Oscar day looms. If I watch this Sunday (February 27), I'll do it because I have nothing else to do. I don't really care what takes home that coveted best picture trophy.
The films bore me almost as much as the televised hoopla. Except for Sideways, they are all heartfelt biopics unfolding according to established precepts: dreams are dreamed, impossible challenges are overcome and finally, sad turns of events help us discover the virtues of clinging to your convictions no matter what.
And except for Sideways, which doesn't have a chance of winning, none of the best picture nominees speak to the here and now. Their worlds are Vaseline blurs of nostalgia and sentiment. They simplify rather then address the complicated universe we know, love and fear.
Again and again we are told of men - and one made-up woman pugilist who nevertheless conforms to the true-story arc - who soar to the heights of greatness, are brought down to earth by the tragic truths of human frailty and ultimately find neverland through our everlasting memory of them when they were kings. In doing so, this year's filmmakers give us simplified stories based on simplified pasts that turn away from the particular complications of today's world.
Ironically, given the Republicans' disdain for Tinseltown, the Bush dynasty takes its cue from Hollywood. Simplification rules. Fabrication for our own good leads to fake news reports justifying wars and terror alerts. The past is yearned for, and throwback evil fundamentalism can only be fought with throwback not-evil fundamentalism. Reality is played out in familiar tones of black and white - you're with us or against us in our holy war against brown people, tits on TV, abortion, homosexuals, condoms and gun control.
Everyone always says the Oscars are just a popularity contest, so why don't they put the year's most popular movies up there and let them compete? I'm talking about The Passion Of The Christ - yes, I mean it - Super Size Me and Fahrenheit 9/11 (too hot for Disney, always a good sign). These are the urgently compelling movies of 2004 that speak to the present and create tension and debate. Whatever you think of them, you can't deny that they say something about the world.
As a Jew, I found Mel Gibson's recreation of the anti-Semitic passion play appalling. Nevertheless, it should be compulsory viewing. The fact that the film was widely popular gives us more insight into a longing for a new moral order than Johnny Depp's portrayal of a wounded Scot seeking solace in childhood make-believe.
Why not have Super Size and Fahrenheit slug it out with the recidivist torture flick hardcore Christians call their own? And while we're at it, let's note that in different ways, both the docs and The Passion comment on one of the most explosive issues of the new millennia: the shaping of truth White-House-, McDonald's- and Hollywood-style.
In contrast, the Oscar favourites assure us that saccharine tragedy always leads to mythologized legacy. So don't worry, be happy. Just sit back and relax, and it'll work out in the end.
Viewer numbers are declining for bloated spectacles. Everything from the Superbowl to the Golden Globes and the Grammys have already suffered ratings fatigue. Could it be we are finally tired of being passively attracted to a fantasy world that has the ultimate effect of profoundly disconnecting us from problems better confronted than ignored?
Then again, you could say that insinuating my superiority by implying that I'm not going to watch the Oscars is kinda pathetic. It's like saying we should just stick our heads in the sand until it all goes away.
Which, come to think of it, is exactly what this year's odds-on picks for best film seem to be saying.