I was just thinking about something Oscar writer Bruce Vilanch said to me
over lunch at Greenblatt’s Deli a few weeks ago.
“Events like the Oscars get so much attention because they’re one off the few national experiences that are left,” he said.
It’s a simple statement but a rather powerful idea, especially if you consider how few cultural experiences are shared in the United States. Television, after all, constitutes most of America’s access to culture (especially in recessionary times when it’s harder to afford opera or theater tickets). And as with any other event, the critics are weighing in with their obsessive and dull ‘no surprises’ motif of this year’s show—a summation of Oscar night more boring than any telecast.
If I may say so, it was pretty freakin’ awesome that in one night, the Jewish-American creation known as Hollywood honored the global culture of filmmaking: a best picture shot in India, starring Indian actors, with Indian subtitles; a Spanish supporting actress; an Australian supporting actor; a British leading actress and an American leading actor. What this means is that while Vilanch had the right idea, he wasn’t thinking big enough—The Oscars is an international moment of community.
What I’ll remember of Oscars 2009 is that I went to a friend’s party, ate gobs of Indian food in honor of “Slumdog,” and that we spent four hours adding our own snarky commentary to a telecast so full of camp, I wondered if John Waters was secretly producing. Shame on anyone for ridiculing Hugh Jackman’s song-and-dance routine—I think it’s an honor just to look at him.