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Friday, March 29, 2002

Keith Keener's

Positive Movie Reviews

Positive Movie Roundup

The 74th Oscars

AT LAST!!! I have been waiting for months for tonight, the night when people in Hollywood finally take a break from their hard work in order to recognize their importance to our country and perhaps even the world. I was so excited when I heard that Whoopi Goldberg would be hosting it that I pretty much forgave her for using potty language twice the last time she hosted. The show began, and I thought momentarily that Whoopi had become a short white man, though it turns out it was Tom Cruise. In his moving opening monologue, Tom said that an imaginary actor friend of his had asked him, after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, "Is our work important?" Tom replied, "Yes, now more than ever, it is. Movies can break down cultural walls and help people understand each other." This is true, and I can't help but feel that everyone in the world would love America more if they finally got to see some of our movies. Whenever I see a Hollywood movie, I think, "Wow, that really captures my experience as an American in a positive way! They should make people in other countries watch that!" Especially something like Die Hard, which on one level should serve as a warning to international terrorist groups, but on another level is a powerful film about families.

To prove the point, they had a little documentary (don't worry, it was short; I agree, I hate them too) in which a bunch of people who are kind of famous talked about their favorite movies. One guy mentioned Ernest Goes to Jail, though I think he was joking. Laura Bush said her favorite is Giant, which I think takes place in Texas. Osama bin Laden surprisingly chose Amelie. Tom Cruise himself picked anything with Rock Hudson.

I had just about given up hope on Whoopi ever showing up, but then she finally appeared, and she is as sharp as a tack!!! She made jokes immediately about how ugly the Oscar race was, saying that there's a rumor that "Frodo Baggins was an anti-Semite." The thing is, there weren't any Jews in the medieval elf world, so she's just kidding!!! She also made jokes about Anna Nicole Smith and her having sex with rich old men, and then in the most hilarious moment of the evening said that there are more fights in the movie In the Bedroom than on the Jerry Springer show! You know, when I saw that movie, I didn't think of the whole thing about the parents losing their only son in a senseless act of violence as being ha-ha funny, but now I will always imagine what it would be like if Jerry Springer were there and the parents were throwing chairs at each other on his show in their grief. That's a great comic mind you take something from one thing, and you put it together with another unexpected thing, especially something that people kind of stopped talking about 3 or 4 years ago, and you can just make people laugh!!

The Oscars handled the September 11th attacks just as tastefully as you would expect. In a moving tribute, there was a 10 minute montage of movies filmed in New York, mostly John Cassavettes movies, but there were also a few snuff films, including one apparently filmed just after Liza Minelli's wedding. The woman you think is Liza today ... well, if I saw what I think I saw, Liza's dead. The one on the honeymoon is some kind of an impostor, just showing what kind of a sick, depraved world we live in. Also, Cirque de Soleil did a five-minute performance that I think was a tribute to New York, especially when the two families of Chinese acrobats formed themselves into towers, and the Polish dwarves were tossed at them in a moving display of resilience and courage. In a touching tribute from a foreigner (who, thank God, speaks English), the screenwriter of Gosford Park, Englishman Julian Fellowes, said "Thank you. I think this must be the most generous country on earth." Two minutes earlier, when Akiva Goldsman won the adapted screenplay award for A Beautiful Mind I had been thinking the exact same thing.

But the biggest topic on the Oscars tonight was the issue of race. Sidney Poitier was given a lifetime achievement award, and it's clear that Hollywood was very happy for his victory. The five working blacks in Hollywood (Spike Lee, Denzel Washington, Cuba Gooding Jr., Halle Berry, and Will Smith) all appeared in the short documentary to honor him, and the 2,000 whites in the audience rose to their feet to honor him and also to ask him to keep his speech short to give some more camera time to Julia Roberts.

When Halle Berry became the first African-American woman to win Best Actress in 74 years, she managed to contain her crying fit to only 12 minutes before graciously accepting the award on behalf of every African-American actress who has ever lived. By the time she got around to referring to the mystery of Jada Pinkett-Smith's never winning an Oscar, unsuccessful Best Actress nominee Nicole Kidman was mouthing "Shut up shut up shut up shut up." Then Julia Roberts was going to read the nominees for Best Actor, but instead took the opportunity to point out helpfully that she had kissed Sidney Poitier. I love that little pixie she is so delightful!!! After making this announcement, she read the names of the five nominees, started to open the envelope and said, "This is so much worse than last year. I love my life." Oh, Denzel Washington won, but they had to cut to a commercial before he read his speech.

Ron Howard won two Oscars best director, and director who most closely resembles an Oscar statuette. He then, in the evening's only real gaffe, thanked "our brilliant screenwriter, Akiva Goldsmith...er...Goldsman...er, that Jewish fellow." At that point, the camera cut to John Nash, who looked visibly unnerved, jumped out of his seat, and ran for the door in terror. And in one of the most heartwarming moments in years, A Beautiful Mind managed to overcome a disgusting smear campaign, and triumphed because of its artistic mastery, its subtlety, its recognition that schizophrenia means that you have invisible friends, its understanding that love is more important than medication or therapy, its firm grasp of the meaning of the Nash equilibrium, its haunting six-note score, and its basic emotional truthfulness. As Best Picture, it rightly takes its place alongside such winners as Memoirs of a Gladiator, Forrest Gump, Dances with Wolves, and Rocky. This is another choice that the Oscars can be proud of.

A couple of other points: It was nice to see a presentation by former Best Actress Helen Hunt, who is such a loyal family woman that she followed her ex-husband, Hank Azaria, into obscurity. Also, someone named "Jim Broadbent" won an award called "Best Supporting Actor" for some movie called "Iris"? I've never heard of any of these things, and I'm pretty sure that there is something very fishy going on. Shortly after the ceremony, representatives of Price Waterhouse, the Academy's accountants, were seen shredding documents that might have shed light on this sham.

You know, I just realized, Tom Cruise is even more right than I thought he was. Instead of just showing movies to foreign audiences and I think they should be mandatory for citizens of other countries, as long as they still have to pay for the tickets I think we should show the Oscar ceremony itself. Tonight made me damn proud to be an American. Although I have never met a foreigner, I am sure that the first one I do will want to thank me for what my country's movies have meant to them! It just breaks my heart that I will have to wait a whole year for the next Oscar show. But at least I can rest secure in the knowlege that Patch Adams 2: Mending the Funnybone will win the big awards in a sweep like A Beautiful Mind did tonight, once again giving me reassurance and comfort about the state of our great nation.

Earlier positive movie reviews can be found at home.earthlink.net/~dleheny