Pass the Mustard
I’m from California, so for those who don’t know or care, this past Sunday was High Holy Day. Yes. The Oscars, and I’m not talking about hotdogs.
I don’t watch the Oscar award show itself (that would be crazy!) but I read about it obsessively the following day. Who wore what, why some films have mojo, while others are meh. Why is it they keep letting Jack Nicolson present an award when he looks like he’s ready to be embalmed instead. The injustice of Ralph Fiennes missing a nomination for his performance in the Constant Gardener. So many unponderables.
The biggest unponderable of all was that this was the year of the indie film. Finally, finally, this year’s crop of nominated films shared one thing: great out-of-the-box storytelling.
It’s fitting that Larry McMurtry (with collaborator Diana Ossana) picked up a win for adapting Annie Proulx’s short story which will come to be the next great film classic, Brokeback Mountain. Screenplay adaptors haven’t been too kind to Proulx’s work in the past, but McMurtry was able to take the short story and blow it out in an authentic way. Also, it didn’t hurt to have two hunks cast in the lead roles.
A great feel-good story of this year’s awards was that of Paul Haggis. He co-wrote the Best Film winner Crash with Bobby Moresco. Haggis had been toiling in the trenches of sitcom hell, writing and directing episodes of, among other stellar shows, the Love Boat, and Walker, Texas Ranger. His struggle to bring Crash to the screen is now the stuff of Hollywood legend. Oscar sprinkled him with pixie dust and lots of money. He’s a playa now.
I felt a little bad about Munich. Spielberg is among our greatest film storytellers, but Munich was ill-served by the studio’s publicity machine. Munich was a nail-biting thriller marketed as a morality tale. Hollywood should know better by now that we like our morals packaged more artfully. The pill goes down better with a spoonful of sugar.