Monday, February 25, 2008

Sometimes an Award is the Best Reward

It is true that film geekery does not run as deeply through my veins as book or even music geekery. Still, I have always looked forward to the Oscars. During my California years this was largely because they often coincided with my birthday, which more than once meant an Oscar/Birthday party. These parties were a pleasing combo of gifts, food, hootch (hee!), and watching an event where sequins and feather boas are not considered too over the top to be viable wardrobe components. A win win!

Then came the year when those bastards at the Academy sunk my birthday party boat with a scheduling missile by electing to back up the date of their event by a few weeks. Shockingly, I wasn’t even consulted. There were no apologetic calls from Johnny Depp, George Clooney or even Daniel Day-Lewis, whom I would assume must have gotten days off here and there while he was off in Italy learning to be a cobbler. Had he really cared, he would have made the time. That's all I'm sayin'. Not even a bag of consolatory Oscar swag was offered to ease my pain. So here I am, forced to find other reasons to enjoy the show – reasons that I might add do NOT involve gifts for me.

In recent broadcasts, those reasons have come down to Jon Stewart, dresses (lots of red and drapey off the shoulder goddess styles this year!), movie recommendations (because I’m horrible at seeing things when they are actually out in theaters), how genuinely happy the first-timers are when they win (it’s refreshing!), and the occasionally high mockability quotient involved any time you put a camera in a room full of people who take themselves WAY too seriously. Like remember after 9/11 when everyone showed up wearing somber colors to reflect the mood of the country? There was talk about wake up calls, violence and the new day that was dawning in Hollywood. Solemn promises were made, then disappeared faster than a box of ringdings at an overeaters anonymous meeting. Of course, I know movies are a business and that some of the crap that passes for cinema wouldn’t be made if there weren’t a market for it, but it just goes to show how easily money puts the smackdown on personal conviction.

Anyway, in the wake of the awards, Oscar fever has gripped my house, so here are some things that I would give an award to, if I could:

And the award for wordiest darklord ever goes to…

I'm not sure how it is that Legend came to be on my Netflix list. All I know is that its little red envelope arrived sometime last week. I had immediate misgivings upon opening it, for I quickly saw that the movie has a fatal flaw: it stars Tom Cruise. I don't know exactly what it is about that guy, but he has always rubbed me the wrong way. Even before he started acting like an ass and picking fights about psychology and postpartum depression, he always struck me as cocky and obnoxious. But in the interest of fairness, I tried to watch the movie. Really, I tried.

I sat through what seemed like an interminable opening scene featuring what was possibly the wordiest exchange ever filmed between an evil overlord and his nastiest goblin minion. I sat through the introduction of Princess Lily and even noted that the set in her first scene was modeled after a Waterhouse painting. I even tried to care when the unicorn was killed, but every time the camera panned back to Cruise, my mind was assaulted with images of him jumping up and down on Oprah's couch while raving about his child bride. The power of the Winfrey-Cruise cocktail (I think I need not remind you that I consider her my celebrity nemesis) was just too much to bear. A person can only stand so much. So, I gave up ever learning whether the enchanted forest would succumb to evil and become a cesspool of gambling, drugs, and orc on orc sex or be saved by Suri's dad in favor of watching my pick for...

Best movie use of a corpse as a prop

About a year ago, I decided that I was dangerously deficient in vitamin Hitchcock. Since then, I've been working my way through his films. As it turns out, the perfect antidote to Legend is The Trouble With Harry, which was not only kooky (but kooky in the good way) Shirley Maclaine's first film, but also stars a handsome, young John Forsythe. You'd never think a movie about repeatedly burying and digging up a dead guy could be so charming, but it is! It is a shame that Hitchcock didn't do more comedies. The more I see of his work, the more I love it! And speaking of love, I find myself completely infactuated with...

SE Portland's Best Vietnamese Food Served by a Buddhist Nun…

The atmosphere may be humble, but what it lacks in ambience it makes up for in delicious food. Just as importantly, everything on the menu at Van Hanh is vegetarian, which means it fits my new diet perfectly. On my first (but definitely not my last!) visit there, my companion and I enjoyed Jicama Spring Rolls, Lemon Grass Tofu Sticks and (my favorite, even though the lemongrass tofu is apparently their most popular dish) Crispy "Chicken" Salad for well under $20. Not only was the food pretty amazing (their gluten mock poultry could almost have passed for the real thing!), but the restaurant is actually a non-profit that benefits a local Buddhist temple, which means that not only can you eat to your heart's content (and then some!) for very little money, but you even benefit something greater than yourself in doing so!

And, the final award of the night:

The award for best collection of essays by Steve Almond published under the title (Not That You Asked) Rants, Exploits, and Obsessions goes to...

Steve Almond. I know! Not what you expected, is it? That was almost like Tilda Swinton nabbing the much coveted Oscar for best supporting actress from Cate Blanchett in a surprise upset last night! But that's how these awards things are - a total rollercoaster ride. Anyway, I've been a fan of Almond's work for a while now. I'm telling you, if you've never read him, you should. The Prologue to this collection (followed by the rest of the essays in it) is a great place to start. If you insist upon being distrustful and feel you must read some excerpts before buying the book or putting it on hold at your local library, you can do so here.

And with that, I am going to bed, so have a good night!

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