Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Oscars 2013, 2000, Seth MacFarlane and American Beauty

I'll refrain from commenting much about this year's Oscars, and the TV presentation, and Seth MacFarlane, other than to say it was nice, for once that three nominated movies were ones we'd actually seen already - never happened before, and Argo, was one of 'em, and won Best Picture among other awards. See HERE for post on that film. As for this year's host, Seth MacFarlane, he made the 4 hours-worth of communal back-patting much easier to take. I think Seth has yet to hit his perfect stride in entertainment. Family Guy isn't it, Ted wasn't it. His CD (now among my favourites) is inching a tiny bit nearer. I'm interested to watch how his career progresses, and perhaps evolves.

Regarding Seth MacFarlane's "We saw your boobs" song/skit, the one getting some women riled up - I'll say just this: if women weren't so eager to show their breasts, scarcely covered, in the course of TV and film appearances as a kind of fashion statement to see who can show most skin, I'd have more sympathy for the voices raised on this. I could've done another verse ...."We saw your boobs all but a quarter inch or so on (whatever) show on TV". Y'all get what you have coming gals! Disclaimer: I am not a feminist with a capital F. I unwaveringly support equality of the sexes and equal pay for women. We now are emancipated enough and strong enough to look after ourselves! It'd be a better plan to quit complaining and compose something as counterpoint, eg:"We saw your dingle dangles"

Enough about 2013.

A little time travelling, back to 2000 when the 1999 movie American Beauty (the one with red rose petals all over the place) won "Best Picture" award. As it happens this film came up in an online conversation with blog-buddy "mike" in commentary to an earlier post (here) on the topic of pedophilia and inappropriate sexual attraction. I'd seen the film years ago but had only a very hazy memory of it, so I acquired an old VHS tape and we watched it a couple of nights ago.

You know, I think American Beauty, clever and satirical as it may have been in 1999, hasn't aged all that well. I wasn't bored by it, but I certainly didn't think it was Oscar material in today's terms.

A laundry-list refresher for any other hazy memories. The film was a satirical look at American suburban life of the 1980s and 90s. Dysfunctional parents, obtuse teenage offspring, focus on materialism, a rather unpleasant portrayal of females, clumsy references to homosexuality, a middle-aged man's unsatisfactory relationship with annoying wife leading to his lusting after a teenaged Lolita-type friend of his daughter; an ex-marine overtly homophobic and controlling husband of a quivering silent wife, father of a teenaged, supposedly soulful and arty, drug dealer son......remember?

Characters and situations portrayed now seem like overly stereotypical caricatures. Much too much of everything. I could easily envisage the whole thing as a Monty Python sketch. Perhaps that was the creators' intention? Perhaps that was what life was like in America back then - a Monty Python sketch? I wasn't here, so I don't know. It wasn't like that in my neck of the English woods - that's for sure!

Best part of the movie, for me, was seeing some actors I've enjoyed in other roles since, doing what they did in earlier days: Allison Janney, the wife of the ex-marine in American Beauty came into her own in TV's The West Wing as White House press secretary and later Chief of Staff, C.J. Cregg. Chris Cooper, the ex-marine character, played numerous supporting roles before and since, he always does sterling work; for me he'll forever be remembered as "July Johnson" (in Lonesome Dove). Annette Bening, who I usually admire, rather over-played her part I thought, but she was nominated in Best Actress category, was beaten to it by Hilary Swank. Kevin Spacey, of course, was highlight of American Beauty, took Best Actor Award too. He has appeared in far too few movies recently in my opinion.....I shall now have to go back and find more of his old stuff.

America has moved on since 1999 and American Beauty. 11 September 2001 changed everything.

American Beauty has, in my opinion, lost whatever lustre it must have had to win the Academy Award. The same cannot be said of all Oscar winning movies, some remain timeless and relevant many decades later. Will Argo be one of those I wonder? Lincoln would've been, Les Misérables might have been.....but longevity is probably not a requisite quality a film must have in order to win an Oscar.

Comparing 2000's "Best Picture" winner with 2013's, is there a link of sorts? American Beauty afforded a critical look at an aspect of American life, Argo presents a story which might cause Americans, especially those connected to Hollywood, to feel proud of an achievement. Another nominated movie Zero Dark 30 which we deliberately didn't see, is also I understand, an attempt to present American, or CIA/military achievement in a complimentary light, and to draw feelings of pride. Different flavours, almost opposites in fact, one self-deprecating, t'other self-congratulatory.
Food for thought.


mike said...

Knowing MacFarlane's sense of humor, particularly as displayed in episodes of "Family Guy", I wasn't distracted or annoyed by his master of ceremony. The humor he displayed was obsequious to his previous talents, so I'm not sure why his presentation was considered offensive by many viewers. In fact, most of his humor mocked and correlated with the public's consensus of sentiments that I've read in the news, mags, talk shows, and online. I guess it was considered blunt and out-of-place to make fun of stuff that we all have made fun of over the past several years...shoot the messenger! I read that he'll NEVER host the Ac.Awards again. Oh, well. I'm not a big fan of Billy Crystal, so it was refreshing to have a different host for a change of pace!

One of Crystal's quotes I like:
“It's more important to look good than to feel good. And darling, you look fabulous!"

Are you having a revisionist redress to "American Beauty", Twilight? LOL I saw it twice when it first arrived...I'll have to view it again to see if I now feel differentially.

mike (again) said...

P.S. - you mentioned that you weren't in the US during release and award of "American Beauty". Those were indeed peculiar times. The dot com bubble was expanding and finally burst in 2000, then 9-11-2001 on its heels. The entirety of the stock exchanges fell for the next two years.

The nineties was exceptional in its materialism and the sky-was-the-limit feel toward acquisition. Bigger was better. Bill Clinton kept the masses amused with the "what is the definition of sex" Lewisnky scandal. The US national debt was in the black. I would say that, to coin Alan Greenspan, it was a decade of "irrational exuberance" here in the US. This, I believe, led to the populace feeling self-absorbed and self-serving...there was nothing really to interfere.

I would liken the 90s as Michael Douglas' character, Gordon Gekko states, "Greed is good."

Twilight said...

mike ~ I like Seth best as he was on Sunday evening - reined in a little bit but not completely. Family Guy" got to be a bridge too far for me so many times that I stopped watching. But I still like Seth MacF. and admire his varied talents.
(By the way, I tried to follow his Twitter thingie, and was informed by a pop-up that I have been blocked by the account user. YIKES! What on earth did I do to be blacklisted? I cannot believe he, or one of his minions had read my couple of posts about him and gave me a thumbs down just because I didn't fawn all over him - anyway they were not totally critical. I use Twitter very lightly just to follow a scant handful of characters of interest and their shows/doings). Serves me right for dipping a toe into social media, and that is why I will not go to Facebook for more such silly "Friending and de-Friending stuff. I left school long, long decades ago and am not keen to go back into a similar atmosphere!

Re American Beauty - it did seem like revisionist reviewing on my part, didn't! If I saw Am Beauty back in England or even in my first year or so here, much of it would've flown right over my head. I was never much of a modern Amerofile, back in England, but would always eat up films about early settlers.

mike(again) ~ Now I'm more "in the groove" and have soaked up more USA-ness, I can well imagine how things must have been in the 1990s, at least in some parts of the country. Excesses followed by the horror of 9/11. It reminds me of a mother telling her kids "Calm down - there'll be tears before bedtime, mark my words!"