February 24, 2008, - 11:41 am
By Debbie Schlussel
I don’t usually agree with liberal Mitch Albom (though on Israel and, usually, Islamic terrorism, he gets it). But on the Academy Awards, he’s spot on.
Around the rest of America, you know Mitch Albom as the best-selling author and sports columnist on ESPN’s “The Sports Reporters.” But here in Detroit, we also know him for his daily radio show and columns beyond sports.
On Friday, at the beginning of his radio show, Albom had a great commentary about how the Oscars–which once nominated popular, positive movies like “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Star Wars” for awards–now only likes avant garde, dark, macabre, bloody, depressing movies. And he’s right. None of the movies America liked at the box office got nominated. Only those that were dark, depressing, and–to my mind–mostly boring get the nod.
Albom–on whose radio show I occasionally appear–has a column to the same effect, today. Although I felt his iteration of it was far more powerful on his radio show, the column is pretty good. Some excerpts:
I’m not going to watch the Oscars tonight. Normally I do. But I’ve spent enough time and money on the most depressing, dark and disturbed lineup of movies I ever can remember. I don’t need to see them get rewarded.
Am I the only one who remembers when they actually gave Oscars to movies that had happy endings? There’s not one happy ending in this lot — unless you consider an unplanned teenage pregnancy resulting in someone else’s adoption a happy ending. That’s the big payoff in “Juno.”
Otherwise, you have “There Will Be Blood,” in which a tyrannical oil baron destroys everyone and everything around him; “No Country for Old Men,” in which a serial killer destroys everything and everyone around him; “Michael Clayton,” in which greed gets nearly everyone killed, and “Atonement,” in which a false accusation ruins the lives of all involved.
Um. Remind me again.
Why do we go to the movies?
Now, I’m not a Pollyanna. . . . But lately there’s this sense that unless a movie is dark, violent and hopeless, it can’t be “real.” It can’t be “art.” It can’t truly “matter.” I put these words in quotes because it feels as if critics and awards committees define things that way. . . .
Here’s a news flash: Killing without remorse doesn’t make a story art. Cold and cynical dialogue doesn’t make a story valuable. It’s no accident the films nominated this year, for the most part, didn’t do much box office. People don’t go to the movies to see weirdness, dysfunction or twisted irony.
Most go to be entertained.
This doesn’t mean that “Spider-Man 3” or “Shrek the Third” automatically should get Oscar nominations. But those films, at the top of the box office list last year, do share a good-guys-win ending. There’s a reason people gravitate to that.
And it wasn’t always considered beneath the Academy to celebrate it. In 1973, “The Sting” won best picture, and “American Graffiti” and “A Touch of Class” also were nominated. In 1979, “Kramer vs. Kramer” won [DS: I wouldn’t consider “K v. K” a happy or meritorious flick by any stretch], and “Breaking Away” and “Norma Rae” were nominated [DS: Again, I wouldn’t call “Norma Rae” a positive or meritorious flick; on his radio show, Albom cited “Raiders” and “Star Wars,” which better make the point]. As late as 1994, “Forrest Gump” took the best picture honors. Today, it’s hard to imagine that film would even get nominated. Too many cynics would call it sweet and hopeful.
And I guess that’s what I miss. Hope. If movies were meant to reflect only the real-life worst in us, why would we need them? We could use mirrors.
Not in this column, but said on his show, is another point I agree with. He and I are in the same camp on “Juno,” the smart alecky movie that tries way too hard to be hip, and over which all of the conventional Hollywood types are gushing. A woman called in on his show to say she liked the “pro-life message” of the movie (which in my mind is questionable at best). Albom dismissed that, saying it’s just another smart-alecky movie where a teenager is smarter than every single adult in the movie. That’s my take, too.
Please, conservatives: stop reaching for straws in this crappy movie. It stank. And just because a girl didn’t get an abortion doesn’t mean it was a movie to applaud. It was not. It was simply a movie about how real authorities are idiots and losers, but teens who have sex as casually as they go to the bathroom are the moral authorities.
This movie stank, and so did pretty much all the others that were nominated.
The only nomination I agree with was Philip Seymour Hoffman as Best Supporting Actor in “Charlie Wilson’s War.” He was hilarious in that and the only redeeming part of that otherwise very crappy movie.
Amen, Mitch Albom. At least, this time.
Tags: A Touch of Class, Academy, America, American Graffiti, author and sports columnist, Breaking Away, Charlie Wilson, Charlie Wilson's War, Debbie Schlussel, Detroit, Forrest Gump, I, Israel, Juno, K v. K, Kramer vs. Kramer, Michael Clayton, Mitch Albom, No Country for Old Men, Norma Rae, Oakland Raiders, Oscar, Oscars, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Raiders, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Shrek the Third, Spider-Man 3, Star Wars, the Academy Awards, the Oscars, The Sports Reporters, The Sting, tyrannical oil baron