Monday, February 25, 2008

The Miracle of the Oscars

I don't watch much television -- sometimes only if the Cubs are winning in the playoffs -- but when I do turn on the cranial vacuum tube, it's either to catch the State of the Union address (to see what evil lurks in the heart of men) or the Oscars.

The Academy Awards have long been a favorite of mine because I always root for the underdog (all Cubs fans have this defective gene). I'm not always on board with the name-brand actors, actresses, directors and producers. I want to see some unheralded talent come out of nowhere and grab the golden boy and have their lives changed overnight.

It happened to Diablo Cody of Lemont, Illinois, the former Ms. Brook Busey-Hunt. She went from an office drone and exotic dancer to writing a sparkling screenplay for "Juno," featuring the unknown (until recently) Ellen Page, formerly of Nova Scotia. The film has grossed more than $100 million, even though the plot was politically incorrect (teenage pregnancy) and neither the actress nor screenwriter had really worked with director Jason Reitman before. Both women were original talents who didn't exactly climb up the Hollywood ladder, nor did they spring out of some Disney marketing machine. Bravo to them and for someone who believed in their talent.

Speaking of Disney, the company's "Enchanted" sported two nominated best songs, bland ditties at best, although I'm sure Stephen Schwartz and Alan Menken got handsome paychecks for their mediocare offerings. But who won? A Dublin busker and a Czech pianist in a movie shot with hand-held cameras for less than $100,000. The romatic duo from "Once" stole the auric statuette from the Disney cartel with heartfelt harmonies and genuine emotion. The whole movie was a love affair based on music. When was the last time you saw that emerge from Hollywood?

And then there were the Brothers Coen, so relaxed in their raft of acceptance speeches that they seemed like they couldn't wait to get back to their hotels for a snooze. Their greatest revelation was that they were making movies since they were kids. One of their first epics was going to the Minneapolis airport to shoot a super-8 extravaganza. Along the way they gave us gems like "Raising Arizona," "Miller's Crossing," "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou" and stinkers like "Barton Fink" and "The Big Lebowski." The Minnesota-born Coens rarely follow formulas and they always present a side of American life few imagine. F. Scott Fitzgerald and Sinclair Lewis both heralded from the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Now the Coens are doing the state proud, yet again.

And how about "Taxi to the Dark Side," the documentary about an innocent Afghan cab driver tortured to death by the U.S. military? Notice in the trailer in the Oscar show the frozen image of George W. Bush and the filmmaker's stirring thank you and admonition that "we can turn this country around?"

There are real miracles to behold in this world and certainly the Oscars love to pat the movie industry on the back in this feast of self-love. Movies don't change history, but they certainly can depict it in a way we can understand it. "There Will Be Blood" was based on the brief California oil rush and the rapacious nature of robber barons. The original novel was by Sinclair Lewis. Then there was the Coen Brothers screenplay that was based on the book by esteemed writer Cormac McCarthy. Hollywood can go deep when it wants to -- and certainly doesn't lack surprises -- as long as the best minds in the business stay away from Hollywood convention.

Now for another miracle. The Cubs haven't won the world series in a century. As I scout their prospects during spring training in Arizona, believe me, the movie I have in mind would be a film I think more than 3 million folks would want to see. More merchandising opportunities than Star Wars or Transformers!

Hollywood: I have a script in hand. Producers, my new email is I would be happy to collaborate and I work fast. I'm not cheap, but I've been working on the story for about 40 years, so I know it inside and out. What's it about? A miracle that was a century in the making.

1 comment:

Big Mike Glab said...

I saw Juno Friday. Cute. Way too cute. Precious. Clever. More clever than any human beings who've ever lived on this Earth. That said, I enjoyed it. I would have had the hugest crush on Juno/Ellen Page. I think she'll be a fine actress. Cody will be a fine screenwriter as well. I'm glad I saw their coming-out party.