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Quick Thoughts on the Oscars

I love movies but I can’t say that I love Hollywood.

I love movies but I can’t say that I love Hollywood. My wife and I sat through the interminable Academy Awards last night; we should have received an Oscar for patience. What amazes me is the lack of thanks the winners express to movie-goers. You know: the little people who shell out $12 or more a ticket to see roughly two hours of often mediocre entertainment. Instead of thanking the fans, most Oscar winners celebrate themselves (with perhaps a nod toward their fellow nominees) while thanking their publicists, their agents, various power-brokers in the industry, and so on.

Want the Academy Awards to move faster? Have the winners take the stage, accept the Oscar, thank the Academy and the fans, and sit down. And shut up.

Hollywood has a certain contempt for the working classes — you know, the people who keep them in their “Capitol” lifestyle (which is why “The Hunger Games” trilogy truly captures the zeitgeist of the American moment). I was disgusted in watching the Oscar preview to see ordinary Americans caricatured as crumb-infested, couch-ridden, half-naked, clinically obese morons. Yes, I’m not immune to humor, but to depict the fans who ultimately pay your salaries and keep you living the high life in such a luridly abusive way shows a contempt that is far too common among our “elites,” Hollywood included.

I enjoy Ellen Degeneres. She has a light touch, good comic timing, and she knows how to zing the audience. But her “Who wants pizza” skit was unfunny and ungenerous — no pun intended. Once again, part of the joke involved whether the assembled Capitol beauties were going to stiff the pizza delivery man. Ha ha. Let’s pass the hat and take up a collection to pay for the pizza we ordered. I’m not surprised many of the assembled elect couldn’t find a dime to kick in — they’re so accustomed to their Oscar freebies.

Hollywood has always catered to narcissists. Nothing new there. But there was a time when Hollywood celebrities knew how to accept awards (and their glamorous lifestyle) with a certain amount of class, while thanking, even respecting, the fans who make it all possible. Last night was not of that time.

I suppose the ultimate measure of Hollywood’s contempt for its paying audience is the poor quality of its movies. Want to make better movies, Hollywood? Start by treating the working classes with a measure of common courtesy — along with some empathy based on respect for their challenges and sacrifices.

A last comment: It was nice to see, however briefly, a scene from Norma Rae (1979), featuring the great Sally Field as a factory worker trying to unionize her place of work, a gutsy dynamo fighting for fair wages and safe working conditions. Where is that movie today, Hollywood? When was the last time you made a sensitive, sympathetic, and generous movie about the tough struggles of American workers? There must be a few, but none that stick in my head. Help me out in the comments section, dear reader, if I’m missing some obvious recent examples.

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