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Andy Bluff the Film Buff

Squares up to... The 2000 Academy Awards

by Andrew Smith

With the annual schmooze-fest known to laymen as the 'Oscars' and to plumped-up pricks as the 'Academy Awards' nigh, it's high time to slice through the glitz and glamour and take an objective peek at this sickening spectacle of self-congratulatory bullshit. I cannot tell you much about this year's nominations because I haven't seen any of the films. Not good, you might think, for someone who professes to be a movie buff. Au contraire, I retort, in a fancy French accent, for I have always found the best way to judge films is either a) Not see them but formulate an opinion based on prejudice anyway or b) Wait until they come out on video. There are two reasons for this. Firstly it is difficult to disassociate a cinema release from its attendant marketing hype, making a genuine evaluation more difficult. Secondly, I am a confirmed heroine addict and would never waste money on cinemas when I could be 'chasing the dragon' or injecting smack in my penis. So I'm afraid the most I can tell you about American Beauty is "It's quite good and Kevin Spacey smokes a lot of dope in it." (copyright: my flatmate) Anyway, you can find all you need to know about the Oscars by delving into its murky past.

It all started, of course, with Oscar Wilde.

Sometime in the 1930s the renowned playwright, wit, raconteur and all-round fancy dandy began to tire of the theatre. His new love was cinema. The technicolour films were emerging: Gone With The Wind, The Wizard of Oz, stuff like that. Oscar was beguiled. He promptly moved to L.A. and pitched an idea to MGM supremo Metro Goldwyn Mayor. His film was to be called The Dove That Dare Not Speak Its Name, an allegorical and deeply personal tale about an urban(e) yet flamboyant pigeon whose extrovert exterior disguises an inner soul tormented by a repressed sexuality. Metro was unimpressed. "All sounds a bit heavy, Oscar," he said. "Lighten the tone. How about something more Errol Flynn? He's all the rage at the moment."

"I'm not doing no black and white shit." Wilde replied with trademark eloquence.

Then Metro had a brainstorm. He told Oscar of his idea to create an annual awards ceremony that rewarded momentous achievements in the film industry.

"I was going to call it The Metros," he said, "but it's yours if you want it. You can host it, and we'll call it The Oscars. Think about it."

"I don't think, Metro, I do. That gig is mine."

"Righty ho then. Watch this." Metro's face metamorphosed into a lion's head.

"What do you think?" he growled. "I was thinking of using it in my corporate branding."

"It's got potential," Wilde agreed. And so history was made.

The Oscars soon became an American institution, a chance for Hollywood not only to pay homage to itself but to renew public interest - and revenue - in the nominated films. For the first two years Wilde lorded over the proceedings with great aplomb, winning over even the most homophobic of his sceptics with his ineffable charm and wit. But on his third year he overstepped the mark when, in full flow, he asked the audience, "Did you hear about the pervert who crossed the road?" A packed house awaited the perfectly timed quip. "...he got his cock stuck up the chicken!" A deathly silence filled the auditorium, punctuated only by a few nervous titters from motiveless rebel Jimmy Dean. Wilde recovered well enough but his fate was sealed when Jack Warner leant over to Goldwyn Mayer and hissed, "The boy's gone too far. Next year we'll get Bob Hope to do it." Wilde never worked in showbiz again; three years later he threw himself wittily under a train. Infinitely more tragic, Bob Hope, surely the least funny person ever, went on to host the awards for what seemed like eternity.

The Oscars began to resemble Hope's reactionary persona. Anything vaguely cutting-edge was shunned in place of dull conservatism and, post 60s, dull liberalism. Example: Citizen Kane lost out to some piece of shit no one can remember. So it has remained ever since. Just look at some of the movies that won Oscars, either as best films or for lead performances. Starting for no particular reason with...

Driving Miss Daisy
Just how boring can a film be? This boring. An old bigot and her black driver don't get on but by the end are best of friends. That, I believe, is the 'story.' I haven't seen it. I'd rather spend three hours watching my nails grow. Oscar winning lesson: cast an ancient, respected actress who will die within the next five years and throw in some crap about race.

Philadelphia
An appropriate title for this cheesy contrivance. Tom Hanks won for his portrayal of an AIDS sufferer. Denzel Washington played a lawyer. It's sentimental garbage, which fooled no-one in its claim to broach a supposedly 'taboo' subject, and lines up behind Schindler's List as the most obvious attempt ever to garner Academy acclaim. Tom Hanks was better in Splash if you ask me. Oscar lesson: disease of the day + strong black character = Oscar success.

Rainman
Dustin Hoffman won for his portrayal of an autistic man with a really good memory. He is reunited with brother Tom Cruise. They don't hit it off at first, mainly because Cruise's character is a total wanker, but by the end are (no, never) best of friends. Uplifting message: brotherly love in all its forms takes precedent over material gain. Oscar lesson: pretend you're a spastic.

Scent Of A Woman
Al Pacino, an actor of undisputed gifts, won an Oscar for this - a nauseating dose of Hollywood treacle. He plays an irascible blind man whose relationship with his carer, callow college boy Chris O' Donnell, improves after a shaky start to the extent that - fuck me rigid - they're the best of buds by the end. Pacino's character is really rather unpleasant: when he's not shouting ill-temperedly at those trying to help him, he's talking in an unsavoury manner about how he likes to sniff women. O' Donnell' is as wet as a used tampon and when he's thrown out of college, or whatever the narrative 'twist' is, you couldn't give a shit. Even so, Pacino saves the day with a rousing speech that convinces the college board of their error. He may be bereft of sight, but he can see, blah de blah. Oscar lesson: pretend you're blind.

Forrest Gump
Hanks again, this time playing a simpleton who unwittingly changes the course of history through serendipitous encounters with the rich and powerful. Most observers found the right-wing, God-bless-America sentiments crass at best; many found the film insulting. I wouldn't know myself, having never seen it. But I reckon it's toss anyway. The movie features Sally Field as Gump's mother. Six years previously Field starred alongside Hanks in a forgotten film called Punchline - as his lover. Which makes Gump a time-travelling motherfucker in my book, and a stupid one at that. Oscar lesson: pretend you're retarded.

Titanic This flatulent blubber-arse of a film clearly had all the artistic merit of a beached whale, which didn't it stop collecting Oscars like barnacles. For a movie that cost a billion trillion squillion dollars to make you might think they'd have used a proper ship, but no, most of the effects, they trumpeted boastfully, were digital. That's one fucking expensive computer. The sad thing is, the effects look digital: an unreal sheen somehow pervades the more panoramic scenes, while on-board drowning palavers give the impression that they have been filmed in a studio, which of course they were. Those are the good bits. Most of the film, which lasts for 10 days, consists of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet farting around the boat, pissing off the posh folk, and gearing up to a good old shafting session below decks. Moderate relief is provided when Winslet gets her tits out for the lads and DiCaprio dies.

The Sound Of Music
Let's be honest: musicals are rubbish. Without exception. Whether it's Singing In The bastard Rain, West Side frigging Story or Saturday Night fucking Fever, they're all shite. The presence of Julie Andrews in anything devalues it further, and since this is the worst film she's been in, it also makes it the worst musical ever and by final definition the worst film of all time. The thinnest of plots concern Andrews, some bloke with stupid pants on, and a bunch of posh kids fleeing the German forces in wartime Austria. Far from shitting themselves and getting the hell out, they all break out into song at the merest prompt. The co-stars are uniformly irritating; in fact so annoying are the Vontrapp children I found myself rooting for the Nazis by the end. How can I forgive a film that has turned me evil? However, the recent news that Julie Andrews has lost all use of her voice has helped me recover some faith in the notion of justice.

I have no doubt the Academy will continue to reward the most undeserving of recipients, as they did last year with Shakespeare in Love. I have, with scrupulous fair-mindedness, reviewed this film before and won't dwell on it now. No fuck it, I will. I wouldn't say it was shit, exactly. Shit generally has some substance and often, if you look closely, intact pieces of sweetcorn. So I suppose Shakespeare in Love is more like a stinking dribble of diarrhoea, or a thin trickle of sewerage. At any rate, it's insipid crap, so if it can win anything can. And with these thoughts I must go: my palms are getting sweaty and my syringe awaits...






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