THE ACADEMY AWARDS are on tonight, and I am afraid. Afraid that in the absence of all other alternatives, I will be grabbed off the street and press-ganged into hosting the show, just like when they used to scoop guys out of bars and force them to fight forest fires. In both scenarios, the chances of getting burned are high.
No one wants to host the Oscars this year, mostly because they fear triggering the bloodthirsty mob on social media, the one you get when crossbreeding the Thought Police from 1984 with the orc army from Lord of the Rings.
Me, I just worry about being outed for my ignorance of modern cinema. Usually when the Oscars roll around, I try to fake my way through cultured conversation by memorizing snippets from Variety: “Roma in the end isn’t so much a drama as a meditation, a movie whose artistry might have soared more if it came at us with less insistent gravity.”
But then someone will ask “How about Vice?” and I’ll reply “Please, I barely know you.”
Maybe you’re in the same boat. Growing up, you enjoyed the movies as pure, big-screen entertainment: Gone With The Wind, The Sound of Music, E.T., Jurassic Park. If of a certain age, you even got to enjoy the drive-in classics: Psycho, Jaws and The Towering Inferno, not to mention the show going on in the back seat of the car next door (I know a reporter whose story about the back row of the drive-in was so steamingly accurate that it resulted in the firing of the drive-in manager, who then marched into the newsroom and slugged the reporter).
But then you grew up and started going to date movies, and the fun factor dropped. Date movies are like those books you keep on your shelves for display, but never read. When couples first start going out and are eager to impress each other, they take in films that are shot in black and white or are subtitled or made by Federico Fellini, even if what they really want is to see Vin Diesel drive over a gas pump. (Were it not for first dates, Fellini would have spent his life working in a Fotomat.)
After that stage, couples go to movies that one partner likes but the other only tolerates. (Pro tip: Avoid anything with an alliterative title — Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Sleepless in Seattle, Pitch Perfect, Mamma Mia. Also, apparently it’s bad form to jump up on your seat and shout “Faster! Faster!” as the Titanic slips below the waves.)
If the couples have kids, they stop going out altogether. Their selection narrows to films that are A) animated and B) on Netflix. The theme song from Frozen is stuck on a loop, even though they desperately want to Let It Go. The cineplex seems as remote as Mars. (I once went to the old Caprice theatre in Langford with a group of dads so giddy about getting out on a pass that one of them snuck in a six-pack. Alas, he dropped one of the cans, which made an incredible noise — imagine an aluminum cement mixer — as it rolled all the way down to the front of the theatre. We shrank down in our seats until an usher tried to throw out the teenagers in front of us, at which point we fessed up. Since we all looked like the usher’s father, he just shook his head and walked away. But I digress.)
This absence goes on for years. Once you do return to the cinema to watch big-people movies, you realize you know none of the actors at all. All the faces have changed, save for Meryl Streep, whose presence all but guarantees that the film will be a tear-jerker (that is, it will leave you weeping in frustration, waiting for explosions that never come).
You also find there are a lot of movies you are supposed to like in the same way you are supposed to like kale and rice cakes and art installations you don’t understand, and whose Oscar wins are followed by a seven-minute acceptance speech that sounds like a browbeating.
There are also films you are supposed to dislike, such as Bohemian Rhapsody, which the critics sniffed at as by-the-numbers and historically inaccurate. Hey, if Ben Affleck can win best picture for Argo, in which he somehow managed to all but scrub out Canada’s role in the Canadian Caper, then Bohemian Rhapsody can be forgiven for fudging Freddie Mercury’s dental records, or whatever. Hollywood shouldn’t have to apologize for being entertaining.
Jack Knox is a born-and-raised Kamloopsian who once worked at the Kamloops Daily News. He is now a columnist with the Victoria Times Colonist. Since joining the Times Colonist in 1988, Jack has worked as a copy editor, city editor, editorial writer and editorial page editor. Prior to that he was an editor and reporter at newspapers in Campbell River, Regina and Kamloops. He won the Jack Webster Foundation’s City Mike Award for Commentator of the Year in 2015.
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