Friday, February 23, 2007

Oscar Dread

Now that I've seen "The Departed," I'm dreading the Academy Awards. The pre-Oscar buzz has it that Martin Scorsese is going to get Best Director, and that's a crock.

Clearly, the Academy members want to take themselves seriously, and they want us to take movies seriously -- especially "serious" movies, like "The Departed," which take themselves to be more seriously artful than they actually are.

It seems the Academy nominated "Dreamgirls" to get the Rainbow Vote and "Little Miss Sunshine" merely because it will go down in history as the most beloved movie of 2006 (I predict by far the most beloved, maybe only beloved movie, if indeed, you don't count "Cars" as a movie). And for my money, "Babel" is the serious movie of the year that is worldly in both claustrophobic and sweeping ways, with ingenious cinematography and editing, and which is emotionally intriguing and compelling to watch. But do or die, this year the dice were cast.

This is all about the Academy going wimpy on payback time. So the irony: to go easy on payback with Scorsese, the guy who's based most of his career on the toughest forms of payback known to the seedy underbelly of Neanderthal Tribalism, Brutal American Style. Except for the fact that he'll get the glory, Marty would have the wimps offed in a sleazy setting, say, under a cement mixer behind some mysteriously vacant factory lacking night security cameras.

True, Scorsese has made three or four very important and/or masterful movies, most notably Mean Streets (1973), Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980) and Goodfellas (1990). We could say "The Last Temptation of Christ" is notable as well. Those movies went down to stiff competition. And lately, the guy gave us the sprawling 2004 almost-winner-also-ran, "The Aviator." The Academy seemed to feel bad about the loss, as if to say, 'the next time this guy gives us a serious contender, we're going to have to give him the win.' Jesus, fuck.

So the plot is twisted and manic. Is this screenplay really that good? By the end, we're once again rolling our eyes at the F word. The word symbolizes the limited brains of the cretin snuff boys and to some extent of Scorsese's career, which has thrived on the F word to a tiresome extent. The morning after I saw "The Departed," I happened to be walking down the sidewalk in Manhattan and saw a T-shirt for sale. In big stark white letters on a black shirt: "Fuck You You Fuckin' Fuck." Scorseseze. Besides the charm of watching meat heads wearing Italian clothes lean on pushovers and moles, what's the moral of the story? Leave no trace, and put a bullet in the brain.

Now I've seen "The Departed," "The Departed" is no friend of mine, and the "The Departed" is no "Crash," no "Aviator," no "Raging Bull." It's startling without being surprising. It breaks no ground except for it's own grave. It makes Titanic look like a deserving winner.

Though, it should be said, speaking of the Academy's stumbles of late, that nothing could make "big" movies as sappy, trite and steroidally overblown as "Titanic" or "Lord of the Fucking Ring Anything" seem deserving winners. So lately, even if not that grovel-fest called the Grammies, the Academy really has been losing it's way. Or maybe it's just the movies -- a real lack of masterpieces.

Like last year: Crash deserved Best Picture, but Ang Lee for Director? I don't think so. For "Brokeback Mountain"? A movie that was conventional and stiff in every way. There again, I think Li was getting his award after the fact, for his previous directorial achievements, truly innovative efforts like "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."

Neither Scorsese nor Jack Nicholson are cinema gods, in the big scheme. Maybe they were 20 years ago, but both are showing deep ruts. It's time to hit "refresh" and recognize current bests. The best I can hope for at this point is for Scorsese to win for Director but for a far superior film such as "Babel" to win Best Picture.

This lag time is hurting the credibility of the Academy. But this one will be especially painful. Alfred Hitchcock never got an Oscar for Best Director either. So it goes. Things happen. Give Scorsese a lifetime achievement award, which he richly deserves, and leave it at that.


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