Better a Witty Fool than a Foolish Wit

Inner Workings of My Twisted Mind.

And the Oscar Goes to…

So it’s my favorite night of the year and it’s coming to an end.  For me at least, for all those fools that won some big award it’s only just begun.  That’s right, on my way home from my friend’s house, I passed many men and women in fancy attire sliding glamorously out of black SUVs.  I said it last year, and I’ll say it again, it’s the weirdest thing to live in L.A. on Oscar Night.  Really it’s the weirdest thing to live in Hollywood.  

So here’s how my day went.  I got to work at like 8:30 (I traded shifts so I could get off in time to watch the ceremony).  Starting at about 8:35 the celebs started to pour into the bookstore.  John Waters, Randy Quaid, the guy nominated for best animated short, all milling around booksoup looking for books to read in the three hour limo line they have to wait in before getting out on the red carpet.  
Well, needless to say I was antsy and when 4:30 rolled around, I got my pizza and my beer and headed over to my friend Dan’s house to enjoy the festivities.  It must be said that Dan lives on Sunset and La Brea, the Oscars are on Hollywood and Highland.  Basically, he lives about three blocks away.  So as I was driving to his house I saw the good year blimp, a few dozen helicopters an lights lights lights.  
I also said this last year, but what I really love about the Academy Awards is that they remind me of why I love film so much.  This year, being the 80th Anniversary there were film clips of all the actors, actresses, directors and best pictures that came before these 80th ones.  These were my cry moments.  Watching Grace Kelly, Marlon Brando, Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Barbara Streisand, etc. in their moment of Oscar glory definitely brought more than one tear to my eye.  I thought that those video tributes were great.  
Before I go into highlights I must say that in the days leading up to Oscar I’d been talking with people about how excited I was, many of these people either work in the industry or want to work in the industry (i.e. they are writers who haven’t written anything…or anything good).  And there was one, rather appalling, trait these people had in common.  They all seem to disdain the Academy Awards.  Now this actually seems to permeate throughout many of the people I’ve met who work in and around Hollywood (not the city).  A lot of people who work in the industry seem to fucking hate movies.  Maybe they just like to put on a front, maybe they’re jealous, I don’t know, but I think that a love of film is a must for people who work in film.  Just my opinion, feel free to disagree.  Many of the people that I know hated almost every film that came out this year.  They hated No Country, they hated Juno, they hated There Will Be Blood, and I don’t care what you think of the actual story, but these are great films, they are indicative of great filmmaking.  I mean, whether or not you liked Juno, it combines excellent acting, an excellent script, and excellent direction.  Same goes for No Country For Old Men.  Same goes for Charlie Wilson’s War.  They are all great movies, it’s okay if you don’t like them.  I just never seem to get over the shock that so many people that work in or want to work in a certain industry would find such disdain for very talented people.  
Now the other thing that people were saying about the Academy Awards is that they are self-congratulatory bullshit.  Um, hello, it’s true.  But they are fun to watch.  I guess I have a problem with this too though.   I mean, this is essentially the film industry giving awards to excellence in film.  They also do this in literature, you may have heard of the Pulitzer or the Booker Prize.  So what, because it’s film it’s self-congratulatory.  Because people have more interest in seeing stars than in seeing Denis Johnson, the Oscars are not worth watching.  I’m sorry folks but that’s just the society we live in.  We all love watching the stars, we love watching them in their moment of Oscar Glory (and if you think about it there are only 4 acting awards so why are people so hot and bothered about actors patting each other on the back…actors are a small percentage of the people who vote for the Oscars).  I’m sorry, but again I have no patience.  The Oscars are a tradition, they’ve been around for 80 years now.  Just like teaching awards or world series champions, Oscar winners are (according to the Academy) the best in their profession, it just so happens that people like to watch these awards shows…and really is it surprising that the Awards show for Entertainment is Entertaining. That’s what I thought.
Now, on with the show.  Jon Stewart was amazing and hilarious and political, but not too political.  His joke about whenever a Black man or a Woman is President an asteroid is about to hit the Statue of Liberty, hilarious.  He brought up the writer’s strike, but didn’t alienate anyone, ehem producers, and welcomed everyone to enjoy Oscar night as the proverbial make up sex (though I’m sure later tonight there will be some not-so-proverbial make-up sex).  Katherine Heigel looked amazing, but shouldn’t have been there.  Amy Adams sang beautifully.  Kristen Chenoweth also sang beautifully and I love her so much, she’s so cute, but it was hard for me to watch her sing a Steven Schwartz song that wasn’t from Wicked, but oh well.  
The big upset of the night was Tilda Swinton winning Best Supporting Actress, which even I didn’t see coming.  I was pretty certain they would give it to Amy Ryan or Ruby Dee.  That being said Michael Clayton was the one movie I didn’t see this year so I can’t really talk.  In all honesty, I had the chance, I just didn’t quite care to see it.  
Some highlights of the best moments of the night.  When Marion Cotillard won I was super freaking excited, and, if you saw the looks on all the female actresses faces, they all thought she should’ve won too.  And it’s true.  I finally saw Away From Her last week.  Julie Christie was great, Marion was better.  She absolutely transformed herself.  It’s kind of crazy.  So anyway, exciting.  I loved that Dario Marianelli won for his Atonement score.  The movie is worth watching just for the score and the 5 minute plus oneshot that takes place on the beach in Dunkirk (not to mention it’s kind of good).  I loved that Helen Mirren ‘Knighted’ Daniel Day-Lewis when he won his Best Picture Oscar.  Of course I cried alot when Diablo Cody won.  And let’s take a moment for the poetry here.  The Academy is made up mainly of white men who are older than God.  Diablo Cody used to masturbate in front of people for money.  Thank you very much that’s called beauty.
Also, I love that they kept cutting to Laura Linney whenever a moving moment was happening.  What was that about?  I guess everyone else in the audience had botoxed beforehand so they didn’t have any expressions?  
I was definitely excited, but not shocked that Javier Bardem and Daniel Day-Lewis won.  Really, no one could touch them in this race, they were too good.  I also loved that the Coens were finally paid their dues.  They took home three Oscars.  Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture.  I’m sorry, they deserved it.  That movie was fantastic.  I also would like to add that I thought it was really cool that Cormac McCarthy was there.  If you don’t know, he’s normally a recluse.  But apparently he’s only a recluse when not going to the Oscars or the Oprah Winfrey Show, which, in a weird way, I totally respect.  
I loved that they let the lady who one for best song from Once back on the stage after they played her off.  I thought it was really classy of the Academy to let her make her little speech.  I mean, for many people you only win one so you’ve got to grab your moment. 
The most interesting moment to me was in the Best Picture category when Mr. Rudin who is generally known in Hollywood to be completely nuts came off as a really nice guy.  Apparently he’s a nice guy in his personal life, but there are stories of throwing laptops at assistants heads, leaving assistants on the side of the highway and saying you’re fired, walk home, etc. etc.  I always find it fascinating how people can have such a dual personality (this seems especially true in Hollywood).  
All in all it was a great Oscar ceremony.  My only disappointment was that Persepolis lost the Best Animated Feature category. It was amazing and so much better than Ratatouille (yes, I said it).  I loved watching the film actors try and fail to read off of a teleprompter.  I loved watching Diablo have her moment (I’d be lying if I said I always think that maybe someday I’ll have my moment up there on that stage).  Once again, I was reminded of why I love film.  It’s the moments where we truly celebrate how great this particular art can be.  So until next year remember, We’ll Always Have Paris, Good Night and Good Luck, Here’s Looking at You Kid, Hello Gorgeous, I’m ready for my close up Mr. DeMille, I’m Finished.  And if you didn’t like the Oscars then all I can say is Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn. 
Peace, Love, and Little Naked Gold Men (who weigh a lot), 
Julia

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February 25, 2008 Posted by | Awards Shows, Coen Brothers, Hollywood, Los Angeles, Movies, Music, Oprah Winfrey, Oscars, Parties | Leave a comment

Oprah’s Book Club: Beyond Good and Evil

So I’ve been grappling with the idea of Oprah’s book club for a while
now, and I now plan to subject you to the crazy inner monologues I
have with myself.

Before I really begin I’d like to note that it was brought to my
attention (by my mother) that there were some typos in the last email
and I’d like to preface this by saying.  These emails are usually
written late at night after at least one glass of bourbon (tonight
it’s been one relatively large glass, and yes, I’m now channeling my
grandmother and drinking bourbon).  Also, I have no idea how to work
gmail spell check so sorry about typos, but y’all are just gonna have
to deal.

Ok, that being said…for those of you who have been living in a cave
for the past decade or so Oprah Winfrey has this tradition of sticking
a little sticker that says ‘Oprah’s Book Club’ on it and those books
then shoot straight to number one on the New York Times bestseller
list.

For the most part I try to avoid the Oprah sticker of success because
the books are usually absolutely awful and have some sort of uplifting
message.  Call me a pessimist, but I don’t believe that everything
always turns out ok.  If some of these books ended tragically (or were
actually written well) I might give more creedence to the Oprah
sticker, but as it is, I generally avoid that sticker like the plague.

I think Toni Morrison’s Beloved (which, if I’m not mistaken, started
the whole Book Club) one of the only good books to ever be on that
list.

But it’s more complicated than that, because, as I’m sure none of you
know, last summer Oprah stuck her sticker on Anna Karenina by Leo
Tolstoy as well as a trilogy of Faulkner novels (Light in August, As I
Lay Dying, and The Sound and the Fury, to be exact).  Now, any of you
who have read these books may know that they don’t fit the uplifting
part of Oprah’s criteria and they, unlike the other trash on her list,
are actually well written.  Here’s the deal though:  Anna Karenina is
about 700 pages long and ends with the main character throwing herself
under a train (yeah it’s a real upper).  It’s Russian Lit so you
basically leave the novel wondering why you’re alive and thinking that
maybe throwing oneself under a train is not such a bad plan.

Then comes Faulkner.  Now, I graduated with a degree in Literature and
still cannot figure out what the fuck is going on in any Faulkner
novel.  As an example the first 150 pages of The Sound and the Fury
are narrated by a mentally disabled (or whatever the fuck the P.C.
term is) child.  There is no punctuation for 150 pages and the scene
and time constantly changes with no indication of this change.

Now, all of these books, when an Oprah sticker was placed on their
covers, shot to number one on the bestseller list.  I know that just
because people bought them doesn’t mean they read them, but just the
fact that enough people bought Anna Karenina, which was written 150
years ago, to put it on the bestseller list is an amazing feat.

I’m a firm believer in the notion that anything that gets people to
read is good.  I myself am a total snob when it comes to books and
will admit it freely, but for the love of all that is holy.  Faulkner
on the bestseller list is, in my book, a clear sign of the apocalypse.

As you may be able to tell, I’m mixed on this whole book club thing.
At least the people who read Oprah books are reading (even if they’re
reading absolute crap).  At the same time, this woman got people to
read Anna Karenina and Faulkner.

I’ll bet you thought this little rant was close to being over.  No,
no, young soul.  There’s a whole other can of worms to open and this
is the one I feel really strongly about.  Subject: James Frey’s A
Million Little Peices.

So for those of you who don’t know James Frey wrote a book, which he
said was a memoir about his time in recovery for crack and alcohol
addiction.  Oprah slapped her snazzy sticker on it and it immediately
went to number 1 (who’s surprised???)  So it came out that this wasn’t
a memoir, but a work of fiction (apparently his publisher had said
that it would sell as a memoir but not a fictional novel).  Oprah then
had Mr. Frey back on the show where she proceeded to berate him for
duping the American public.

I’m just going to go ahead and assume that no one has read this book
(because I like to belive that you all have the good sense to never
pick up a book with the sticker of doom on it).  I’ll defend my
purchase of the book by saying that I bought it after the whole
debacle with James Frey going on her show and was curious (and I was
at an airport, which automatically hinders one’s judgement on
literature).  Plus, I’m a vindictive bitch and would have loved to see
the book skyrocket back to number one after Oprah yelled at him (it
may very well have, but I don’t have time to research that).

So I read the book.  And I must say it was one of the best fucking
books I’ve read in a long time.  It was funny, gross, heartbreaking,
hopeful, real, gritty, and, most importantly, it was well written.  In
fact it was one of the most well written books I’ve ever read.  I was
engaged the whole time and would often find myself sitting down to
read (usually backstage at the Dr. Phil show, trying to block his
annoying texas drawl out of my life) only to look up after a hundred
pages had gone by.  All in all it was a great book.

So here’s my question to Oprah:  Why the hell does it matter if it’s a
work of fiction or a memoir if it is well written and engaging?
Plenty of memoirs are totally crappy, and isn’t the point of fiction
to represent a reality that has never necessarily existed.  I mean, do
you really think that David Copperfield or Tristram Shandy actuall
lived and walked the earth?  No, they didn’t (though young David is a
semi-autobiograpical representation of Dickens’ young self).  Now I
ask you, did anyone yell at Dickens for saying that much of David
Copperfield was based on his young life?  No.  Did anyone really care?
 Absolutely not.

Furthermore, isn’t the purpose of good fiction to make you believe
that these people really exist and these things really happened to
them?  Umm, yes.  So it seems to me that Oprah is pissed because she
fell for it.  SO WHAT?  The guy wrote a great work of fiction, and you
believed that it really happened to him…THAT’S WHAT MAKES IT A GREAT
WORK OF FICTION.

So Oprah, get the fuck over it.  It’s a great book and should be
promoted.  And please, for the love of god, start putting more books
like that on your list.

Ok.  That’s the end.

Hope everyone is well.  I’m off to bed as I have to work at 10 am tomorrow.
Love you all,

Julia

P.S. I feel the slightest bit of animosity towards Oprah for making
Dr. Phil famous, but I tried to keep him out of this arguement because
that’s just fighting dirty.

June 14, 2007 Posted by | Books, Education, Oprah Winfrey, Politics | Leave a comment