Monday, February 28, 2011

And the Oscar Goes To . . .

As I have every year since I can remember, I watched the Oscars last night. For those of you smart enough to watch anything else, you missed the worst telecast in recent memory. It was so bad that I read a book, followed The Fug Girls on Twitter, and kept hopping onto Facebook all while keeping track of my ballot. If my husband hadn’t been busy paying bills and whatnot, I probably would have been playing Scrabble with him as well.

Let’s start with the hosts. Instead of a comedian, or a song-and-dance man, or a combination of the two, the Academy chose two young actors with no experience hosting beyond appearing on SNL. Every time James Franco came out, his eyes were smaller and brighter and his skin was waxier. I’m not sure what he was doing backstage, but by the end of the telecast, he was starting to slur. To combat this, Anne Hathaway ramped up the perkiness and spent more time fawning over all the other performers and acting humble than actually, you know, hosting. Imagine going to a dinner party where instead of entertaining you, one host just got high (without sharing) and the other just kept thanking you for coming over and over and over again when she wasn’t talking about how well another person hosted the same party a few years ago. Poor Hugh Jackman looked like he wanted to crawl underneath his front-row chair to get away from little orphan Annie singing about him.

This year, it was also painfully obvious that the only way you got to present was if you had a movie coming out. This is the only explanation for why Matthew McConaughey shows up year after year, because let’s face it, he’ll never be on that stage accepting an award. In terms of most popular hot young male, last year, we got Robert Pattinson. This year, we got Justin Timberlake. I was actually hoping he was Banksy just so he would throw a hood over his head and go the fuck away. He was on that stage so long I thought they were going to have to get the hook to get him away from the microphone.

The hook was already primed and ready to go anyway after Kirk Douglas got on stage. Who thought it was a good idea to let the Cryptkeeper out? Worse was that he must have thought he was at open mike night instead of the Oscars. First, he hit on Anne Hathaway. Dude, she is old enough to be your great-granddaughter. And poor Anne had to throw him kisses and act as if she was honored that a randy 92 year-old thought she was hot. It was like a scene from the Playboy mansion. Then, instead of reading the name of the winner, he screwed around for another two minutes. It was completely disrespectful to the five women nominated for best supporting actress. Helena Bonham Carter looked like she was going to walk onto the stage, rip the damn envelope out of his hands, beat him with it, and then hand it over to whoever won just to get it over with. Poor winner Melissa Leo got it worse. As they exited the stage, he gave her his cane and put his arm completely around her for support – except he seemed to mistake her tits for her waist because that’s totally where his hand was! Dirty old man.

The whole show was disjointed and odd. There were no upsets, no truly hideous dresses, but no truly fabulous ones either. Some actresses looked lovely, some just looked frightened. Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin chose to exchange their black tux coats for white ones when they presented together, giving the impression that they wandered on set straight from shooting an ice-cream van commercial. For reasons known only to himself and his personal dealer, James Franco felt the need to dress like Marilyn Monroe to deliver the required Charlie Sheen joke. To say it was going the long way around for the laugh is putting it mildly. I also think we are long past the expiration date on Robert Downey Jr. being a druggie jokes. He’s been sober for a decade now, let’s all let it go.

I wish I could speak with more authority on the movies, but I didn’t see many of them. In truth, I’d rather bite my own hand off than watch Franco do it to himself in 127 Hours. Same goes for Rabbit Hole. Does anyone really want to watch two people suffer through losing a child? I turned The Social Network off mid-way through because I could not take anymore Aaron Sorkin-isms. He took the fine wine that was the writing on The West Wing and distilled it until it became bitter vinegar. Read the book, there were far less scenes of people running across Harvard in it. The Kids Are Alright was all right, but not fantastic. I expect excellent acting from the cast and I got it. That shouldn’t be Oscar-worthy, it should be business as usual. Inception was fascinating if terminally stupid since the plot holes in that movie almost negate it entirely. I don’t do Westerns and haven’t made it to the theater to see Black Swan or The King’s Speech, but they are on my Netflix queue. All in all, it wasn’t a good year to be a best picture. Of all of those nominated, I truly believe the only one that will stand the test of time was Toy Story 3. It may have been a cartoon, but it was certainly more real than last year’s Avatar.

All in all, next year, I’m hoping they just let the kids from P.S. 22 sing the whole time. At least they looked like they were having fun.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

You know You’re a Bad Parent If . . . .

When you watch Toddlers & Tiaras you think, wow, I should do that with my child.

Toddlers & Tiaras is my new obsession. Like a fickle lover, I’m sure I’ll soon abandon it for the even more horrifying Outrageous Kids Parties which actually manages to look worse than MTV’s My Super Sweet Sixteen. But until that show debuts, I’m going to stick with the legalized form of child abuse that is a toddler beauty pageant.

For those of you with actual taste and self-respect who have never watched the show, each episode follows three or four little girls ranging in ages from 18 months to eight years as they prepare for and then perform in a beauty pageant. We see the family home, meet the parents, are walked through the closet filled with tacky thousand dollar gowns, and the shelves piled high with cubic zirconia-encrusted headgear, and meet the little pageant queen. She is inevitably referred to as either a diva or a princess, because calling her a brat would be rude. Almost every little girl has to be subtitled because while beauty and “talent” are prized in the pageant world, diction and clear speech are for losers.

There are two kinds of pageants – natural and glitz. They are fairly self-explanatory to anyone who has ever seen a before and after picture of JonBenet Ramsey. Now, I freaked when I had to put a full-face of eye shadow, blush, mascara, and lipstick on my daughter for her first dance rehearsal. That’s nothing compared to what these little girls are forced to wear. Spray-on tans, acrylic nails, false eyelashes, fake teeth, fake hair, and enough makeup to put a drag queen to shame are the norm. Essentially, unless you have turned your pretty little girl into a dwarf-sized professional escort, you haven’t gone far enough. Then there are the clothes. Only by putting the stage clothes of Dolly Parton, Liberace, and fat Elvis into a blender and cutting them into doll-size pieces would you be able to replicate glitz-wear. These are clothes even Barbie wouldn’t be caught dead wearing. In fact, I think if you tried to dress a Cabbage Patch like a pageant child, Xavier Robert’s will personally come to your house and put that doll into foster care.

Each parent claims that it is the CHILD who loves pageants. I call bullshit on that. There was one little girl whose mother cried to the heavens that her daughter loved performing on stage. Now, this little girl’s absolutely favorite doll, or her lovey, was a life-sized handicapped puppet that was carted around in a miniature wheel chair. Yes, you read it correctly. I’m pretty sure my one psych class in college is enough of an education for me to pronounce that this child is projecting. I mean come on. Having a life-sized handicapped puppet is weird enough, but pushing it around in a mini-wheelchair is just off the rails. Plus, when she does her routines on stage, Arnold, the life-sized handicapped puppet mimics her off-stage (via her father, lest you start to have nightmares of the damn thing coming to life a la Chucky). What impairs the puppet so much it can’t walk but can dance is never established.

One parent claimed that by being in pageants, her child was well on her way to becoming Miss America. The child in question could barely walk. Another claimed that pageants will help her child keep a husband because she will always know to look beautiful for him. My husband’s reply was roughly that beauty was in the eye of the beholder as long as the beauty in question was kneeling. You get the perverted point. One parent went so far as to complain when her child won the natural beauty section because, “I didn’t pay all this money for her to be naturally pretty.” The best are the ones who talk about how much their child has won. When you spent $2,000 to win $500, I’m pretty sure you are still pretty far into the hole. It takes some fuzzy math indeed to think you have come out ahead in that investment.

What do I get out of watching this train wreck? That’s easy. On the days when I put my kids to bed without reading to them (a punishment in our house), or I feed them cereal for dinner, or when I put on a movie instead of playing a game with them, I know that even when I suck at parenting, I don’t suck as bad as the parent who taught her daughter to “shake her bottom” at the judges to earn a higher score.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Imperial Keyless Entry

That problem I have with commercials is that rarely do they make me want to buy the product they are advertising. How many ads for medication list so many potential side effects that surely you would be better off dying from the original ailment than you would be taking the new drug? I know that commercials are basically mind control. An idea is planted now, but comes to fruition later when you actually make the purchase. But out of the umpteen car commercials aired during the Super Bowl (all performed on closed roads with professional drivers in safe conditions), the only one I can remember is Volkswagon. Unfortunately, all it really made me want to do is perfect my Phil Keoghan-esqu eyebrow pop and watch Star Wars.

None of the ads were all that great and some of them were in need of some serious editing. For example, who thought Timothy Hutton was relevant? Sure, Groupon pissed of civil rights groups with their ad about getting cheap fish curry (because the best way to honor a culture is to use coupons to pay less for their goods), but I was more upset by their implication that a guy from the USA network was cool. I actually think Tibet got off lucky. The transgender community got an ugly guy in a dress who found his true identity through Living Social. They couldn’t have used an actor with chiseled cheekbones? The movie ads all passed by far too quickly to get an actual sense of anything other than what city they were destroying, which considering that the world is about to be graced with Transformers 3 and a Cowboys vs. Aliens that does not star Nathan Fillion, I think we’re better off not seeing more of them.

In terms of irony, I was much amused by the anti-gambling ad. The bookies in Vegas are surely feeling bad about themselves now. I was also amused by Adrien Brody singing his nose out shilling for beer. I don’t know much about acting, but I always thought you were supposed to start at commercials and progress upward to earn an Academy Award. I don’t think the process works so well in reverse. Stars in commercials only work if they are a wink and a nod to their known personas. Eminent in Detroit was fine. His iced-tea commercial was not. A claymation Clay Aiken would have been funny. Eminem selling M&Ms would have been funny. But a claymation Eminem selling iced-tea by yelling at us? Not funny. Putting Ozzy and Beiber together would have been so much better if only, as lovingly suggested by a friend on FB, Ozzy had bitten Beiber’s head off. Since he didn’t, I now refuse to shop at Best Buy.

Radio ads have even worse luck getting me to purchase anything because they tend to be ridiculously stupid. Cancer is no joke. Survivors deserve medals, not just mawkish commercials about “she didn’t get a choice.” No shit. No one, if given the choice of cancer or health would choose cancer. That’s why God’s a crafty devil. There is also an ad for erectile dysfunction that makes me seriously doubt the authenticity of the doctor. His ad says that you will see results while in his office. Really! Is he located in the Crazy Horse office park? Are singles the only acceptable form of co-pay? Are his nurses uniforms purchased at Frederick’s of Hollywood? Not being able to get it up must be awful for men, but the potential of never getting it to go down again has got to be worse.

Maybe the problem is that I am too cynical for 30-second bursts of mind control. Maybe I just don’t need what they are selling. More than likely, I’m not really the target audience for most products. But if it was as easy to relieve border tension as advertised, then all we have to do is give the world a Coke and the North and South Korea problem would be solved.