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Naptime, Cookies and Wolfgang Puck Pizza: Celebrating Mediocrity August 23, 2006

Posted by doctorolove in Movies, Pop Culture Rants.
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There was a time when Hollywood was like senior year of high school. You had your popular kids, who strutted around like they owned the place and lived of the merits of hollow accomplishments that in the long run have no real intrinsic value. You had your outcasts, that thrived on attention and every once in a while got invited to a party at a popular kids’ house, where they made some new friends and became accepted. You have student government types that think they can change our views but fail to bask in simple victories like getting a Coke machine installed in the gym (Or in Hollywood’ case, almost, ALMOST, changing the outcome of a presidential election…. DAMN YOU OHIO!). And everybody got along. They’ve all been on too long a journey together not to realize that this is the pinnacle. Nothing the chaperones can do to you when you’ve reached the top of the mountain. It was cool and breezy. Heck, the popular kids even get to cut class once in a while and do something completely out of the norm (I’m looking at you, Al Pacino cameo in Gigli.) And at the end of the year, they awarded the best and the brightest with speeches and accolades before sending them off to bigger and better things.

But suddenly and without warning, Hollywood has turned into fifth grade. When somebody likes somebody, they pull on their hair and call them names. The curriculum is boring and provides little wiggle room for originality. Naps are highly encouraged. The chaperones are afraid to discipline their wards in fear of a scary parental figure slapping them with a lawsuit. But the most fearful thing of all is the awards. Like the communistic one world society we are destined to become, every kid at the end of the year gets a certificate. The kid who ate paste like it was Peter Luger filet mignon or the boy who decided it would be fun to draw “YOU ARE A FARTHEAD” on everyone’s desk in bright blue Crayola even get a photocopied piece of paper with a gold seal and his name printed in Ye Olde Calligraphy advertised that he was “Best Helper” or “Most Curious.” And then the year ends with everybody eating and drinking from the finest of establishments, usually one Munchkin a piece from Dunkin Donuts. Though Farthead and Paste Boy get the cinnamon ones (There has to be some justice.)

The Emmy’s are this weekend, and, while they represent the good old days of awards that matter, they have to do battle this week with the coveted press pages with the Teen Choice Awards. This year’s ceremony will probably be long known for being the debut of the next big supernova that is K-Fed, but to me, it represented Hollywood’s official acceptance of its’ 5th grade lifestyle. How can an award stand for anything when everybody has one and anybody can get one? And while some may be quick to blame the Golden Globes (always the Jan to the Oscar’s Marcia), I think the entertainment award world we live in (where the ads for films can say “Award-Winning actor Rob Schneider” and mean it) can be blamed on MTV.

Take yourself back to 1984 when the boys at Viacom fired their first salvo into the world of awards shows. Their Video Music Awards were the young network’s attempt at giving props to the once propless. And the world was able to look away, because it was a little bit Grammy, a little bit Emmy, a little bit Oscar. The music video was fast becoming the newest form of entertainment and why shouldn’t it’s giant parent awards its’ minions with some cheesy silver statues? And the ceremony itself was a staunch opposite to the shows it faced against. The Oscars was all about waiting for Pia Zadora to mess up her dance steps and waiting for the In Memoriam so you could say “Oh, wow, I didn’t know he died.” The VMAs, on the other hand, was all about seeing what strange combination of mainstream and fringe celebrity they could pair up. Presenters and performers mingling in a strange Star Wars cantina-like backstage. And the videos, back in the early days, were worth rewarding. As the popularity of MTV grew, so did the quality. To win a Moonman in the early years was to say you’ve beaten someone. And people watched it, even applauded it. Finally, a show that speaks to our generation. You watched for the show itself, not to watch an out-of-touch cameraman rush to find Whoopi or Denzel’s reaction when someone mentions “Sidney Poitier.” The Oscars are about reaction while the VMAs were the new action.

And it could have, nay, should have stopped there. MTV had a good thing and should have tried to join the other big four awards on some sort of Olympic Rings of Patting Ourselves on the Back. But, like the generation that spawned it, the network decided it should make its’ own movie awards show. The Oscars had gotten too stuffy and they needed to create a show for our generation to appreciate films. So they started up the MTV Movie Awards. And for the same reason of seeing what MTV would do next that defined the VMAs, we watched. (Note to the Movie Awards: There is a reason we don’t give Jim Carrey nine awards in a row…At last check, his ego is, along with the Great Wall and Phil Spector’s hair, visible from space.) Now the networks and the trade publications and the magazines and the radio stations and even the guys who run the grill at my late night deli all started shows of their own. There seemed to be a market for this, they thought, and pshaw at the consequences.

SO now, every niche has their own outlet to celebrate itself. A teen star no longer has to pay their dues in pablum Disney films or on Canadian TV before they have a chance to thank God and their agent in the same breath on national TV. An actor, who couldn’t act their way out of a paper bag with a map, a compass and several sherpas, can now look up at their mantle and feel vindicated for the crap they present which means more crap. And a musician who sounds just like the cats who insist on continuing their affair on my fire escape can hold up a big glass triangle and say “You Like Me. You Really Like Me…oh, and Free Tibet or something.” Nickelodeon. VH1. Teen People. Elle. Old Bitter Theatre Queens Monthly (No wait, they have the Tonys.) The shows are everywhere. They are now beginning to draw the legitimacy away from other shows in order to sustain their own fading importance. Would a world without a glut of awards shows ever had the strength and conviction to give Ben Affleck an Oscar? And that may be the beginning.

The almost willy-nilly awards presentation boom needs to stop now. There is nothing wrong with spicing up the awards show and presenting them to a select few. MTV was right to push the envelope and entertain while presenting awards for entertainment. The flood gates they opened however are tough to close. Unless we stop watching them. We need to accept that we live in a world where you should only be awarded for success and not for popularity and rhetoric (Again…DAMN YOU OHIO!!!) And while I will admit I watched the Teen Choice for the K-Fed car wreck factor, I refuse to plan my evening around the Blockbuster Awards or the American Music Awards or the Hertz Rent-A-Car Best Guys Named Tom presentation. We need to take back our praise. Otherwise, we can’t complain when the studio greenlights Leonard Part VII.

Hollywood is fifth grade now where everybody wins. Now if we can just find that bully to beat somebody up to take their money. Or at least a big fat Crayola crayon. Farthead is spelled with one T…and not hyphenated.

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