No, my work is not yet done, and my deadlines haven’t yet been met, but I’m confident that I’ll reach my goals by this afternoon. Bear with me with patience, please. Until this afternoon, when I slap these puppies and ship them off to their destinations, I’ll leave you with something to discuss among yourselves: the movies!
Last night was Oscar night, and I had the awards yammering in the background while I was pounding the keys. I have to get out more; I’ve seen virtually none of the nominated movies this year. There’s something called “Slumdog Millionaire” that’s getting a lot of buzz? Shows what I know. I hadn’t even heard of it until last night. My pop culture cred just took a nosedive.
As for the awards show, Hugh Jackman was pretty and congenial, which I guess is the role of the emcee. The format was grating: at each award, they’d have five past winners come out on the stage and slather flattery on each nominee, while the camera locked onto each one, simpering and squirming under the barrage of praise. This was not good; Hollywood already has a reputation of being the domain of the vain, and amplifying the effect with a prolonged demonstration of how happy these people are to be fawningly serviced in public had me cringing.
The high point, I thought, was Sean Penn’s acceptance speech for best actor in which he shamed the people who don’t want to see equal rights for everyone, gay or straight.
On a related note, Bill Maher was one of the presenters for best documentary, and what did he do? Plugged his movie, Religulous, while moaning over the fact that it was not nominated. Bad form, Bill, very bad form. Maybe it just wasn’t good enough.
I did finally see Religulous a few days ago, and I confess to being a bit disappointed. It consisted of a series of short interviews with, for instance, truckers at a truck stop chapel, Catholic priests, an “ex-gay” minister, a Muslim rapper, etc., and it was all capped with excellent and scathing monologue that strongly criticized religion. Don’t get me wrong, it was good, and there were some funny bits, but something nagged at me throughout, and only when I saw the conclusion did I realize what it was.
Maher cheated. He had a clear idea of what his opinion was, but he wasn’t sharing it with the people he was interviewing. They were left to flounder and make poor arguments in part because there are no good arguments for religion, but also because they were left in the dark about what they were arguing against. It may be funny, but it’s no fair; contrast that with the Dawkins’ documentaries on religion, which are less funny, but more honest, because the people on camera know (or should know) exactly what they are wrestling with.
A better Religulous would have recorded the closing monolog first, and sent that to each of the potential interviewees with a note saying, “Here’s my position. Are you willing to argue against it on camera?” That would have made for a much more interesting movie, and Maher would have had to break a sweat to address criticisms…and it would probably be less funny. There’s a reason Maher wasn’t nominated for an Oscar, and I think it’s because his documentary took no risks, and didn’t probe very deeply.