Monday, February 27, 2012

My Friend Oscar

My seventh- grade teacher teacher Stan Sofield once had us parse a sentence that began, "My friend, Oscar of the Waldorf...." Unfortunately that's all I can remember. Now, why would that sentence fragment stay with me all these years?  Who knows- it's not the point anyway.

The point is, Oscar is a funny name, especially as used by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  And, not only is it a funny name, but the ceremony bearing the name has become a moribund, tedious and strangely technically inept awards show now that we are truly in the 21st century.

First, the technically inept part- am I the only person listening who kept hearing this strangely buzzing sound underneath the audio? A kind of metallic feedback that accompanied every word spoken? Apparently not- Google has over 169,000,000 results in a search titled "Bad oscar sound". One listener compared the sound to the vuvuzelas at the World Cup Soccer games.

Experts claim that it was not apparent in the hall itself, only in the broadcast signal. Oh, okay then- just so the three or four hundred pampered guests weren't annoyed. Everything's fine then.

You'd think that if we could (at one point) put a couple of men on the moon, we might be able to broadcast a show about technical excellence in the media without annoying muffled vuvuzela sound. But, no, I guess not. (At least I got to use the completely illogical "man on the moon" complaint.)

Conclusion- no Emmy for Oscar.

I also noticed that the orchestra was placed in different loges located in the balconies of the theater. I've attended enough advertising and corporate meetings to recognize this as one of those stupid ideas that someone thinks is really "different" and "creative" and that everyone who works for that person says, "Wow, boss- what an idea!" and then goes home to their spouse and says, "My boss has got to be one of the biggest morons I know." I'm pretty sure the orchestra couldn't even see each other but it didn't really matter because of the annoying buzz in the sound which rendered everything they played painfully inaudible.

Billy Crystal looked stuffed. Thyroid condition maybe?

As for the awards themselves, well... some people were clearly and movingly thrilled to be selected. Meryl "Weepy" Streep's speech where she thanked her hair person was a breath of fresh air. Angelina Jolie looked great for a woman who has adopted 50 or so children- she's really kept her figure, and made sure we all knew it too.

Jean Dujardin, who allegedly said, "Fuck" in French during his acceptance speech, mentioned the great Douglas Fairbanks, a guy who probably enjoyed doing the act Dujardin mentioned.

This year I actually saw three of the contenders. The Artist and Hugo, were both about a time of the cinema that was new, wonderful, exciting and visionary. Midnight in Paris was a nostalgic romp through an amazing era in early 20th century France. They were all, I thought, terrific films, truly entertaining and all three were filled longing for times long gone.

What is that supposed to tell us about now?

Oscar of the Waldorf



Saturday, February 18, 2012

Aspiring to Mediocrity

I saw an announcement on NBC for a new show about fashion designers starring Jessica Simpson. Of course, it's a competitive, reality- based show where, I think, the designers compete for commissions from major retail outlets. The outlet reps hit buzzers, much like, say, Jeopardy. The difference is that Jeopardy sort of celebrates intelligence while this show obviously celebrates stupidity.

Evidence of how low this bar has been set is the prescence of the unbelievably vapid Jessica Simpson. Now I know you're probably saying, hey, Bret- Jessica Simpson? How is it that she is able to get work while thousands- no- make that millions of Americans are unemployed? You're probably wondering, as I did, why she isn't still regarded as a washed- up, overly cosmetised harridan?

I'm really sorry to say that the answer lies deep in the collective stupidity of the American public. And also, the collective capitalistic brilliance of NBC's programming executives. You know- the same ones who fired Conan O'Brian so that testy, ancient, not- funny Jay Leno could (much like Jessica Simpson) stay employed. Reality shows mint money. The writing staffs are almost non- existant, the contestants don't get paid and of course Jessica Simpson, flanked on this show by hostess Elle McPherson who at least has some semblance of fashion credentials, and Nicole Richie, late of that ridiculous show with hotel non- heiress and professional party- goer Paris Hilton, probably works for low calorie meals and bottled water.

Furthermore, all the retailers get what amounts to free hour- long advertising. Keep in mind that during the great depression, stores and restaurants paid unemployed people to walk around with sandwich boards advertising their enterprises, as in "Eat at Joe's." Nowadays we've become so sheeplike we actually pay the retailers to put their trademarks on their wares, a la Nike, so we advertise for them, making them millions of dollars. And we wonder why we owe the Chinese so much money.

Any ad revenue that comes from "Fashion Star" is pure gravy. Gravy for the network.

And how do they get away with it? Well, this is where you come in, America. You watch this stuff. As long as you do,  they will continue to broadcast it.

Here's what is really going on, everyone. Little By Little, your hard- hitting fact- gathering blog has the inside scoop! The networks are run by aliens! Not the kind that used to have to register at the post office each year, but the actual, let's- invade- the- earth- and- eat- mankind- kind. Okay, I know that's too many "kind"s, but you get the point. The fact is, stupid people simply taste better than smart people. And nothing makes people stupider faster than television! I don't think anyone can argue with that. Even Rush Limbaugh is on television- there's a live feed of him doing his show every day!

So taken altogether, this drek has begun to lower the intelligence quotient quicker than a Martha Stewart souffle. Or a butter sculpture at a Paula Dean anti- diabetes rally in Atlanta in July!

Don't want to be eaten by aliens? Then stop watching stupid TV. Stop playing video games non- stop. Stop getting your news from Rupert Murdoch who, if he is not an actual alien, is certainly in their employ.

Start asking questions. Find out what your political candidates really stand for. Question everything! EVERYTHING!! Ask your doctor why he prescribed something. Ask your clergyman or religious authority figure what your particular Holy text really says. Try to grasp important concepts, like evolution or string theory.

If you do these things, you won't get eaten.

I promise!