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Topics/Questions/Exercises Of The Week—20 November 2009

Glenn Kenny

Lot of Awards: Okay, now I'm getting confused. Who was it that said "Who gives a f**k about a goddamned Grammy"? Of course it was Public Enemy's Chuck D., but maybe it was also Eminem. In any event, it was certainly Public Enemy that got snubbed in 1989 when Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff got the Grammy rather than PE. But...the point I was making, or intending to make, was that those who pose as if disdaining awards are more than happy to accept awards when they happen to get bestowed on them, as was the case with putative couldn't-give-a-f**k iconoclast Eminem, seen here accepting a statuette from...well, I'm told it's Toni Braxton. What on earth is she wearing?

So: awards season has begun. We know this because of both the boilerplate and the overstatement. On the one hand, "The event also validates more than the usual Oscar-bait subjects." Hey—I'm shocked, shocked (get it?) that one is able to work a reference to "the usual subjects" into a piece about a topic that's normally so resistant to it! On the other hand, "Everything's falling apart." Oh noIs it? Say that's not happening, what are we going to do, do you think I'll be able to at least keep living where I live and not end up making like Viggo Mortensen in The Road? Damn, I don't even have a gun...oh, by "Everything's falling apart" you mean that people aren't liking Nine as much as they were supposed to. Well that's a relief. I guess I don't have to pack now.

This kind of inconsequential material is churned out, to no discernable effect, year after year, and the people who churn it out are really remarkably unselfconscious about how inconsequential it is. It's almost like a movie-writing jobs program for those who can stand it. Well, everybody's got to make a living, right? And about this time, several smart readers will be saying, well, Mr. Kenny, you yourself are now making hay out of disdaining the efforts of those who are writing earnestly about awards. Indeed. So let me step back.

Come. Take my hand. Let me walk you through the three stages of an American cinephile's process of dealing with movie awards.

Step One: Anger. Blind, filthy rage over the fact that the only Oscar that Citizen Kane, arguably the greatest American film ever, got, was for Best f**king Screenplay. What further proof do you need that the whole awards thing is a complete sham!?!?!? Huh!?!?!?

Step Two: Acceptance. You know, Ford's How Green Was My Valley, which beat out Kane for the Best Picture Oscar that year, really isn't anything to sneeze at, when you come right down to it. And who cares, anyway?

Step Three: Amusement. Jeff Wells, David Poland, N. Finke, Tom O'Neil (Tom O'Neil!!!), Sasha Stone, who has theories about what a film critic is, Kris Tapley; they do all go on, don't they. Washed-up Hollywood rejects Lionel Chetwynd and Roger Simon debating whether the awards are corrupt; that's good for a snort or three. They're all kind of, um, diverting, in their own special way—if you've got the time and/or don't have anything better to do. But, you know, that seven-disc Sam Fuller collection isn't going to watch itself, people!

As Some Dude on this Dave Kehr thread said, "awards are meaningless, unless they go to (Sight and Sound's phrase) 'people we like.'" Hence, Roger Corman deserves his honorary Oscar, and woe betide the twit at some feisty website who wants to be contrarian and says he doesn't. And that, finally, is it. About Oscar, Golden Globes, Gotham Awards, etcetera. Or no? That's your question.

Why Do Film Critics Hate America?: I haven't yet seen The Blind Side, and I admit it'll probably be a while before I do—the last football-themed movie I shelled out money to watch was The Longest Yard. In 1974. Because I'm fey and think sports are icky. And I'm not the only one. Melissa Anderson reviewed the putatively-inspirational-based-on-a-Michael-Lewis-book-about-a-humoungous-black-kid-who-gets-turned-into-a-football-star-by-caring-conservative-white-people for The Village Voice (figures!), and not only did she hate hate hate it, she also hated the real-life SEC football coaches who cameo as themselves in the film: "an unintentionally grotesque parade of bad orthodonture and ill-fitting suits." EEEWWW! SOUTHERN WHITE MEN WHO DON"T WEAR BESPOKE CLOTHING!!! THEY'RE GIVING ME COOTIES!!!

In Time Out New York (figures!) David Fear sneered that the movie was designed to "[make] suburban moms feel better about themselves during the post-screening drive to Costco." Fear. Dude. Have you ever been to a Costco? Trust me, it's awesome. The cheese, it...comes in these enormous slabs and...seriously, dude, you have to check it out. Also, suburban housewives think that Antichrist is designed to make hip urban film critics feel better about themselves when they're on their way to have abortions!!

"Contemptible people often mean well." That's the lede for Aaron Cutler's review at Slant. Yep, the lede. Later, Cutler refers to himself as a "privileged (guilty) white person." Film critics don't just hate America—they hate themselves. How much hate can they bear to carry, I wonder.

Which isn't to say that The Blind Side is getting unilateral huzzahs from all eight conservative film writers out there. Christian Toto is a little peeved that the otherwise thrifty, brave, clean and reverent picture contains a Bush-bashing joke. It's like they made a film featuring commendable Republican characters and put in a Bush joke just to mess with Toto's head. F**kers. (One commenter points out that Toto's actually not getting the joke, and is being a little over-sensitive. I dare say that if you had tirelessly defended Bush over the course of eight years, you'd wind up a little over-sensitive too. But does anybody care? No.)

Anyway. You know who loves loves loves The Blind Side? That's right. Armond White. The film's characters and target audience are "contemptible?" Au contraire, Aaron Cutler: "[Star and producer Sandra] Bullock trusts that the popular audience shares basic humane values rather than a taste for the squalid and bizarre behavior that defines Lee Daniels’ decadent specialty that has degraded recent cultural discourse." (That "decadent specialty" would be Precious, but you knew that.) Anyway, that's a good 'un, but it won't pass muster as a...wait for it...White-ism Of The Week. This, on the other hand, will: "But Precious is all fabrication—the most outrageous literary hoax since J.T. Leroy, yet with more mileage since it’s full of the grotesque black myths that the Obama-era media wants to congratulate itself it has remedied."

Chew on that one for a while; it gets better the more you think about it.

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