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Oscar picks easier when films unseen

February 24, 2005|by TIM ROWLAND

The Academy Awards, or "Oscars," are coming up this weekend, and once again I have proudly managed to see none of the films nominated for best picture - which in fine, newspaper-columnist tradition, qualifies me to comment extensively on who I think should win.

I perform this public service - and call me dedicated to the task at hand if you must - even though, technically, this year I do not even know the names of the movies that have been nominated. Or any of the actors. Or any foreign films. Or original screenplays. Or musical scores. Or cinimawhatchamacallit.

Or any of those fringe categories for "best adaptation of aboriginal hunting chants as they pertain to neoconservative underpants swapping."

Still, I feel the need to pander to the liberal elite Hollywood crowd, just to keep them from squirting my cat with red paint for wearing a fur coat.

The cinema lost me in stages, the first coming in the '90s with the release of "Titanic." You knew you were in trouble - especially if you were a fidgeter like me - when they stopped calling them "movies" and started calling them "epics."

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Halfway through the film, my problem wasn't that everybody was dying, it was that they weren't dying fast enough.

Then came "Lord of the Rings." I was bored of the rings after 20 minutes, at which point I spent the next four hours checking my watch. And I don't even own a watch. But so much time was passing, I figured evolution might take its next logical step and one would sprout. They had a whole evening to get a piece of jewelry from point A to point B and they couldn't even do that.

At this point came my new edict: Any film lasting more than an hour and 45 minutes was an instant disqualification. I reckoned that people have spent the better part of two centuries searching for the Holy Grail, and if Monty Python could tell the story in 90 minutes, nothing should require more than that.

Needless to say, this ruled out just about every movie that didn't include a cartoon deer. But the coup de grace - the point where I stopped going to movies altogether - came with the proliferation of movie trailers. To me, most of these clips have the same effect as just showing the film's title with a subhead, "Warning: Stupid movie, do not watch."

Movie trailers used to be all-explosions. But now I notice the industry has kind of moved on to all-screaming. Maybe they just now saw the explosions. It's always a screaming teenage girl and a bunch of people with goofy eyes. That's fine, I suppose, although if teens want to be terrified, all they have to do is look at the local job market.

Even the relatively good movies were ruined by trailers. They might have four really good scenes - and the trailers show them all. You have already seen the nonboring parts, so why subject yourself to the filler? Thanks, movie industry, you just saved me $7.50.

Now some of you perceptive people out there are probably thinking to yourselves, "I'll bet the Anthony Lane in High Heels feels very differently about the matter," and you would be right. She is currently doing a whirlwind tour of all the nominated films so she can propagate a sense of informed outrage when her favorites don't win.

And bless her, when she returns from a movie, she always enables my curmudgeonism with those five little words that mean so very much: "You would have hated it."

Worse, however, is that she is also currently enrolled in a film-related graduate class at Hood, and she's always dragging home some cinematic antiquity, much the way shelter workers are always bringing home crippled cats.

These movies are burdened with the term "classic," which is moviespeake for "special effects that are limited to a model airplane hanging from a length of piano wire."

I hate these movies, because I want to love them but can't. This makes me feel as if I have no appreciation for art. I tried to go a few rounds with "To Kill a Mockingbird" the other night, but suffered a technical knockout about 20 minutes in. I realize that most people think it was great, but to me it was just like someone was answering the question, "What would 'The Andy Griffith Show' have been like if it wasn't funny?"

So to recap, those are my Oscar picks for this year. Use them wisely, and remember, they should not be employed for the purpose of any cash wager.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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