Oscar Goes Green: The 2007 Academy Awards

Kevin Killian


And the winner is—"

Glumly approached I this year the Oscars, pretty much with the same resignation as one gets ready for the tax man. It’s inevitable, even though there’s no sparkle in it. I would be a man and be prepared. Unfortunately in the press of new business the time came and I had completely forgotten to see half the pictures on my checklist – those nominated for the Academy Awards.

Oh, I did get a few crossed off. It’s not like last year where I saw none of the “best picture” nominees. But tell me, isn’t there a lack of enthusiasm on your part, when you know Helen Mirren is going to win? Excuse me, “Dame” Helen Mirren. She’s great and all, but if there’s no horse race, how much suspense can you possibly work up for the event? And in 2007 it looked for sure as though Mirren had it sewn up for months, almost literally, like one of those English puddings Thomas Pynchon wrote about in Gravity’s Rainbow when Tyrone Slothrop visits with those English people and their disgusting candy (pp. 114-120). Mirren’s been clutching the bag in her lap since the summer, and all she had to do was untie the string and the Oscar would be hers—even more hers than it had been—and frankly, enough is enough. I was almost ready to feel sympathy for Judi Dench. I mean “Dame” Judi Dench. Pynchon: “Under its tamarind glaze, the Mills bomb turns out to be luscious pepsin-flavored nougat, chock-full of tangy candied cubed berries, and a chewy camphor-gum center. It is unspeakably awful. Slothrop’s head begins to reel with camphor fumes, his eyes are running, his tongue’s a hopeless holocaust.” That’s how I’ve been feeling about the Oscars, and then to know, literally to know, the way I know I’m a man, that Forest Whitaker was to take the Best Actor Oscar, compounded my feeling of doom, that I’d been a bad boy and now it was time for me to take my punishment. I had had too much fun over the years gasping at the Oscars on the one hand, giggling at the other, and this was to be the year that every last smidgen of fun was to be taken away from me for good.

The honorary award to Ennio Morricone was well-deserved, but in the back of my head pain is always throbbing when I think of the many Honorary Oscars I’ve seen awarded, usually with pleasure, my palms raw with applause, and yet—why have they never given the Honorary Oscar to Doris Day for her work with animals—and also for being the greatest star of all? It’s insulting on every level! Some say they should hand another Oscar to Richard Widmark, but not me. That would be just because he’s so old and he survived. But Doris really should get it, every bit as much, if not more than, Ennio Morricone, though he’s great. If he had only written the five minutes of love theme that accompany the camera’s long take of Claudia Cardinale’s walking those nailed warped boards, almost a sidewalk, in the little town of Once Upon a Time in the West, he would have deserved it. But hey, why not give two? This month Day’s long-forgotten and misunderstood Frank Tashlin masterpiece Caprice has been restored and brought out on DVD! The timing is impeccable. However, once again the governors of the Academy have seen fit to ignore the great contributions of an outstanding actress and screen personality—

—meanwhile hiring Ellen DeGeneres to be the MC in a men’s tuxedo of course. This is her indisputable item of clothing, the thing I know she would run back into the house to rescue if the house was burning.

—bringing Reese Witherspoon out to present the best actor award to Forest Whitaker. Just a year ago in these pages (if the screens of FANZINE, America’s finest online journal, might be called “pages”)—just a year ago I watched Reese Witherspoon accept her Oscar for playing June Carter and yet, as the cameras stayed on Ryan Phillippe’s adoring eyes, we all knew even then that Reese and Ryan were about to undergo the Hilary Swank-Chad Lowe disintegration. They said they would never be like Chad and Hilary, and now look at them, Reese tragically alone, Ryan so low down the totem pole that even his one bid for re-stardom in 2006—Clint Eastwood’s Pacific War epic Flags of Our Fathers—had to fail on a karmic level, to make way for Letters from Iwo Jima to triumph—and so, Ryan’s “re-stardom,” which he had so counted on when he started Reese-cheating with that Australian ingenue—didn’t happen and so the world turns. These people are so shallow you could hide them in manila folders and yet—no matter how much I want to turn on my mask—I care too much to let them go.

We had a quiet Oscars party this year, just me and Dodie at home eating Chinese food, and Glen came too, to provide his unique insights as someone who actually does go to the movies. The weird thing is my fortune cookie said, “For the next week, focus on the color purple to bring you good luck,” and the next thing you know, an Oscar montage is showing Michael Mann’s “America” with clips from Spielberg’s The Color Purple! Or is that a coincidence? I had been looking all around the room hoping to see something purple, but didn’t. I decided we had too many oranges, red and blues and not enough purples. Then—it was on TV!

—Will Ferrell, Jack Black and John C. Reilly singing that tribute number about comedians at the Oscars, and how someday they’ll get lucky and bring Helen Mirren home with them! Obviously the joke was a complex one, but it involves Mirren’s torrid reputation for being super sexy (yet toned down absolutely as Elizabeth II, which produced the gasps) and yet being much older than Ferrell (born 1967), Black (1969), or Reilly (1965). Glen says that she is the official MILF of the Oscars and that the joke takes its power from the convention stood on its head, that she (Mirren) is more desirable than, say, any of the other Oscar nominees they might have sung about—Penelope Cruz, for example.

I did see Dreamgirls and, were you really surprised it wasn’t nominated? It was fun, splashy, mediocre, all at the same time. Jamie Foxx was just awful, it was as though he couldn’t give credence to the material—announcing all his lines as though he were putting those quote signs around them. The only worse performance I saw all year was the one given by the young boy in Notes on a Scandal. Granted, it was an impossible role, but Andrew Simpson gave it absolutely nothing. I was watching it the whole time, in a small New Jersey theater, thinking, why would Cate Blanchett risk it all for this little two bit piece of disgusting English candy? She could put him under her arm and wear him like a quiver full of arrows. But how could they give the Oscar to Alan Arkin, unless they think he’s about to die and it’s a mercy Oscar (which happens about 16% of the time)! It was stolen from the black man in this case! Dodie said, the voters will let black men and women win the thing, so long as they’re fat.

The truth is they should just give the Oscar to whoever is the biggest star of the moment. I always think they’ve wasted an opportunity when the Oscar goes to Ben Kingsley or to F. Murray Abraham or these nobodies. Everybody knows they’re great actors, right? In their respective years the Oscar should have gone to Burt Reynolds both times. Who got it last year – does anyone remember? (Oh yes, it was Philip Seymour Hoffman.) And yet in this era the Oscars should be awarded annually to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, no matter what they’re starring in. As it happens they’re miles more talented than Helen Mirren and Forest Whitaker, and yet they didn’t even get nominated in 2007, on the same general principles that, year after year, deny Doris Day her honorary Oscar. Last time I was really pleased by an Oscar is when Halle Berry won hers. She may not be much of an “actress,” but she’s a star and didn’t she commit some crimes in real life? —I’m always sympathetic to those. The biggest all time scandal of Oscar is not that Cary Grant nor Garbo nor W C Fields never won one, it’s that Melanie Griffith didn’t. Not yet anyhow, but there’s always tomorrow. After all, Kim Basinger won, and we never thought that would happen! I wore my knees to a nub praying at Lourdes for her, begging for divine intervention and then, at the last minute, twenty years after I had written her off, I heard the magic words, “And the Oscar goes to Kim Basinger!” Especially gratifying was the way she took it in her arms, patted it with compassion, and she’s never been anything but haughty and saintly ever since. Like Greer Garson.

When Maggie Gyllenhall stepped out I sighed, thinking, well they’ll just let anybody on the show won’t they, but then once I realized she was there to report on her trying day at the Technical Awards Ceremony, which thankfully they hold somewhere else weeks ahead of time, and one star has to go and be the representative to the tech people—sort of the Ambassador from Earth to the aliens of planet Zauron—anyhow I warmed up to her because I always think that must be the most onerous task in Hollywood and you really must have a heart filled with charity to take it on. She’s OK, that Maggie!

It used to be that real writers handed out the writing awards, and you saw people like Lillian Hellman or Paddy Chayefsky or Norman Mailer giving out awards. But Hollywood is in a weird space nowadays and you’d think legends were in short supply. Why, why, why, do they let Jack Nicholson, every year, present the award for Best Picture? Don’t they have anybody else who could do it? Why the same faces over and over again? I guess I should be grateful they managed to bring out Jodie Foster, while Catherine Deneuve and Ken Watanabe made a classy and sophisticated awards pair. Of course they do, they just don’t have imagination! Kim Novak is alive—ask her to do it. Jerry Lewis is alive, ask him go it. Jane Russell! Barbara Steele! Why, Cheeta the Chimp from the Tarzan pictures of the 1930s, is still alive, unbelievably, and who better to hand out the award than this survivor of Hollywood’s classic Golden Age?

But this makes me sound like a grump, when the truth is, I’m glad Melissa Etheridge propelled Al Gore to stardom and Hollywood and the Oscar. He couldn’t have lost if he had confessed, on national TV, to caving in to Bush that awful January all those years ago when Florida votes were in question, and Gore just said, I won’t pursue it, in case our national wounds never heal up. You’re implicated, Al Gore, in everything that happened and just because Leo wants you as President, well, I love Leo.