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March 6, 2006 | by  | in Features |
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The 2006 Academy Awards

There are far too few events in the annual calendar set aside for the recognition and celebration of people pretending to be Jews, communists, journalists, queers and racist Angelinos. Heck, you can count them on your fingers: VUWSA elections, the world-famous Latvian Mardi Gras, and Oscar night. That one night every year when the whole world remembers that Billy Crystal isn’t dead (just hibernating) and snuggles in to watch popular, yet untalented, celebrities give little golden men to talented, yet unpopular, celebrities. Meanwhile Jack Nicholson grins maniacally at the cameras, before falling asleep sometime between best supporting actress and best sound mixing.

Sadly Billy Crystal won’t be presenting the awards this year, The academy is resting him while they wait for fashion to cycle back to the mid-80s so hopefully he’ll be funny again. Instead they’ve called John Stewart, a man little known outside the US, up to the plate. John is the host of “The Daily Show”, the stateside equivalent of “Eating Media Lunch”, and a snappy dresser to boot. The academy hopes that his cynical, intellectual humour will pull back viewers to the beleaguered awards show that has been slipping in the ratings over the past few years. Never mind that John is barely recognised in his own country (the Daily Show has just over a million viewers comprising a market share of nothing). When the favoured nomination for best film is about a pair of cowboys humping on one another, you’ve pretty much alienated most of the US before you start anyhow.

No need to stop there though, this year’s line-up for best film is enough to send Dick Cheney into conniptions. Brokeback Mountain, the afore-mentioned queer love story, is a tale of two cowboys who are forced to eke out miserable heterosexual lives as a result of the repressive social climate in 1960s Wyoming. A point to note is that while Heath Ledger is nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his role in Brokeback, Jake Gyllenhaal has only been nominated for best supporting actor. Guess we all know who’s the bitch then. Fourteen-year-old girls who go to see Brokeback because they have a crush on either Heath or Jake should be in for a treat.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman stars as famed journalist Truman Capote in the Academy’s second nomination for best picture, Capote. The film follows Capote’s writing of his seminal work, In Cold Blood, a haunting quasi-journalistic account of the brutal murder of a family in rural Kansas, complicated by the journalist’s growing fascination with the case and his attraction towards one of the suspected murderers. Hoffman has a fair chance of best actor for his role, but his personal victory would probably rule out Capote’s chance of taking home the grand prize.

Good Night and Good Luck is shot entirely in black and white so you know it’s classy. It’s also proof that Hollywood is run by a bunch of pinko liberals. Directed by George Clooney, that guy who used to be on E.R, Good Night is an account of the TV journalists who took on Senator Joe McCarthy during his anti-red purges in the US during the 50s. Everybody smokes all the time, there’s jazz, and right wing politicians get no respect, so its pretty much like going to a wanky drama student party. Compelling and stylish as it is, Good Night probably lacks the necessary cowboy-on-cowboy action to tackle the juggernaut that is Brokeback.

Munich heralds the inevitable return of Steven Spielberg, who not being happy with two previous best director/ best picture combinations (Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List), has thrown his hat into the ring with an account of the Black September slayings at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Spielberg has probably made more money off of the deaths of Jewish people than anyone else not directly associated with the National Socialist German Worker’s Party. Munich tackles the heady issues surrounding terrorism and counter-terrorism with that good ole Spielberg subtlety whacking you round the head to make sure you get the allusion to our current global situation. E.T guest stars as a Palestinian terrorist, “Anwar phone home!” Don’t expect any awards, Munich’s just here to filling out the numbers.

The dark horse rounding out the pack is Paul Haggis’s Crash. Haggis is famous for more than the concoction of that delicious Scottish delicacy that bears his name: he’s also the creator of “Walker, Texas Ranger” starring Chuck Norris. Unfortunately Chuck was unable to take time out of his busy infomercial filming schedule to lend his formidable acting talents to Crash, a sprawling tale of racial and cultural intolerance set across two days, that combines multiple story-lines in Los Angeles. Crash could prove a surprise upset despite its lack of pillow biting ranch hands.

While the nominees for Best Film, Director and Male Lead all seem to have toed pretty much the same line, the same cannot be said for the contenders for Best Actress. Charlize Theron in North Country, Felicity Huffman in Transamerica and Judi Dench in Mrs Henderson Presents? What are these movies, and where did they come from? And then there’s Keira Knightley for Pride and Prejudice. Bless her she’s trying, but she’s far too hot to be talented. The whole point is moot however, Reese Witherspoon is almost guarenteed the little golden phallic symbol given her performance as June Cash in Walk the Line.

For those who were hoping to avoid the cultural cringe that comes with the sound of Richard Taylor accepting yet another Oscar for make-up, set design, or woodwork, it might be best to just give the ceremony a miss this year. Peter Jackson’s glorious celebration of all that is monkey, King Kong, is up for three awards in the much coveted fields of Art Direction, Sound Editing AND Sound Mixing. Hopefully the New Zealanders will have worked out that it’s more dignified to leave the stage without being manhandled by the Oscar goons because your speech has gone for twice its allotted length.

As usual the competition for best Animated Feature is nothing more than a travesty, with two of the three feature being made out of sodding clay. Howl’s Moving Castle should romp home over Wallace and Gromit and the narcissistically named Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride for that reason alone, but at least we should give thanks that there aren’t any computer-generated entries this year. Jimmy Newtron gives me the fucking creeps.

And as if we needed any more proof, beyond John Stewart, that the Oscar world has turned itself inside out, the documentary competition this year looks to be between films that people may have actually heard about. Murderball, a recounting of the fierce rivalry between the US and Canada in wheelchair rugby, received both critical and popular acclaim, because everybody likes a good laugh at the expense of the “differently-abled”. March of the Penguins made international headlines after kicking the crap out of the summer blockbusters in America, demonstrating the inalienable fact that most people have a deep unsated need to sit in the dark and watch penguins for an hour and a half. Also watch out for Smartest Guys in the Room, an insightful…insight into the Enron scandal that can also be appreciated as a how-to guide for committing large-scale economic fraud.

And then for those of you still lamenting the heinous oversight that saw Dukes of Hazzard miss out on receiving a single nomination this year, your Oscar enjoyment can be increased with a simple and easy game that will help you numb the pain. Simply mix yourself a good stiff drink beforehand, and everytime someone attempts a poorly-executed gay cowboy joke during the ceremony take yourself a good long chug; if you want a headstart, read back over this article using the same criteria. But remember the Oscars are about more than just drinking and making fun of celebrities, they’re also about the celebration of artistic excellence. Try and keep that in mind when you hear the performance of “It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp” from Hustle & Flow, one of the nominations for best original song. Sounds like Westside Story meets Boyz in the Hood. Right on.

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About the Author ()

Nick Holm, feared by his enemies, loved by his friends, is the whore of student media. Having cut his teeth working for the California Aggie, and come closer to committing hate crimes than anyone will ever really know while the News Editor of Massey\'s Chaff, he\'s somehow beached himself at Salient for the near future. Haunted by prophetic dreams that show him tantalising glimpses of a future that may come to pass if he fails to prevent the robot uprising he will like you if you bring coffee or malt liquor.

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