This year's Oscars telecast was the lowest-rated ever. Coming in the midst of our troops fighting valiantly abroad, that's understandable. It's a good thing for Hollywood, too, because it's beginning to look like the voters of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are slowly losing their minds.
The Academy's Web site boasts that the Oscar voters are "the ablest artists and craftsmen in the motion picture world," so "the Oscar represents the best achievements of the year in the opinion of those who themselves reside at the top of their craft." But some of these "artists" can't artistically judge their way out of a paper bag. Instead they're attempting to make political statements and affect pop culture. An evaluation of merit is too ... simple . What's needed in its place is The Statement.
Start with Best Original Song. Voters chose from a broad artistic sampling: Paul Simon's lovely (if derivative) theme song from "The Wild Thornberrys Movie"; world music from Caetano Veloso for "Frida"; a song from Kander and Ebb's adapted Broadway musical "Chicago"; or even for the self-consciously hip, U2's rock song for "Gangs of New York."
Instead, Academy voters chose to honor Eminem, the Great White Dope of obscene rap music, a man whose "artistry" includes vivid scenarios wherein he humiliates or kills his mother or ex-wife. Even Barbra Streisand seemed shocked to hand the Oscar over. The crowd didn't laugh uproariously when the man accepting for Eminem said the filth-rapper "hears symphonies in his mind." It's entirely possible this man has never heard a symphony. It was the only nominee for Best Song that was not performed, perhaps because it is still not suitable for even the slipping broadcast standards of television.
Eminem's so-called song "Lose Yourself," the theme rap from his movie debut "8 Mile," does have some suspense-building guitar work and almost-singing vocals. But that doesn't matter. It also contains Eminem's signature gutter lyrics and fractured poetry. First, "hoes is all on him," then "his hoes don't want him no mo," then there's taking the Lord's name in vain and a couple mentions of the incest-related vulgarity. And the Oscar goes to this: "His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy/ There's vomit on his sweater already, Mom's spaghetti." Merit be damned, Hollywood has delivered its Statement: Eminem is today's King of Pop, and his ring must be kissed.
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