Archive for February, 2012


The Race Is On

In the wake of the Republican primary season, I’d like to talk about something really important:  the Academy Awards!  The Oscars are a self-declared holiday everywhere in Hollywood.  It is the biggest event of the year in southern California.

Billy Crystal has been host numerous times before, and has agreed to host again.  He had seemingly pushed the boundaries of being a memorable, even legendary host and noted that it was time to let someone else dazzle the audience with witty repartee.  In September of this year Eddie Murphy had been tapped to host this year for the 84th awards ceremony and was reputedly looking forward to it, but he backed out when his good friend Brett Ratner resigned (the polite Hollywood way of declaring “You’re Fired”).  Brett Ratner was under fire for a gay slur as well as inappropriate comments about actresses Olivia Munn and Lindsey Lohan.  What he said while promoting his film Tower Heist was that “rehearsing is for fags.”  Certainly an ill conceived response to questions about his film.  I think he failed to realize that for the most part Jews and homosexuals (and sometimes Jewish homosexuals)practically run Hollywood, even if only behind the scenes, out of the public eye, usually not as actors.  

I’m not sure how many in the audience will remember the nominees or winners for Best Original Screenplay writer or the Best Adapted Screenplay Writer, except for the year that Matt Damon and Ben Affleck won for “Good Will Hunting.”  In my midnight musings I myself wonder whether I might ever be nominated as a writer for a film (I’ve given several practice speeches in the shower).  Trust me,  though, I’m working on a novel, not a screenplay, so that leaves me out of the running, at least for now.  What can I say?  You gotta dream big because you just never know where life will take you.  I couldn’t have predicted five years ago that I would be going to Northwestern University for a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing, but here I am, pursuing my childhood dreams.

But enough about that and on to the drama of the awards ceremony.  To me, the most hotly contested race this year is in the Lead Actress in a Film category.  Meryl Streep and Viola Davis are duking it out, and Glenn Close is the dark horse for Albert Nobbs where she played a woman masquerading as a manservant in late 19th Century Ireland.  Streep is widely acknowledged as the premiere actress of our generation with 16 nominations and 2 wins for Supporting Actress in Kramer vs. Kramer and Lead Actress in Sophie’s Choice way back in 1982.  She is due another win for her turn in The Iron Lady where she plays British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher because she hasn’t won since Sophie’s Choice, yet I favor Viola Davis in the role of a lifetime for The Help.

As a general rule, comedies are not considered for Acadmeny Awards, yet Bridesmaid’s supporting actress Melissa McCarthy may surprise everyone.  However, my heart belongs this year to Octavia Spencer who plays fiesty black maid Minny, once again in The Help.

I’m not certain why I am drawn to the Best and Supporting Actress categories, but the gals nominated tend to really steal the show with amazing, and actually memorable speeches.  Who can forget Halle Berry thanking all the black women in film and music history on whose shoulders she stands?  Or Sally Field, where she said, “You like me, you really like me!” 

One of the worst thing you can do with your allotted 45 seconds is thank industry insiders just because it might benefit your career.  Stretch your acting muscles, folks, and put on a moving, memorable performance.

At its best, the Oscar speech is its own art form.  Louise Fletcher, who won for her role as Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest said, “I’ve loved being hated by you.”  Then she continued by thanking Jack Nicholson, for making “being in a mental institution like being in a mental institution.”

Shirley MacLaine, for Terms of Endearment (one of my favorite films),  waxed philosophical:  “God bless that potential that we all have for making anything possible if we think we deserve it.”  Then said, “I deserve this.”

None of the other categories impact me in quite the same way, except perhaps the winner of Best Director and Best Picture.  My favorite films this year were The Help and Hugo, Hugo for sheer scope and panoramic cinematic profoundity.  I tend to lean toward Hugo, certianly for Best Director, but also for Best Picture (it’s such a quietly beautiful film), but the frontrunner for Best Picture is actually the silent film The Artist.  A silent film hasn’t won since the first Academy Awards show 83 years ago (the film was Wings).

Regardless of who wins and who are the “also-rans,” I love the pomp and circumstance of the Academy Awards.  Books and films nourish my soul and what can I say: you just have to love a good show.

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“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose,” Ecclesiastes 3:1

For some reason, throughout the history of time, people have been fascinated as to what happens after we die as well as what happens at the end of time, the end of the world.  This preys upon the latent fears of those who seek heaven, but are terrified by hell.  In the Old Testament, the rules are pretty clear:  follow the Ten Commandments, Exodus 20:1-17.  I don’t know about you, but I actually had to look up the commandments.  In case you’re like me, here they are:

  1. You shall have no other gods before me
  2. You shall not worship idols
  3. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord
  4. Keep the Sabbath holy
  5. Honor your mother and father
  6. You shall not murder
  7. You shall not commit adultery
  8. You shall not steal
  9. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor (you shall not lie)
  10. You shall not covet thy neighbor’s wife or belongings

One of my close friends insists that the fear of God is preached to us in order to help us know how to behave.  A kind of fear tactic.  There is also a sense throughout the Bible that we may be running out of time.  Repent, and repent now, seems to be the general idea.  Ever since Christ first appeared, Christians have been prophesying the imminent end of the world along with many other religions.

Recent examples about the end of the world and the end of time include the radio preacher Harold Camping who marked October 21st, 2012 as the end of everything we hold dear, Nostradamus’ predictions about the end of 2012 marking Armaggedon, the inscription of the Mayan calendar, Jerry Jenkins book series “Left Behind,” the movie “Contagion” predicting a virulent pestilence sweeping away most of mankind, the book “The Year of the Flood” by Margaret Atwood, and of course, last but not least, the views of Jehovah’s Witnesses who go door to door with a gleam in their eyes and a sense of righteousness that the time to repent is at hand.  This brings me to another issue:  what’s the best way to circumnavigate those who preach zealously the end of time?  Personally, if you had asked me, I would preach to live not in fear and mortal dread, but make each day count.  Despite all the predictions, we don’t know what happens in the afterlife so we better make our borrowed time on earth matter.

As I mentioned, Jerry Jenkins wrote a whole series of books about Armageddon called the “Left Behind” series.  Despite my reluctance to sign on board any preaching about the end of days, I do feel Jerry Jenkin’s books and personal philosophy share one simple idea that makes sense.  A Jewish friend once told me, “Hell is eternal separation from God.”  Not a pretty thought, and it conveys a sense of desperation and loneliness.  This idea reminds me of the myth of Sisyphus where he is condemned to roll a boulder up an enormous mountain, and each time he reaches the top, the stone falls down and he must start again.  Personally, the God I worship is not so unkind or wrathful.  I’m more of a  Matthew 22:37-39 kind of guy:  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and first commandment.  And a second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 

As the hippies once preached, It’s all about love man!