If you're tired of watching the Republican debates, tune in Sunday night to the Academy Awards presentations. The night will show off beautiful eye candy for both men and women, diversion with glitz. We once worried about protecting the children from "inappropriate" movies, but the candidates' talk about condoms and abortions and adultery scandals of the past that used to make a starlet blush. With pop culture awash in sex and violence, movie themes can hardly shock. This year's crop of Oscar movies are mild indeed.
One film critic finds the movies nominated for Academy Awards hold a lot in common with the candidates -- small men reflecting a diminished America.
"The days of American specialness and bigness -- whether you're talking about Cecil B. DeMille or Henry Ford or Gen. Douglas MacArthur -- are pretty much gone, and voting for Tweedledum or Tweedledee in November won't bring them back," writes Andrew O'Hehir in Salon.com. "Our economy and society aren't what they used to be, and neither are our movies."
This is depressing, but hardly earthshaking, and we have to concede that he's onto something about what pop culture and politics tell us about ourselves. The men leading both the political and entertainment culture do seem smaller than life size. Ronald Reagan's "morning in America" becomes mourning in late afternoon.
For all of his good looks and emotionally affecting moments in "Descendants," George Clooney is ultimately a lightweight in his portrayal of a man who cries about being a lousy father and a cuckold besides. No George S. Patton he, or even a Godfather or a Rhett Butler. In his hokey, colorfully flowered Hawaiian shirt, he's supposed to be playing against type, a personality analogous to a lady's cocktail served in a coconut topped with a tiny pink umbrella. His real-life image on camera never suggests the masculine charisma of Humphrey Bogart or Clark Gable.
Alas, ours is the age when The New York Times tells us on the front page how hopes for the economy rise with the male shopper who buys women's accessories, bracelets called "wrist bands" and purses called "hold-alls." They're not talking about gay or transvestite shoppers, either.