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Notes on the Heroic in Cinema
Fun With Kitchen Knives, Garbage Disposals, and Microwave Ovens: The Last House on the Left

Snarking the Oscars — and Loving It

  • 3/10/09 at 3:35 PM

I don’t want to wade into the whole “What is snark?” question, since whatever it is I reserve the right to employ it freely and opportunistically, but one section of Roger Ebert’s mea culpa/finger-wag two weeks ago on the subject caught my eye, especially his attack on anyone who dares (as in the case of the exuberantly and delightfully irresponsible Nikki Finke) to make fun of Hollywood’s most august and masturbatory ritual.

Ebert writes:

We understand the Oscars are silly, that they're not really honoring the year's five best films, but what the hell: They're like a wrap party. Let everybody dress up and have a good time.

It’s always great to see Roger so passionate, but who’s that “we,” kemo sabe? Many (not all) film critics share Ebert’s postmodern-ironic-sentimental view, but from my limited acquaintance with “the people,” it’s clear that if an actor isn’t nominated, his or her performance is quickly forgotten in the ensuing oddsmaking. Ditto such movies as Ebert’s beloved Synecdoche, New York. Given the Academy's pretentions to honoring excellence, it’s the ideal candidate for snark.

I’d love to avoid the Oscars altogether, but I’m frankly something of a whore: The month or so before the ceremony is the only time media outlets give a shit what I think about anything. AMC and Charlie Rose want to have me on to talk about the Academy Awards? I’m so there. New York wants a dialogue between me and Lynda Obst? Bring it on. On one level, the hypocrisy reeks. But amid the breezy punditry, it does give me a chance to point out (especially opposite Lynda, who can share her far greater insight into the Hollywood zeitgeist) that there is a world elsewhere — not to mention worthier films and performances.

As for “dressing up and having a good time,” part of that good time is making fun of such excrescences as Baz Luhrmann’s clod-hopping ode to musicals and Adrien Brody’s barely D-minus oral report on Richard Jenkins. (No, actually, it was an F. The dog ate his brain along with his homework.) And when Nikki Finke called it “the gayest Oscars ever,” she was right on the money. The question is: In whose universe is that a slur?