WTFN–Oscar Preview 2011

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(THE SCENE: WTFN’s west-coast studio. The set is decorated with stills and posters of the 10 nominated movies. Host Lance Boyle and critic Miriam Kale are seated across from each other in high-backed upholstered chairs chatting quietly. In the background the floor director is heard: “…and we’re on in 5…4…3…2… (points to Boyle. Theme music starts up.)”

Lance Boyle: (to camera, as music dies down) “Hello and welcome to WTFN’s second-annual Oscar preview show live from our studios in Los Angeles. I’m your host Lance Boyle. Sitting across from me in The Cutting Room once again is veteran film critic Miriam Kale.” (turns to face her) Welcome, Miriam.”

Miriam Kale: “Hi, Lance! It’s hard to believe a whole year has passed.”

Boyle: “Yes, and it’s also hard to believe that Hollywood churned out 372 moves last year, more than one a day.”

Kale: “And of those, how many were worth watching?”

Boyle: “One in 10 if we’re lucky, which merely proves that Hollywood is ever more dependent on recycling clichés and pandering to audiences that have the intellect and attention span of a 12-year-old boy. Speaking of 2010, a prediction you made came true–”the number of best-picture nominees stayed at 10.”

Kale: “In this case, I wish I had been wrong. Nomination inflation not only debases the standard of movies, but it’s so unnecessary. The award is at least as much a function of politics as art, so adding more nominees has little or no bearing on the winner. The choice of The Hurt Locker last year showed this clearly, I think.”

Boyle: “Miriam, I know you’re disappointed that Avatar didn’t win…”

Kale: “…no, it’s not that. I could deal with Avatar losing to a better film, but it didn’t. The Hurt Locker was chosen as best picture for two clearly political reasons. First, despite the unsparing portrayals of U.S. soldiers in Iraq, The Hurt Locker was unmistakably pro-war. Its message is: ‘Look what our soldiers have to sacrifice to bring “freedom” to Iraq; The Iraqis need us; Support our troops!’ This concept of sacrifice is paramount, because involving the audience in a shared pain is the most powerful way to co-opt the audience into endorsing the premeditated destruction of a country.

Avatar, on the other hand, was anti-war, anti-occupation, anti-colonialism and anti-exploitation. It was, therefore, decidedly anti-American. Its message is: ‘Look what we do to unarmed people; look how dishonestly we treat them; Look how we dehumanize these people so that we can feel good about the cruelty and destruction we inflict on them.’ Inasmuch as this was a fantasy movie, it was a factual depiction of Israel’s and the U.S’s genocidal excesses in the Middle East, especially in Iraq and Palestine. The academy picked the safe choice, The Hurt Locker, rather than risk offending the Israel Lobby or the warmongers in Washington.”

Boyle: “You mentioned a second reason?”

Kale: “Yes, and that had to do with the academy’s need to award a Best Director Oscar to a woman, and Kathryn Bigelow gave them the perfect opportunity. She’s talented and an excellent director, and if she won for best director, it logically meant that her film, The Hurt Locker, had to win for best picture. It was a derivative award.”

Boyle: “I’m sure Martin Scorsese would appreciate your logic.

Kale: “Yeah, I bet he would. My point is that The Hurt Locker was very good, but it was not great. Now that the nominees have doubled in number, and movies in general are getting worse, we will likely see films nominated that are merely above average, or in some cases simply good.”

Boyle: “How would you rate this year’s nominees: Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, and Winter’s Bone?”

Kale: “First, Inception, 127 Hours and Toy Story 3 don’t belong: Inception was too convoluted; 127 Hours too limited; and Toy Story 3, despite rave reviews and undeniable excellence, not special enough to be included. Also, it’s animated.”

Boyle: “What’s wrong with that? Some of the best films being made are animated–”Spirited Away, The Incredibles…”

Kale: “I don’t disagree, but animated features should be in their own category. It’s preposterous to equate a largely computer-made movie with a…um… ‘human’ movie.”

Boyle: “Aren’t you overstating your case just a bit; I mean, don’t you think the best picture should win regardless of what kind of film it is?”

Kale: “Giving Toy Story 3 the Best Picture Oscar would be both an insult to the craft of acting and the art of movie-making, as well as an admission that Hollywood has collectively jumped the shark. Seriously, how can you compare the work of voice actors to real actors; computer technicians to cinematographers?”

Boyle: “Hmm, okay, but you’re going to catch a lot of flak for going after Pixar’s prized franchise. So, what does that leave us?”

Kale: “The films that I think do belong are: The Fighter, The Kids Are All Right, The Social Network, True Grit, and Winter’s Bone.

Boyle: “Not The King’s Speech?! It racked up 12 nominations. How could you not include it?”

Kale: “The King’s Speech is another in a long line of well-produced, well-acted, high-art British history dramas, and as such feels staid, predictable, and familiar. Add in the Royal Family, and a nomination is virtually guaranteed. It’s as if the film didn’t have to earn a nomination, but rather merely had to wait to have it conferred. Perhaps I’m being a bit unfair, but giving The King’s Speech a best pic nod seems like genuflecting before the, um, king.”

Boyle: “But Colin Firth’s portrayal of Prince George, Duke of York, was supposed to be mannered, and staid. The Royal Family has to maintain an image and he was superb. Likewise, Helena Bonham-Carter’s beautifully understated portrayal of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. And what could be said of Geoffrey Rush as speech therapist Lionel Logue that hasn’t been said?”

Kale: “I agree. The performances were uniformly excellent, and the acting nominations are deserved; in fact, I think Firth will win for best actor. It’s just that I think other films showed greater inventiveness.”

Boyle: “Which is your favourite?”

Kale: “If you’re asking me which one I think will win, it’ll be either The King’s Speech or The Fighter. Because the Cohen brothers cleaned up in 2007 with No Country for Old Men, the academy might make the political decision to give True Grit a pass. Either way, The King’s Speech and The Fighter are both safe choices given their subject matter.”

Boyle: “You don’t sound enthusiastic.”

Kale: “I’m not. If the academy really wanted to reward excellence, it would give the award to Winter’s Bone, arguably the best acted movie of the year, and if there is any justice, Jennifer Lawrence should win for best actress over Natalie Portman’s overwrought ballerina.”

Boyle: “On this point we agree. Portman doesn’t come close, but now we come to my favourite award, The Leni, which honours outstanding achievement in holocaust propaganda.”

Kale: “Well, this was a tough pick, especially since there weren’t any contenders.”

Boyle: “What?!”

Kale: “You heard me–”for the first time in more than 50 years not a single nominated movie dealt with the Holocaust®.”

Boyle: “So which film gets the award? Is there an award?”

Kale: “Oh yes, but before I get to it, I want to focus on the significance of this absence. There is actually serious talk about the Holocaust® being played out. More than 180 films have been made about the Jews under Hitler, more than any other topic. What, if anything, is left to say? I’ll tell you, nothing! Holocaust® fatigue has finally set in.”

Boyle: “Why now? Hollywood has never had a shortage of Holocaust® stories, real or fabricated. In short succession we’d had The Reader, Defiance,Valkyrie…”

Kale: “Right, but Inglourious Basterds was the last straw. This farcical Jewish torture spectacle was so gratuitously tasteless and dishonest that it did more to discredit the Holocaust® than prop it up. What it did was inadvertently show the true Nazi-like nature of zionist Jews, and that has made Jewish suffering seem more contrived than real. Against the real Holocaust® that Jews are inflicting today in Palestine, flogging the Holocaust® now seems preposterous, even indecent.”

Boyle: “Is there any indication that Holocaust® movies are running into trouble?”

Kale: “Yes; in fact, Branko Lustig, one of the award-winning producers of Schindler’s List, has been trying without success to find backers for a movie about Jews in the Shanghai ghetto.”

Boyle: “Shanghai?! Are we supposed to make a movie about every city that had a Jewish ghetto?”

Kale: “So far, nobody in the United States, Europe or Asia is interested, and who could blame them?”

Boyle: “So, which film do you think will get the award, if no Holocaust® films were made?”

Kale: “The academy should give an honorary Leni to Shoah on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of its release. This 9.5-hour endurance test by Claude Lanzmann contains no archival footage and relies solely on people recounting stories, the veracity of which is never questioned or investigated. The film’s respected position in the body of Holocaust® films and Lanzmann’s conspicuous lack of critical investigation means that Shoah deserves an honorary Leni.”

Boyle: ” (to the camera) Well, that about does it for another show. (to Miriam Kale) Miriam, you never cease to surprise me. Thanks for joining me and let’s hope Winter’s Bone defies the experts…”

Kale: “…such as they are.”

Boyle: ” (to the camera) Good night, see you all after the awards.” (Theme music rises, and fade out).

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