By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
Remember when Hollywood had mystique and glamour and was the wellspring of entertainment? That now seems a relic of another era.
In its place sits a town where self-absorption has taken a lead role and superficial social messages predominate.
When it wasn't embarrassing, the 78th Annual Academy Awards show was generally a bore.
Host Jon Stewart was probably a bit surprised at the tepid response to his jokes, especially the one where he quipped about the awards show being a "place where you can watch all your favorite stars without having to donate any money to the Democratic Party." Stewart also admonished would-be film downloaders to think about the "women here who could barely afford enough gown to cover their breasts."
Many of the stars seemed incapable of laughing at themselves. But when Stewart let loose with a joke that was at the expense of Vice President Dick Cheney, the guffaws flowed freely.
"I do have some sad news to report," Stewart said. "Bjork could not be here. She was trying on her Oscar dress and Dick Cheney shot her."
Stewart got moderate chuckles when he took a shot at the news media. He praised "Good Night, and Good Luck" and "Capote," describing them as films about journalism's "relentless pursuit of the truth," adding, "needless to say, both are period pieces."
The big laughs returned, though, with a reference to the war in Iraq. Evoking the memory of the toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein, Stewart pointed to a giant Oscar image and said, "Do you think if we all got together and pulled this down, democracy would flourish in Hollywood?"
George Clooney won the first statuette for Best Supporting Actor for "Syriana," letting the world know that he was "proud to be part of this Academy, proud to be part of this community, proud to be out of touch."
Clooney claimed that Hollywood talked about social issues before anyone else. "We are the ones who talked about AIDS when it was just a gay disease," he said.
As expected, Phillip Seymour Hoffman won the Best Actor award for his portrayal of the gay central character in "Capote."
Rachel Weisz maintained the political pattern. She won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for playing a social activist in "The Constant Gardener."
It seems that a bit of "Brokeback" backlash may have created the surprise winner for Best Picture. After endless buzz about "Brokeback Mountain's" courage and brilliance and after it won virtually all of the pre-Oscar awards, "Crash" scored an upset win over the gay cowboy flick.
A few other observations:
How utterly appropriate this year that an Oscar was awarded for a hip-hop song about the difficulties experienced by a pimp.
Unfortunately, no one remembered to send a Hollywood shout-out to the troops, whose starring roles outshine all of Oscar's gold.
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James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
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