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Oscars seem to have no purpose other than promotion

March 17, 1999|By JASON MYERS

We go to the movies to inform our senses, but there is something rather senseless about the Academy Awards. There is little wild and even less Wildean about Oscars, those stumpy little gold men - baroque sculptures as recast by Versace postmodernists.

[cont. from lifestyle]

I have had trouble getting interested in them, as they seem so utterly childish and silly. The coming together of Hollywood icons to celebrate their seriousness of purpose and achievement - it's like ants enthused by food too heavy for them to carry.

Why should a film like "Elizabeth" deserve any more attention than the two hours it took to sit through it? I have a friend who has seen "Elizabeth" seven times, and he gets caught up in spasms of joy and reverence when he is called upon to enact a scene. I have been more entertained during his recreations than I was by the film itself.


Cate Blanchett, portraying her royal majesty, has the sexual resolve and beauty of a character from a Thomas Hardy novel, and there is a lovely scene at the beginning of the film where she is dancing in an English field. You can almost smell the peat and the desire for Elizabeth, with her long, supple red hair striking the ghostly pallor of her skin.

But is that what they give Oscars for? Come to think of it, I do not know why Oscars are given, other than for purposes of promotion. There is no empirical method used to declare that Jack Nicholson was a better lead actor than Peter Fonda, that "Titanic" was a better film than "Good Will Hunting." It is the utter vagueness and randomness of the selection and voting process that leaves me confused and indifferent.

The four films released last year that affected my senses the most have not been nominated for Best Picture.

"Central Station" is being considered for Best Foreign Film, while "The Truman Show," "Out of Sight" and "Rushmore" apparently lacked the prestige to be considered as whole pieces. There was a time when I was so utterly absorbed in the gloss of movies, splashed by the waves of hype and review and commendation, that I actually would have worked myself into a state of outrage because a particular film failed to be nominated.

But my life is too varied and too much my own now to care that "Central Station" and "Out of Sight" and "Rushmore" are too specific in their aims and means to appeal to Hollywood and "The Truman Show" too subtle and ominous to impregnate the arrogance of actors, directors and producers.

Instead of declaring which nominees I think will or deserve to win - if I disdain the process, I cannot very well follow it - I have decided to design my own means of adulation. Hence, the first annual Jasons, which I bestow upon films or aspects of films that left me speechless, heartbroken or flailing with laughter.

* Most effective use of cosmetics to convey a variety of external and internal qualities and emotions - Dora (Fernando Montenegro), applying the last of a waitress' lipstick to her dry, unkissed Brazilian lips in the dust-caked bathroom of a desert restaurant - as the man she is putting it on for is leaving the restaurant. "Central Station"

* Most devastating instance of unrequited love - the following scene, as Dora props herself against a barred window and sees a truck kicking dust behind it and silently weeps. "Central Station"

* Most convincing and satisfying instance of requited love - finally paired lovers walk, hand in hand, along the Massachusetts beach. "Next Stop, Wonderland"

* Most dynamic but strangely unified film - "Life is Beautiful," a Chaplinesque celebration of romance and physical singularity in the first hour, which shifts to more somnolent meditation of the Holocaust in the second, but maintains the fine grace of humor throughout.

* Best means of meeting so as never to be forgotten - Jack Foley (George Clooney) and Karen Sisco (Jennifer Lopez), prison-escaped bank robber and federal marshal, together in the trunk of a car suffused with red light, creating "that thing, that ... what do you call it," Foley snaps his fingers just above her thigh, "that spark." "Out of Sight"

* Film whose description actually qualifies for the word "Orwellian" - "The Truman Show," a world of gaudy plaids, manicured lawns, cascading halogen lamps and impulsive moves to Fiji.

n Actors I would most like to see in a Quentin Tarantino film - Bill Murray, with his weary amusement at his own follies and most especially everyone else's, and Roberto Benigni - just because.

So, those are some of my thoughts on films from last year and a few suggestions for the future. I have not decided what kind of statuary is appropriate for Jasons (copyrighted). I am certain that I will know it when I see it, in a movie.

Jason Myers, a Hagerstown native, is a freshman at Bennington College in Vermont.

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