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Oscar and The Side Effects That Might Make You A Better Person

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Frankly Scarlett, it’s almost Oscar time again.

I can’t wait to tear up during the In Memorium section. I love the melancholy, the bittersweet.

I’ve seen slightly more than half the 2019 Best Picture nominees so far, and it’s a rich crop this time around the sun.

But which movie made me a better person?

Aside from the sheer entertainment value of watching a great movie, what are the lingering side effects?

Over the years, I’ve learned not to eat a sandwich in a New York restaurant next to Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal. I’ve learned that to escape the claws of police after a bank heist, one needs only race across the next State border (why a Canadian should know this is another question) in a depression-era Model T Ford. I’ve learned that a chance encounter with a famous drunken country rocker can lead to untold fame and wealth (but ultimate sorrow).

But should movies have side effects? Not hangovers and tummy aches but … positive side effects?

Of course they should. We pay money to see these artistic creations. There’s gotta be more than awe and catharsis and greasy popcorn fingers.

We often read books with the conscious notion of becoming more intelligent, rounded, complete people. We grow and become better people with each chapter consumed.

Should movies be any different?

Most films are like reading a trashy novel on the beach. Tawdry and easily defecated out the back door of the theatre as we leave.

But … some … some movies are epic and long-lasting, unforgettable, priceless and timeless in their message and format. Like a great song, they get inside your head and linger like the aroma of a beautiful bolognese sauce simmering on the stove.

A couple of positive side effects? Examples?

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I watched A Star is Born where Bradley Cooper (Jackson Maine) knocks Lady Gaga (Ally) out of her sleepy repose:

Look, talent comes everywhere, but having something to say and a way to say it so that people listen to it, that’s a whole other bag. And unless you get out and you try to do it, you’ll never know. That’s just the truth. And there’s one reason we’re supposed to be here is to say something so people want to hear. So you got to grab it, and you don’t apologize, and you don’t worry about why they’re listening, or how long they’re going to be listening for, you just tell them what you want to say.

That is a reminder, a reinforcement of a life lesson. The raw ingredients … talent, ability, intelligence are only the first steps to making a statement. Delivering that statement with confidence and balls, courage and sustained effort is what is needed.

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Green Book is a Shakespearean adventure where the “Fool” Bronx-born Tony Lip learns lessons of the world from his “colored” employer Dr. Don Shirley. In turn, Tony reflects back some unconventional teaching moments that inform the life of an “educated” man:

Dr. Don Shirley: Pull over.
Tony Lip: What?
Dr. Don Shirley: Pull over.
Tony Lip: I ain’t pulling over!
Dr. Don Shirley: Stop the car, Tony!
[Tony stops the car and Don gets out and starts walking in the rain]
Tony Lip: What? What are you doing?! Doc? Doc, what the hell are you doing? Doc, get back in the car!
Dr. Don Shirley: Yes, I live in a castle! Tony. Alone! And rich white people pay me to play piano for them, because it makes them feel cultured. But as soon as I step off that stage, I go right back to being just another n****r to them. Because that is their true culture. And I suffer that slight alone, because I’m not accepted by my own people, because I’m not like them either! So if I’m not black enough, and if I’m not white enough, and if I’m not man enough, then tell me Tony, what am I?!

Classic.

The side effect message? To make something special, something great, we have to accept the possibility of setting ourselves apart from our comfortable world. There is a bitter price to be paid for the exceptional.

Bohemain rhapsody

How about the flamboyant Freddie Mercury? Bohemian Rhapsody?

Filmmaker Bryan Singer presents Mercury’s father as having been disappointed with his son’s penchant for nightlife and theatricality, urging him over and over again to get serious about his life and follow his refrain:

Good thought, good word, good deed.

Mercury ends up living by his dad’s words, but in his own way. In one scene, the mercurial singer tells a potential manager that Queen is the champion of the oddball: “We’re misfits who don’t belong together, playing for the other misfits. The outcasts. The ones right at the back of the room. Who are pretty sure they don’t belong either. We belong to them.” His good thought, word and deed, in other words, is for them — the stigmatized, marginalized and misunderstood.

Finally, eventually, Mercury’s father seems to recognize that his son has lived up to his expectations in their last interaction on screen. Mercury goes home to introduce his family to his boyfriend, Jim Hutton, who remained his partner until the singer’s death from AIDS-related complications at 45, and tell them about his plans to perform in a charity concert (Live Aid) to raise money for famine relief in Africa.

Good thought, good word, good deed.

Just like you taught me, Papa.”

The resulting theme from each of these flicks? The life lesson? The side effect that can make you better?

It’s simple. Occam’s razor simple.

No matter the “size” of one’s existence, greatness is a Herculean struggle. To be better tomorrow than you are today takes effort and strain and pain.

It takes a sizable tub of popcorn to impart these side effects into my brain, because…

… Frankly dear, I do give a damn!

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Movie Boobs and #MeToo

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THANK YOU DONALD!

I love the cinema. I love movies. I love popcorn. I love the Oscars.

I’m a regular viewer of movies at the local theatre. Movie theatres are a dark dream heaven.

Crisp writing and amazing cinematic gifts are skilfully weaved together by hundreds of artists and technicians to deliver a funny or dramatic story… a story that resonates deep inside me giving birth to a magnificent song that elevates and enriches my world, and most importantly, feeds my own inner creative spark.

Of course, some flicks totally suck. That’s a good thing because it allows us to appreciate the really good stuff when it comes along.

And so, after seeing many of the year’s “best” movies, I tune in to watch the Oscars with excited anticipation.

Anticipation of the recognizable faces, the crescendo of orchestral music in Hollywood’s Dolby Theater, the beauty and majesty of sartorial elegance on full display like preening undernourished peacocks…

… and perhaps strangely, I always love the teary poignancy of the musical tableau of the In Memoriam section of the show… I know, how maudlin!

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Yes, I love the Oscars. Usually.

I remember five short years ago, in February 2013, I wrote a post (Movie Boobs) lamenting the inanity of the usually decorous and dignified Oscar broadcast hosted by Seth McFarlane.

That celebrity celebratory broadcast was an archaic affront to women (and men) then and if anything has only grown more antiquated and offensive in the short time since.

It’s like we were living a modern version of The Handmaid’s Tale in real life.

It took us 500 years to recognize Christopher Columbus as a race-decimating conqueror lout, but only 5 to see the McFarlane-led showcase for what it was.

Now that’s progress in a social media world.

(ASIDE: Your #Educational/CulturalMoment:

Because Columbus captured more Indian slaves than he could transport to Spain in his small ships, he put them to work in mines and plantations which he, his family, and followers created throughout the Caribbean. His marauding band hunted Indians for sport and profit — beating, raping, torturing, killing, and then using the Indian bodies as food for their hunting dogs. Within four years of Columbus’ arrival on Hispaniola, his men had killed or exported one-third of the original Indian population of 300,000.

Jack Weatherford –  Professor of Anthropology at Macalaster College in St. Paul, Minnesota. )

Sorry… back to our regular program….

Yup, in only 5 years we’ve gone from the gratuitous male-assertive setting where the theme tune sung by McFarlane and a hunky boyish band of singer/dancers was called WE SAW YOUR BOOBS …

… through that prehistoric misty haze all the way to this past week’s Oscar version where confident women and the #MeToo movement took centre stage instead of their boobs.

For sure, not everything has changed.

Boobs were still there and a part of the visual buffet, but they somehow seemed like an afterthought and, if anything, a determined statement that boobs are a beautiful part of strong, forceful womanhood. Feminism doesn’t mean the end of femininity.

You might say there’s been a TIT-for-TAT turnaround.

The tone of discourse on stage this year was far more respectful and balanced, the movement of the gender pendulum noticeable even though far fewer women won awards than men. Momentous change does take some time.

And for this change, just like the Black Lives Matter faction and the DACA lobby, we really have one person – one man – to thank for the surge in protest and anger and long overdue move towards equality…

… the envelope please… and this year’s Oscar for Best Dramatic Bungling That Inadvertently Leads To Progress goes to… Donald Trump.

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Smiles and cheers. Cue the orchestra to launch into Pigs. Kiss (but please don’t grab by the pussy) the celebrity sitting next to you.

And as he gloriously struts toward the stage a screen lights up with brilliant quotes emanating from the pursed lips of The Donald:

“If I were running ‘The View’, I’d fire Rosie O’Donnell. I mean, I’d look at her right in that fat, ugly face of hers, I’d say ‘Rosie, you’re fired.’” 

“All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me – consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.”

“I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”

“You know, it really doesn’t matter what the media write as long as you’ve got a young, and beautiful, piece of ass.”

“You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”

“You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything…. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

Would we be celebrating the successes, the progress towards a measure of equality without the xenophobic, homophobic, sexist and lustful, misogynistic slime bag that creeps the Twitter corridors and nearly decimated hallways of the White House?

I don’t think so.

Trump is day-by-creepy-day galvanizing the world in a unified force against his narcissistic and perverted views.

We love to hate on those who offend our sensibilities.

Seth McFarlane may have started the derogatory Boob Ball rolling 5 years ago but Trump has lifted it overhead like a steaming double cheeseburger and claimed the WWF title belt.

Now we have a seething crowd that is ready to fight back and demand change and respect.

Maybe Trump is a small price to pay to set the world right for the many who have suffered and struggled for an eternity.

Maybe Trump is a blessing in pig’s clothing.

Maybe.

On the other hand, I’m feeling pretty exhausted by his rants.

I think a bit of momentary escapism in a hushed theatre might be a soothing tonic for us all.

I love the cinema. I love movies. I love popcorn. I love the Oscars.

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