Barking up the Oscar tree

Thursday, March 2, 2006

March 2, 2006

Dear Leslie,

Some people make an event of watching the Super Bowl on TV. They surround themselves with pizzas and beverages and watch until pie-eyed with cathode-ray poisoning. Maybe that's plasma poisoning these days.

As TV events go, I prefer the Academy Awards. You know somebody's going to win the Super Bowl, but on Oscar night you never know when an obscure actor like Adrien Brody will stupefy a goddess like Halle Berry with a very unscreen kiss, or an acclaimed actress like Vanessa Redgrave will use the platform to take up the then thoroughly unpopular plight of the Palestinians.

The only thing more plentiful than "Brokeback Mountain" jokes during Sunday's telecast will be tearful and long acceptance speeches, unless of course Philip Seymour Hoffman or director Bennett Miller win one for "Capote." Hoffman told David Letterman he and Miller and a third friend took an oath when they were teenagers. They swore that the first to win an Oscar would bark his acceptance speech like a dog and continue barking until led from the stage.

Jon Stewart is sure to entertain as the new host, if only to see how the glittering audience, accustomed to being deferred to responds to his ironic wit. Not everybody will get or maybe like the joke. A few days ago Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich admitted he went on Stewart's "The Daily Show" not knowing the program on Comedy Central is a comedy.

I have never been good at handicapping the Oscar horse race. "Crash" has a chance at best picture because Hollywood loves to honor films that take on the racial divide in the United States. "Crash" does it without blinking. George Clooney will win something from three nominations, including best director for "Good Night, and Good Luck," supporting actor for "Syriana" and co-writer for "Good Night, and Good Luck."

"Munich," the other best-picture nominee, doesn't have a chance. Steven Spielberg made the reality of assassination too difficult to watch.

Every year seems to offer some kind of controversy at the Oscars. This year Israeli families whose children were killed by Palestinian terrorist attacks are have appealed to the Academy to withdraw the nomination of "Paradise Now." The movie is about Palestinians living under Israeli occupation and won the Golden Globe for best foreign language film.

The year was 1978 and Redgrave was named best supporting actress for "Julia" when she talked about the Palestinians. Oscar hosts change but the issues haven't.

If "Brokeback Mountain" broke any new ground it was sociological and not cinematic. Some people thought a movie about gay cowboys would never come to Cape Girardeau and would leave quickly if it did. The movie opened late, after the Academy Award nominations, but is still showing.

My own heart is with "Crash," but I'm rooting for "Capote" in solidarity with Lassie and Rin Tin Tin.

Love, Sam

Sam Blackwell is managing editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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