This will probably not make me popular with some folks…
This will probably not make me popular with some folks…
Once upon a time, I was an Oscars junkie. I loved everything about the evening: the red carpet build up, the opening monologue, the early acting awards, the major technical awards, the best picture nominee clip packages, the musical numbers, the forced pairings, the uneven feel to the entire proceedings. As a movie nerd, the Oscars were my holy grail, because it allowed me to measure my tastes and judgment against the Hollywood elite. More often than not, I found we had different sensibilities, but on those occasions when Oscar and I agreed, I felt like one of the in-crowd, affirmed for my aesthetic perspicacity.
Over the years, Oscar and I have grown apart. Part of it is life situation: being a parent, there aren’t that many nights when you have the energy to trot out to the local multiplex and catch a flick. And even when those nights do come around, finances are an issue. When it costs $25 just to get in, the number of trips to the cinema drops dramatically.
But the real reason I quit going to the movies is because they kind of pushed me to the side.
I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of cussing and nudity in movies. Even more recently, graphic violence has also turned me off. Even watching the clip package for Django Unchained on last night’s Oscars left me feeling queasy. Maybe it’s my old age. Maybe it’s things like Newtown. Maybe it’s just the fact that I see enough blood and guts in my news feed every day. I don’t know. And while I know that not all movies are slammed full of cussing and nudity and exploding body parts, I know that some of the ones feted as the best of the best last night had plenty of one or the other.
I didn’t see Silver Linings Playbook because multiple friends said that the F-bomb was prevalent. I didn’t see Django because of the violence (and, let’s face it, Tarantinian dialogue is often fraught with choice words). Same with Zero Dark Thirty (even though I enjoyed Bigelow’s Hurt Locker). I didn’t get around to Lincoln because…well, I never got around to it. Life of Pi seemed like a great rental (no offense to Ang Lee and his golden statue). I wanted to see Argo, but got warned off because of language. Les Miserables was a non-starter for me (I don’t really like movie musicals, no matter how awesome it is to see someone as all-around talented as Hugh Jackman). And honestly, no one I knew had even seen Beasts of the Southern Wild or Amour.
I don’t mind the occasional coarse word or two; I get that PG language isn’t always used in real life. And lest you think this is one of those “bash Hollywood as being out of touch with the mainstream of America”, I’ll tell you that I hear and see those words quite prevalently in the everyday language of our younger generation. So it’s not like I’m a prude when it comes to the reality of American speech.
I’m the same way with violence (less so on nudity). I get it as an artistic choice. And I don’t think we need to scrub movies of anything that might be offensive (otherwise, we’d miss out on some fantastic and thought-provoking work).
What I’m saying is that my life and my values make the Oscars an also-ran. What once would have been appointment TV is now a cultural temperature reading at best and an intellectual curiosity at worst. Even if Morgan Freeman hosted, I’d probably only watch it in pieces, flipping back and forth for the big awards. Last night merely confirmed that fact for me.
I’ll be blunt and say I found Seth MacFarlane tedious at best. EW.com’s Owen Gleiberman has a better assessment of his hosting gig (and overall telecast) than I could ever produce, and his note about the broadcast vacillating between snark and sincerity is spot on. I guess for me, the snark took center stage, and for the first time I found it not only unfunny but unpalatable as well.
It would be hypocritical of me to take people to task for their snarky comments when I spent the majority of my time live-tweeting my own attempts at humor and sarcasm during the telecast. I have no problem with sarcasm as a whole; I understand that in our day and age it’s the stock and trade of our popular culture, and some people carry it to the edges. It’s one thing when you’re using snark to push the boundaries of our corporate fuddy-duddiness as a way of encouraging us to relax and laugh more. It’s another thing when you use it as a blade to slice people out of genuine dislike. Last night, I felt like MacFarlane was slinging his blade very wide.
But hey, that’s the point of this post: what someone thought would make for a good Oscars telecast was outside my comfort zone, which just proves that both the Academy and I have changed. We’re no longer simpatico.
And that’s cool. I saw several people bashing on Twitter last night, and while I can agree with the perspective that might have driven some of the tweets, I can’t agree with the tweets themselves. It does no good to lambaste Hollywood with the same snark it lambastes others. Everyone loses.
My three favorite moments were the last three awards: Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook), Best Actor (Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln) and Best Picture (Ben Affleck, George Clooney, Grant Heslov – Argo). Each of the winners showed a humanity that was touching; whether it was Lawrence’s unfortunate trip up the stairs, Day-Lewis’ uncharacteristic humor, or Affleck’s barely contained joy, each moment reminded you of what the movies have always represented: the chance to flesh out dreams.
That’s what I miss from the overall Oscars ceremony: the human reminder that dreams can come true, on film and on that awards stage.
Maybe that’s the beginning point of my disconnect with Hollywood: I miss the humanity.
There’s a presidential debate tonight, in case you didn’t know (which, if you didn’t, what’s it like to live in a world devoid of phones, TV, computers, electricity, and angst? And what, exactly, does it mean to be Amish?). It will be America’s first time to see the two men vying to lead our great nation go head-to-head on domestic policy issues: the economy, healthcare, the role of government, and governing. In the grand tradition of presidential debates, someone is certain to come off like a doofus.
I’m sure that the estimable Jim Lehrer, he who moderates all serious debates, will have done plenty of prep work concerning the questions the candidates will answer. And I’m also sure that both candidates will do their best to try and get some digs in on their opponent, while saying that sound substantive but lack flavor (think of rice cakes; now imagine them as words coming from a person’s mouth). Given both of those things, it’s sure to be a fairly standard debate.
But I don’t want standard. I think we should spice it up. I think we need to throw in questions that no person in their right mind would ask a potential president, questions that cut to the soul of a man and reveal his true mettle.
If I were Jim Lehrer, here’s some questions I’d like answered during tonight’s debate:
Let’s see Jim Lehrer top that.
I have several different email accounts with different providers. I mainly use Google’s Gmail because I like the functionality of it, but I also have a Yahoo! account, a Rocketmail account, and I think I might even still have a Hotmail account floating around somewhere.
But despite the many different accounts, one thing remains constant between them all: the amount of bogus emails I get.
Now, we all have Spam folders in our email accounts, the place where the truly obvious junk mail goes to die. Letters from “friends” stranded in Europe (Jon Acuff has a great blog on this type of email), notes from Kenyan bankers looking to shelter money, or even the classic distant relative leaving you a sizable fortune are all familiar scams. Hopefully, even the most reluctant email user has long-ago learned to just delete and move on.
But there is another form of bogus mail with which I am inundated, and it’s got nothing to do with someones unclaimed millions in a Swiss bank account. It’s the hyper-reactionary political email that, with a couple minutes of Googling, proves to be boldly, wildly untrue.
Now, these types of things have been around forever – and we have Snopes to prove it. But with the 2008 presidential election and the Birther movement, the age of high-paranoia political assassinations arrived in style. Once upon a time, I used to get missives from the GOP; now, as I’ve expanded my reading base considerably, I get paranoid emails from all over the place.
And, me being me, I do the same thing every time: I delete them. Without reading.
Every once in a while, someone will send me something that has a clever subject line that throws me off the scent, and I’m four lines in before I realize I’ve been Rope-a-Doped. But once I realize that it’s just another blown-up lie, I delete it.
And shake my head.
Because that’s what these emails are – lies. False stories. Half-truths. And when I receive them from my fellow Christians, they make me shake my head all the more because I’m quite sure that “not bearing false witness” is mentioned in the Bible a couple of times. And that seemed to be one of God’s big no-no’s, a top-ten lister for sure.
Yet those things rocket around the Interwebs like a sugared-up toddler, passing from one account to the next without so much as a pause.
Granted, some of those emails come with pretty dire admonitions not to break the chain of senders. Some even suggest that Jesus will be very disappointed with you if you don’t pass the message along.
Yeah – Jesus would be real tore up because you didn’t disseminate a lie. Just like he’d be disappointed if you didn’t secretly envy your neighbor’s new car.
And for the record, prefacing your email with “I don’t know if this is true or not, but I don’t want to be the one to stop the chain if it is!” doesn’t earn you a get-out-of-jail-free card. Ignorance is not a viable defense. Not when we have Googleat our fingertips.
I get that the political stakes are high. (Believe me, I get it.) I understand that we have reached critical mass in terms of the polarization of the electorate, and that each side tends to see the other as the enemy. I know that people often need motivation to do their civic duty come an election year, but really – do we need to make up flat-out lies?
So let’s call a truce on the whole defamatory emails, okay? No more Obama-is-a-Muslim-plant or Romney-family-accidentally-misspells-their-name-RMONEYhoaxes. Let’s instead concentrate on channeling our inner Joe Friday’s, and stick to just the facts.
I mean, it seems like the candidates give us enough ammunition on their own that we don’t need to waste time making junk up.
The other day I was driving in my car listening to NPR. I happen to like NPR because they do longform news stories as opposed to just quick hit news that gets repeated every 15 minutes. (I also like listening to their reporters’ voices; they have some people with good pipes. It’s a weird thing of mine. Sue me.) As I was listening, I heard a story on a deal that President Obama’s campaign has offered to the Romney campaign.
Release the past five years of your tax returns, and we won’t ask for any more.
That was it. That was the deal. And the more I listened to the story (and it’s commentary), the more I thought: this is stupid. On multiple levels.
I’ll leave it for you to parse out just how asinine this “deal” is, but I want to move on to my gut reaction. I posted this on Facebook and it turned into a very long comment thread. After hearing this story, my first thought was simply:
I wish Romney would just come out and say, “You know what? I have exploited every loophole in the tax code in order to pay as little tax as possible, because it’s good business and perfectly legal. If you don’t like it, then let’s light a fire under Congress’ butt and get the tax code changed to something that makes sense for everybody.”
I said it then, and I’ll say it now: if Romney came out with that kind of honesty, I’d vote for the man just on the strength of that statement alone. Because instead of playing to perceptions, the man would be dealing in facts. And that’s the kind of president I want.
Heck, I’d take that level of honesty from any politician, regardless of party affiliation.
Unfortuneately, this will never happen. Politics has become marketing and nothing more. Spin. Damage control. Attack ads. Repsonse to attack ads. What does your running mate say about you? Does charcoal gray make you look official or does it make you look stuffy? How many likes can your Facebook page get?
I laughed when I read the slew of articles suggesting that the selection of Paul Ryan made this a campaign about substance over style. Really? The fact that the main point of the articles was that picking Ryan “said” this was a substantive campaign merely illustrates my point.
Bring me the politician crazy enough to lay everything on the table and say, “Go ahead. Look around. Tell me what you like and what you don’t like. Pick away at my past, my mistakes, my faults, my fears. Because when you do that, you’ll get to the core of who I am as a person, and that will tell you far more about how I will govern than any stump speech ever will.”
How refreshing would that be? Imagine a candidate on one of the talking head shows, sitting there with nothing to hide, answering tough questions instead of obfuscating and spinning?
Talking Head: I see that when you were in college you smoked weed. Is that true?
Honest Politician: Yes.
TH: Uh, did you like it?
HP: At the time.
TH: Do you still smoke weed?
TH: Uh…um… (pause) Okay. Next question. You made a lot of money. Did you pay taxes on it?
TH: Did you pay a lot of taxes on it?
HP: No, because the tax code sucks.
And so on. Perhaps I’m just weird, but I would find that scintillating to watch simply because it would actually matter. It would tell me something about the person running for office, something I could hang my hat on.
Instead, I get stories about deals over issues that don’t tell me anything. Sure, Romney’s tax records may reveal that he didn’t pay taxes and got away with it, but other than stoking the fires of jealousy among folks who paid taxes and wish they didn’t or didn’t pay taxes but got caught, what’s the point of that information? That he’s filthy rich? Didn’t I already know that? And isn’t just about everyone who runs for office at that level of government?
We’re a nation in need of leaders who can offer solutions, not just soundbites. Who can bring leadership and common sense to bear on the challenges that face us. We are in desperate need of someone who can look at both sides of the aisle, call them on their ideological manure and inspire them to do what is right for the majority of Americans. Someone who can speak with honesty and clarity about the issues we face and the necessary changes we would all have to make in order to make this nation truly united.
Give me one honest politician. Just one. That’s all I ask.
Too bad Abe Lincoln is off hunting vampires. We could use him in the White House again.