The Oscar’s: Ego’s “R” Us

With all the usual hype and build-up to the 85th Oscar Academy Awards, I suddenly realised that, unlike the ceremonies that I watched growing up, I did not care at all about the upcoming event.

I used to love the Oscar ceremony. The Academy Awards with all its pomp and circumstance kept me glued to the telly for the entire show. I saw my first “streaker” on the Academy Awards and learned that David Niven really was that funny when he quipped, “Now that chap will only ever be known as the fellow who showed the world his shortcomings on national television.”

When I used to watch, Bob Hope was the eternal master of ceremonies and each year a wealth of jokes about his being passed over for the little golden man were trotted out for the audience’s enjoyment. There were some great moments in the “old days” of the show.

I saw John Wayne moved to tears when he got the nod for True Grit. I saw a very young Henry Winkler telling the world about how excited he was and how star-struck he felt. I watched Clint Eastwood forced to “stand-in” for Charlton Heston; fumbling along until Moses showed up and took over. I also watched Sally Fields exclaim (in a statement that has had the eternal mickey taken out of it ever since) “You like me, you really like me!”

I watched Sir Richard Attenborough give his thank you speech where he talked for what seemed like hours. I also saw the resultant microphone cut-off that the producers of the show introduced after his mammoth acceptance speech. I saw  Elizabeth Taylor get flustered when the above mentioned streaker dashed across the stage (or should I say flashed) during her relay of that category’s nominees.

Mega-Star Taylor creasing up at the streaker. Later she couldn’t concentrate on the auto-cue.

I used to go and get a snack and use the bathroom when the live Broadway show of the moment came on and the other live acts that turned the Awards ceremony into a “variety show” came on. But I loved the awarding of the lifetime achievement awards.

I loved everything about the show, even its awkward (if I chose to watch them) live acts; even when Bob Hope ceased to be the master of ceremonies and was replaced by, among others, Billy Crystal.

Then I got older and began to notice things that I’d missed before.

I realised that actors “got the gong” for films that just were not that great. Other actors never got nominated for outstanding performances or never won when they did get nominated. Films won best picture that were not the best picture by any means. Horror films, screwball comedies, science fiction and a few other film genres were never acknowledged by the Academy’s committee.  Steven Spielberg had to make Schindlers List to finally get the bald golden chap.

Films with “a message” always beat out films that were just damned good entertainment. Your chances of nomination went up with how popular you were. But most obvious were the winners who should have won the year before for an outstanding performance, film, score, et al; who were then nominated for and won the year after for a performance that was nowhere near as impressive. Guilt awarding, I call it.

The other type of award was the Outstanding Lifetime Achievement award (which as I said I used to love) these were usually handed out to someone who had been snubbed by the committee for the entire length of their career. Usually trotted hurriedly out when it appeared that the recipient was about to die or, if the timing was off, just after they had died.

I began to realise that the Oscars were not about merit or excellence. It was about egos and agents and publicity and managers who could splurge for the biggest campaigns for their clients. It was a popularity contest. If your peers liked you and, more importantly, liked your political stance you were almost a shoo in.

Liberals were the fair-haired children of the business and right-wing “hawks” were not. Unless you were NRA hawk Charlton ‘Chuck’ Heston whom Hollywood has always equated with God. After all Charlton played Moses for Christ’s sake, you can’t mess with Him.

Moses, I mean, Charlton Heston.

I think the honest humour that used to be present in the ceremonies has disappeared. They all seem to take themselves entirely too seriously. Maybe it’s because the “funny men” have changed or stopped caring. When the actor Chills Wills took out an entire page in Variety to plead his cause for winning the Oscar the ad said:

 “We of The Alamo cast are praying harder than the real Texans prayed for their lives at the Alamo for Chill Wills to win the Oscar.” “Cousin Chill’s acting was great,” he wrote, signing, Your Alamo cousin.” Another ad read: “Win, lose, or draw. You’re still my cousins and I love you all.”

Comedian Groucho Marx, wrote back: “Dear Mr. Wills. I am delighted to be your cousin. But I voted for Sal Mineo. *courtesy of http://www.emanuellevy.com*

Admittedly a somewhat “tasteless” lapse of judgement on Wills’ part, but a damned funny response from Groucho; but the Oscars have grown up and become more cynical, more about the money and the highbrow idea that these people are more than just talented performers, they are royalty and way above mortal men.

When I became older and more cynical, I began to realize that, just as they don’t make actors like they used to, the business itself has changed. Oh not the money bit, it has always been about the money, but the overtly political overtones have become unwatchable.

The cut-off microphone isn’t the only control that has been placed on the show; they also limited the amount of time that acceptance speeches could last. The televised proceedings have been shortened to show what “they” deem important. Lesser categories (foreign films, documentaries, et al) are not shown at all, except in a quick “credit” recap at the end of the show…if you are lucky.

For me, the magic has gone from the event. They might as well change the name to Ego’s “R” Us. It is all about who has the biggest ego and pocket-book to match. It stopped being about talent and the virtue of a single outstanding shining moment, if indeed it ever was about that to begin with.

The laughter of the audience (filled with the crème de la crème of Hollywood) looks forced and the comedic “in-jokes” have lost their ability to be really funny. When the event becomes more about who has been chosen to be the master of ceremonies; or who is wearing what on the red carpet, and less about the films and actors who have been nominated, it’s time to stop watching.

I’ll just wait to read the list on the internet of who won and who didn’t. Because I don’t believe in the integrity of the award any longer and cannot be bothered to see egos catered to and the audience talked down to. I also don’t want to be overwhelmed by the Botox brigade of new surgically enhanced actors who believe that the secret to a great performance is having the least amount of facial movement possible and big boobs, or a six-pack.

If you watch the show, enjoy it if you can. I’ll probably be watching a film instead; preferably one with the Duke in it.

The Duke’s acceptance speech.

Phyllis Diller (1917 — 2012): They Don’t Make em Like that Anymore

English: Phyllis Diller portrait
English: Phyllis Diller portrait (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This incredibly funny woman started life as a housewife who dreamed of doing comedy. I saw her on a repeat of Groucho Marx‘s You Bet Your Life show from the 1950’s. As a contestant. Groucho interviewed her and she told of her dream. They used to show that program a lot.

Phyllis Diller worked a lot with comedian Bob Hope appearing in twenty seven of his television specials and three of his films. She also toured with Hope as part of the USO shows that  were put on for American GI‘s who were serving during the war.

Diller’s whole routine revolved around her crazy hair, her poor housekeeping and cooking and of course her husband Fang. She also had a huge raucous laugh that became her ‘trademark.’ She also had a long career as an actress. If you look her up on IMDb they list 77 different acting credits. She also had her own television program. Twice

She used to do a lot of cameos for other programs and in films. She very publicly had a face lift and several other plastic surgery operations performed on her when she reached 55. This was worked into her act as well. Her biggest laughs were always at her own expense. One joke she would repeat was her annoyance at the cleanliness of a neighbours home. Phyllis would snort derisively and say”She says you can eat off her floor. Oh Yeah? Well you can eat off my floor. Just look, over there’s the mustard, ketchup over there…” She would then finish with that loud laugh.

She must have loved what she was doing. She last worked in 2009 in a video short titled Family Dinner, if you can do the maths, that was three years ago and she was 92. Family and friends say that Phyllis passed peacefully in bed. She was smiling.

She has been described as a pioneer. Paving the way for so many other female comediennes Roseanne Barr, Joan Rivers and Ellen DeGeneres. She was the first female to do stand up comedy in Las Vegas.

This was a woman who could just walk on stage and immediately put the audience in stitches. She was a legend.

So long Phyllis. In a lot of ways you were the party. I hope you’re making the ‘Big Guy’ laugh right now.

Oh and say hello to Fang for me.

English: Phyllis Diller. Picture taken at the ...
English: Phyllis Diller. Picture taken at the her home in Brentwood, California, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Signals Mistaken, Misread and Missed

Cover of "Cheech and Chong's Up In Smoke ...
Cover via Amazon

I have always been a film nut. When I was growing up I had only one other friend who could spout all the dialogue from films like I could. This same friend and I would ‘re-enact’ all the scenes from Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke, much to the disgust of our workmates.

All my life I have been, if not the only one, the one who could recite verbatim a film’s plot, action sequences and all the characters reactions and dialogue. I had another friend who once told me, “Thanks Mike. You know, with you around I can save a fortune on watching movies. You describe them so well, I don’t have to watch them.”

I still don’t know if he was being sarcastic or not.

I am drawn to fellow movie nuts. These ‘nuts’ are hard to find. Because they have probably spent their entire lives running off at the mouth about whatever film they have just seen. And they have also probably spent their entire lives being told:

“Shut up!”

“Gezzus dude, give it a rest, will ya.”

“Gee, you really like your movies, don’t you?”

After a while you start talking less about the films you love. Of course these days you can talk about movies as much as you like via YouTube or in a blog. Pausing only long enough to edit both mediums and upload them on the computer.

It is a lot easier now to be a film fan who ‘runs off at the mouth.” That was not always the case.

In 1985 just after I’d married my second wife, I got sent to Germany for a conference. My first night there I met a young, pretty, female airman who was a fellow movie nut.

We spent the first night, alone in the crowd, talking almost non-stop about movies we loved. We also talked about films that the other person had not seen and traded notes as it were. She then made an oblique reference to a Marx Brothers film.

I was over the moon.

I could not believe that I had met another Marx Brother’s fan. We then talked and recited Groucho and Chico lines to each other. We only took breaks from this activity to replenish our beer supply and potty breaks.

Cover of "Duck Soup"
Cover of Duck Soup

She then did the entire courtroom sequence from Duck Soup. After I had stopped laughing, I took a deep breath and said jokingly, “Where have you been all my life.” And before I could do a Groucho eyebrow wiggle, she turned.

Her eyes went cold and icy. “What did you just say?” Before I could repeat it, she stood up and grabbed her beer. “You are married!” With a derisive snort, she turned her back to me and marched off.

You could have knocked me off my chair with a feather. Where had that come from? Marx Brothers fan she might be, she didn’t necessarily have a reciprocal sense of humour.

She ignored me for the rest of the week.

I talked about it to her male friend who came to the conference  with her. It turns out that her husband had been fooling around with another woman. She, quite understandably, was not very trusting of other married men.

On reflection I can see how she reached the instantaneous conclusion that I was ‘coming on’ to her. She had mistaken my joke for an invitation.  I, in turn, misread her love for movies. I thought that anyone who was a Marx Brothers fan would get my attempt at humour. She then missed my also attempted explanation.

So not quite ships that pass in the night. Still it would have been nice to know just one other film fan to talk to. Now I have my daughter and we both hinge our tongues in the middle and let them flap non-stop while we talk about movies.

Baggage

Baggage claim
Baggage claim (Photo credit: gorbould)
Talking about relationships with my daughter the other day, I stated that I was in no hurry to enter into another one. She was a little concerned about this turn of events and said so. She opined that surely I did not want to arrive at my dotage alone. I have thought about this and I have decided that I am not bothered. It’s mainly because of the baggage you see.

Let me explain.

Baggage Art
Baggage Art (Photo credit: aresauburn™)

Everyone has baggage. Baggage equals: children – both young and/or grown, hang-ups – both recent and distant, family – parents alive and deceased, exes – ex-partners and ex-lovers (that may still be hanging around the periphery and causing problems), grandchildren – ugh. The last one hurts to actually think about. I mean I know I’m in denial about my age and the age of women who would be (logically) potential partners, but…dating Grandma’s??

I have my own baggage. Trust issues with future partners, this is based on my last long lasting relationship. The active dislike of dealing with other peoples issues. In-laws and their respective family units automatically become part of your family, whether you want them or not. I could handle all that political manoeuvring when I was much younger. I doubt I have the patience now. Other baggage includes my active denial and dislike of growing older. I haven’t gone through my second childhood yet – my daughter will probably argue I never left my first one – but, I am sure it isn’t far off. I do promise not to try skateboarding again.

English: Julius Henry "Groucho" Marx...

I have thought seriously about this new thing everyone keeps talking about: Friends with benefits. I have decided at the end of the day that this simply will not work either. Why? Because I’m self admittedly picky. Kind of like Groucho Marx’s statement about clubs. “I wouldn’t want to be a member of any club who would accept me as a member.” Okay, apart from my eternal joking around about me being like Cary Grant and getting more attractive the older I get, I know that my “pulling” power is diminishing with age. I also don’t really fancy women my own age.

Screenshot from Charade showing Cary Grant and...
Screenshot from Charade showing Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I know how that sounds. Bad right? But every relationship I’ve ever had, with one or two exceptions have been with women younger than me. My ex-wife was seven years younger. I don’t find overweight, leather faced, chicken winged gals attractive. Yes I know that makes me really shallow. I know this and I accept it. I will admit that yes personality pays a huge role in women I find desirable. The ability to laugh and have fun outweighs all the other factors I just mentioned.   But what these older women all have in common is the baggage that comes with all these attributes.

 

It’s the baggage that really keeps me in the mindset that I will remain single for a very long time. I don’t want more children grown or otherwise. I don’t want any more in-laws deceased or otherwise. In a nutshell, I don’t want any baggage other than my own. I may eventually find a “beneficial friend.” But I think I’m quite happy doing what I’m doing now. Playing games – Assassins Creed Revelations at the moment, blogging, doing the odd video – YouTube, nothing rude I can assure you. Just living my day-to-day life and enjoying it, sans anyone else’s baggage.

One day I may feel differently, I may feel stronger, more tolerant of other folks baggage. When that happens I’ll grab a handful of metaphorical handles and give it a go. In the meantime, I’ll settle for carrying my own baggage, solo. Although I might invest in a trolley to help.