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Night Owls
For three years I lived in Hollywood. The real place, not "Hollywood" as the stand-in for the mainstream movie industry. The Hollywood of gritty streets, teenage runaways and other panhandlers, cheap-goods storefronts, entry-level Scientologists waylaying pedestrians with pitches to take a "personality test," and grimy theaters with ripped and squeaky seats, except for the iconic, tourist-heavy Chinese Theatre, the last hold-out against decay.

That was before the glitzy makeover that municipal subsidies and private investment created on the west end of the Walk of Fame. Besides bringing gentrification with all its pluses and minuses, that transformation spurred the restoration of some of those theaters to their 1930s glory and saw the building of a couple of new ones, including the Kodak Theatre, which was supposed to be forever the venue for the Oscars. That permanence was at risk a year ago after Kodak went belly-up and the Academy briefly pondered a move. But in May, the place was renamed the Dolby Theater and the Academy signed a deal to keep the awards ceremony in the building for another 20 years. That will take the Oscars past their 100th anniversary.

Some stuff never gets nominated.
Some stuff never gets nominated.
Although I love movies and often walked the few blocks to see them on Hollywood Boulevard before it scraped off some of the tarnish and put up its new façades, I never was all that interested in the Academy Awards and still am not. That doesn't mean I think all the movies and actors and writers and musicians and technicians and special-effects creators that receive Oscars each year are unworthy of recognition. But the hype is sickening. As is the gossip about who wore the worst gown and why so-and-so would have been a better host of the ceremonies than whoever did it last year or a decade ago. I just don't care.

I see quite a lot of documentaries. Happily, the Sundance people, among others, have done some terrific work in getting more documentaries about global injustice made and/or distributed. Some of these are spectacularly eye-opening, made on budgets that wouldn't cover a year's rent in Hollywood and filmed under tough conditions, sometimes life-threatening conditions. These deserve a larger audience.

But like everyone else, I go to the movies—or watch them on DVDs or streaming—for entertainment, for the wows and the whoas and the whizbangs as well as for guffaws and blood-curdling moments and all the other emotions that movies can draw out. Being taken out of the real world, removed from everyday life, is a pleasure. Everything I watch doesn't need to have a progressive "message," explicit or implicit. And certainly not a heavy-handed preachy message even if it's one I 100 percent agree with. Escapism is fun. It lowers my blood pressure without medication. Watching a movie just to enjoy the pure craft of it is a delight. Or just for an unending series of ha-ha's, the kind of reaction that, say, Shaun of the Dead engenders.

The problem for me is that too few movies do have a progressive message, and the messages they do contain—packaged with unconventional technique, skill and cleverness—are all too often quite conventional in what is said about the world and our lives in it. The message slickly or clumsily included in most movies reinforces rather than challenges. We get the politics of illusion, the culture of homogenization, the marketing of standardized social interaction. Yes, yes, yes, there are exceptions. Even game-changers. But they are exceptions. Note: Many movies that do have a progressive glimmer here or a line or two there, are confounded by their overall immersion in the utterly conventional or—worse—by, say, an anti-racist message in a bath of sexist or anti-union messages.  

You'll notice that I've included just a single example, not exactly a movie for deep critiquing, although someone could write a dissertation (and probably has) about what the deluge of zombie movies says about our times and taste (pun not intended). But I'm not going to offer any additional examples. Because I know there is just no way I can hijack a discussion of who won an Oscar on Oscar night.

So, go to it.


Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2007Republicans Divided:

One thing observers of the fight for the Republican presidential nomination have to wonder about is who the Christian right will vote for.  Rudy Giuliani is leading John McCain in most polls, and neither of them really has their Christian right bona fides in order, what with their multiple marriages, Giuliani's pro-gay-rights, pro-choice history, McCain's poor relationship with Christian conservatives in 2000 and thereafter, and so on into the night.

There's also been speculation over the past few years at what point the Republican coalition between corporatist interests and Christian conservatives would break down.  When would they notice that many of their political imperatives were incompatible?


Tweet of the Day:

At #Oscars red carpet,  fashionistas want to know, "Who are you wearing?" and foodies want to know, "Who are you purging?"
@FrankConniff via web



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