases, relentlessly straight. Obviously, the movies are in the business of illusion. And anything that shatters the illusion is bad for business.
...There are no gay film stars. We all know the gay actors go to Broadway (they want Tonys!) or come from England. Seriously people, Ian McKellen can't do all your work for you.
It also mocks the superficiality of Crash as the title quote implies. (my parenthetical review: good movie, fluffy writing, parts greater-than-whole, made me so paranoid that random crime would hunt me down to pay for my sins that I was shaking like a leaf as I walked the very safe walk from Subway to home through my park... definitely not the best film of 2005)
Last word the Brokeback party crashing (!) last night. Kenneth Turan proves he deserves one of the most prestigious jobs in the film review world:
I do not for one minute question the sincerity and integrity of the people who made "Crash," and I do not question their commitment to wanting a more equal society. But I do question the film they've made. It may be true, as producer Cathy Schulman said in accepting the Oscar for best picture, that this was "one of the most breathtaking and stunning maverick years in American history," but "Crash" is not an example of that.
I don't care how much trouble "Crash" had getting financing or getting people on board, the reality of this film, the reason it won the best picture Oscar, is that it is, at its core, a standard Hollywood movie, as manipulative and unrealistic as the day is long. And something more.
For "Crash's" biggest asset is its ability to give people a carload of those standard Hollywood satisfactions but make them think they are seeing something groundbreaking and daring. It is, in some ways, a feel-good film about racism, a film you could see and feel like a better person, a film that could make you believe that you had done your moral duty and examined your soul when in fact you were just getting your buttons pushed and your preconceptions reconfirmed.
Last paragraph hits in on the head (I'd be smarting if I were Shulman, staring at the bittersweet trophy bigotry (probably) won me... Full text on Queer Beacon, which I'll be checking in on with regularity what with the orientation-oriented film reviews and all.
Crash was a racism PSA made by and for white people just as Philadelphia was an AIDS PSA made by and for straight people who had up until that point largely ignored the disease until it was widely understood that they could die of it too. Both films intended to kill alot of birds with one stone but both ended up as insulting, pretentious, moral insurance policies of the after school special set.
It felt like the morning they announaced Bush won again. I remember waking to the headlines in the British paper. "How could 53 million Americans be so dumb". But it has challenged the rest of America to think a bit more than usual....
Perhaps this is the Academy's atonement for not even nominating "Do the
Right Thing" almost twenty years ago. Maybe in two more decades a film
about homophobia will finally win. And maybe, just maybe, it'll
actually feature real openly gay actors.
I don't neccessarily think Brokeback was the best film out there this year, but it was certainly better than Crash. So was Capote. (and lots of folks think Good Night was too). The cop out is apparant...
From the mouths of babes... or snarkier than I. Defamer:
6:27pm: The presentation of Crash's Best Original Song nominee,
complete with burning cars and multiculti couples dancing among the
flames (of racism, we assume), is roughly 300% more subtle than the
I also liked Jon Stewart's advice that in the case of fire, your best bet to escape is not moving in slow motion. Dateline Hollywood:
“I truly never thought this day would come,” said Candy Curtis, an African-American aspiring actress who worked as a seat filler at the Oscars. “When I saw Paul Haggis and [caucasian producer] Cathy Schulman standing up there to accept that Oscar for ‘Crash,’ I knew Blacks had finally made it in Hollywood.”
Glad I wasn't the only one to notice. It does explain a lot about the movie... like how the whole thing can be about racism without actually providing any insight into, uh, racism. I can't take this Oscar win as anything but a vote for the least controversial flick (and I'm guessing no one watched good night and good luck - B&W is so not color).
In a year where millions of dollars (and a couple of careers) were made telling stories about queers, don't you think a few more people could have said the word "gay?" I know "lesbian" is scary, but gay? Happy's not scary... For a show that celebrated "tolerance" with so many ham-fisted, self-congratulatory blurbs, how this happen? (gay cowboys montage was decidedly tepid) And how much of Dolly Parton's body is actually made of flesh?
Philip Seymour Hoffman won best actor for playing gay... and thanked his mom. Queers were invisible (yeah a sound guy thanked his "life partner" but that tame, tame coded language isn't good enough anymore) or crammed into ill-fitting dresses (I'm talking to you Latifa). How many closet cases were there working the Tab Hunter shtick?
George Clooney broke the veil of public relations every so politely and said a few worlds about his pride in being out of touch with mainstream America, which was nice. He then resurrecting the AIDS shout out (I don't think AIDS is a particularly apt codeword for queers now that it's killing millions of heterosexuals in the developing world) which made for a wet noodle of a political rant.
Speaking of AIDS code, I'll thank the academy for their "tolerance" montage that kindly threw "come out" in the race, race, race tolerance mix, but then bait-and-switched another AIDS reference. (Yes, I'm happy to see race discussed so openly, but Guess Who's Coming to Dinner was made almost 40 years ago. This is no longer news) No, Philadelphia was not a ground breaking gay movie, because they killed the fag off in the end for the crime of anonymous gay sex. Gave me quite a complex to learn that gay men have to die for their sex. (though wow, it really did motivate me towards safer sex).
Why expect more? Because they tricked me. All these queer movies - where the queers were either human (Brokeback) or the queerness was merely incidental (Capote) - they tricked me. From the Oscar broadcast alone, you could be forgiven for thinking it were 1976. This group of people was supposedly honoring some great post-proud, certainly out subject matter, yet they couldn't lean away from queerness more.
It was fear that did this. Fear of the phantom homophobe zeitgeist. A fear of a spun reality, where the man at the controls (who knows better) is aiming to please a target he's got wrong - he thinks America is more homophobic than it is because of a very loud, politically engaged (and frighteningly successful) minority - bigots. Brokeback demonstrated that there are plenty of Americans who are quite ready to deal with queerness. Even Dolly's preaching real tolerance (though I'm not sure how Jesus helps trans folks while they're travelin' thu anywhere...). At the very least I would have expected the man to learn a lesson from these movies he's acknowledging.
Instead Crash won best picture for it's deeply superficial, audience-bludgeoning message of tolerance. I'm not mad that Brokeback didn't win best picture. I'm sure there was another film made this year that was better. Crash wasn't. It was just safer - watered down - and safely preachy. It embodied "political correctness." Everyone's the same, we're all prejudiced, it's ok. We just need to be nicer. Well, no. Other films actually broke down those prejudices and demonstrated how they work. They showed crapped on people as human and sympathetic. And that was transcendent. That was worthy of accolade.
I've learned a lesson though - one not so unintended. Reduced expectations. Homos in the back - quiet and don't fuss. Sorry for the melodrama - next time I'll read a book instead.
Charlie Girl's Laugh out loud funny plot summary is hands down the best thing I've read about Transamerica:
Bree: I'm about to have SRS, but somehow I never learned to do makeup properly. My lipstick covers most of the lower half of my face. I'm twitchy and neurotic, and correct people on their grammar and punctuation. Oh, and I have no friends.
Toby (via telephone): Hi, I'm the son you never knew you had. Come bail me out.
Therapist: Hi, my name is Doctor Plot Device. Every time you refuse to follow the plot of the movie, I'm going to threaten to withhold permission for your SRS. You must go have a wacky cross-country roadtrip, or no SRS for you!
Bree: Why do I have to have an oddball buddy comedy roadtrip before I can have SRS? Is that in the Harry Benjamin standards or something?
Therapist: No, it's just the plot of the movie. Now go do it, or else.