Sunday, March 16, 2014

Ellen and the De-Glamorization of the Oscars

The Oscar selfie retweeted by several million people
 including me.
Right after the Oscars, I received several Facebook posts from detractors of this year's host Ellen DeGeneris. I absolutely loved her. I thought she hit exactly the right note between cynical debunking of Hollywood and acting as a surrogate for crazed movie fans. It was clear she loved being there close to the stars and enjoyed kidding them gently. Her whole shtick was to tell the audience, see these big film people are just like you and me. They get hungry, they eat pizza, they pose for selfies. It was a big improvement over last year's snarky Seth McFarland who was determined to be as nasty and lowbrow as any of his Family Guy characters. I'm still cringing from the "We Saw Your Boobs" choral number and the endless, unfunny opening bit with William Shatner.

But these FB critics were blasting Ellen for "tearing down" the nominees and making them seem ordinary slobs like the rest of us. They couldn't imagine icons of yesteryear such as Bette Davis or Joan Crawford searching in their designer clutches for change to tip the pizza delivery guy or crowding in to be in that famous photo which broke Twitter. They found the whole thing distasteful and depressing, a sign of our media-frenzied world.

Yes, Ellen's aim was to bring the stars down to the viewers' level, but I don't think she meant it maliciously (although the Liza Minnelli joke was a bit rough, Note: Bart Simpson made the same gag years ago). The humor was contrasting what is supposed to be the most elegant event on the planet with workaday stuff like ordering pizza, etc. Those who are yearning for the dazzling glamour of previous Oscarcasts don't realize that world is gone. Our movie stars are no longer seen as gods and goddesses on Mount Olympus, too remote for us lowly mortals to touch. In those days before talk shows, TMZ and Twitter, the only time an average citizen would see Davis or Crawford was on a 20-foot screen. Now they are on social media, we can follow them and not necessarily in a creepy way. We know what they have for breakfast, who they shower with, and when they file their nails.

In a way, this time is more realistic because the old-time studio-centric Hollywood was an illusion where true love conquered all and all endings were happy. Life was not like it was in the movies. I just finished reading Catcher in the Rye (I did not read it in high school) and Holden Caulfield's disdain for the cinema stems from the big-screen cliches and phony daydreams of that era. As a society, we've overgrown these fantasies and we'll never be able to go back. Just like those who wish we were back in the 1950s with all-white families and no gays, these glamour-gazers want a world that no longer exists.

As for the rest of the ceremony, I did pretty well, missing all but three of the categories--I failed to guess all the short films (Live Action, Animated and Documentary) Pretty vexing since I took the trouble to see all the nominees (See previous posts.) But 21 out of 24 isn't bad. And Ellen favorited my tweet about selling Lupita Nyong'o's lip balm on Ebay.

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