I wanted to throw together a couple random thoughts about last night's Oscars. I'll try to stick to the script, lest the orchestra boot me off stage.
I've been a fan of the Oscars for some time, and always tune in every year, rain or shine. But now, I'm seriously thinking of quitting the tradition. This was a dreadful bore. BORING! - And the problem is that it's been consistently boring for a number of years now. Change of hosts, change of movies, doesn't really matter, does it? The fun is still missing.
I miss the spontanaeity. I miss Jack Palance and his one-arm pushups. I miss Michael Moore's anti-war speech. Where the hell are all the political statements? The closest we got was Melissa Ethridge's mention of her wife. That and some Jerry Seinfeld cracks at the movie theatres. There's no more fun in this show. There's no scandal. There's nothing to really talk about the next morning.
There were a couple susprises, here and there. I'm happy to see that American Idol's reputation for spotting talent was exposed as the fraud it always was. Can we cancel that lousy show now? Bring back The Gong Show, dammit!
There's too much obsession over timing and getting the actors off the stage. Say your thanks, shut up, get off. Still, the show runs four hours. What's the deal with that? We were having fun and still staying up until 11:30 at night. What's the use? It's become so lifeless and dull that I'm praying for....Roberto Begnini. At least he knew how to have a good time.
On the animation side, the dancing penguins are probably going to be seen as a portent of doom from animators, fearing that their art will become obsolete in the name of cheap, assembly-line CGI mo-cap. There's probably a lot of truth in that; however, I wouldn't sound the alarm bell so soon. The problems with American animation run deeper than the toolsets. It doesn't matter how the movies are made if they're going to stick to the same tired, worn-out, marketing-dictated scripts. The medium, as I've always said, needs to grow up.
I spent the rest of the night catching up on my Heidi episodes, and dammit all to heck if this isn't a more compelling show than anything that was up for an Oscar. What's the story with that? Are we so timid? Are we so dependent upon cliches and safe profit streams - which is the real reason most of these animated cartoons get made at all - that we'll never try anything different? Heidi isn't exactly Igmar Bergman, folks; and, yet, it's still far more challenging, compelling, and emotionally honest than anything seen today. A television series from 1974.
Then again, I remind myself that the movies from 1974 were better than the crap today. Small world.
I'd also like to remind everyone hoping for a Disney renaissance, the dream that they will embrace traditional animation and lead the revival - those bastards buried Howl's Moving Castle. If given the proper exposure, Howl would have broken $100 million at the American box office. I'll bet money on it, and I've got the traffic logs to my website to prove it. That movie had a following, and it had legs.
And Disney buried it alive. Did they just want to snub a rival studio? Was it a casualty in the short-lived war against Pixar? Was it a calculated decision in light of their move towards CGI clunkers like Chicken Little? Doesn't do too well to have the public discover you made a major screwup like...oh, I dunno...abandoning classic animated movies when there's still a wide audience for it.
I'll always maintain that there is a greater audience for the movies we're getting, and that extends to animation as well. Someone just needs to drop the fairy-tale schlock and drop the sitcom schlock, and get to work on something better. The animated shorts awarded Oscars give us a good clue. Oscar doesn't want Cars. It doesn't want theme parks. It wants "All About My Father" and "The Danish Poet."
Finally, one reader to this blog asked about Goro Miyazaki's movie and why it wasn't nominated. I wouldn't worry here. Since Tales From Earthsea cannot be shown here in America until 2009 at least, that leaves a slot for Best Animated Feature off the table. There could be a slate for Best Foreign Film - and remember that Takahata's Pom Poko was Japan's entry into that category a decade ago - but the animation categories probably negate that option.
Also, remember that the Oscars very rarely bestow top honors for a first-time work, especially from the son of the world's most famous filmmaker. Goro needs to prove himself. Here's what will happen. If he continues to make movies - and this is still very questionable right now - he will eventually create a classic that makes his name. And then it will be snubbed by the Oscars, in favor of something hideous and painfully bad. Cough, Ordinary People, cough. Then, a few decades later, he'll finally get his long-overdue Oscar for some picture that's good, but not in the league of his greats. And we'll all be happy. Amen.