Crash wound up winning the Best Picture Oscar last night. The Academy did an ode to a Haggis; Crash screenwriter Paul Haggis bagged a Best Original Screenplay Oscar, including its 99 F-bomb arsenal.
If I understand the theme of Crash, it's that there's an inner bigot inside of all of us looking for the wrong time to come out. Haggis might agree with Paul's take from today's Edifier that "None is righteous, no, not one."
I guess the theme coming out of Oscar night will be to look at our inner bigot. It could have been worse; coming into the weekend, we were expected to be told to look at our inner homophobe. However, Brokeback Mountain didn't cover the spread; it bagged three Oscar, for score, adapted screenplay and Ang Lee's directing.
Two comments from my readings of last night's acceptance speeches marked the Hollywood mind-set. Haggis' commentary was interesting-
In his acceptance speech, Mr. Haggis spoke about the higher power of art. "Bertolt Brecht said art is not a mirror to hold up to society but a hammer with which to shape it, so I guess this is ours," he said, waving his Oscar. "I just want to thank those people who take big risks in their daily lives when there aren't cameras rolling, and when there aren't people to applaud, and the people who stand up for peace and justice and against intolerance. So I dedicate this to them."
Hammers can shape, but they can also destroy. If applied to bronze or molten metal, hammers can shape it; they don't do much for improving dry-wall.
OK, I'll use the old saw "To a guy with a hammer, everything looks like a nail." Artists seem to relish in that hammering-society-into-shape role. Sometimes, a screwdriver or sander might be a more appropriate tool to use, and other times it's best to leave things alone.
George Clooney bagged a supporting actor Oscar and defended Hollywood's progressive values-
"We are a little bit out of touch in Hollywood every once in a while, I think. It's probably a good thing. We were the ones who talked about AIDS when it was only being whispered, and we talked about civil rights when it wasn't popular," he said in his acceptance speech. "This Academy, this group of people gave Hattie McDaniel an Oscar in 1939, when blacks were still sitting in the backs of theatres. I'm proud to be a part of this Academy. Proud to be part of this community, and proud to be out of touch."
Of course, Clooney uses racism as his progressive standard, where the left were the good guys, as was the case in his Good Night and Good Luck, where they stood against McCarthy. Yes, the right wing of the Peanut Gallery is correct to holler that the left didn't do enough against Communist influence in the early Cold War era. However, Murrow and company were right to go after McCarthy's excesses; they were the good guys of the piece.
Hollywood might well be ahead of the curve and a trend-setter. There's a difference between change and progress. Not all change is progressive in the true sense of helping society progress to a better place. Being ahead of the curve on fair treatment of blacks was progress. Being ahead of the curve on profanity in culture and on amorality isn't progress.
Among the other awards, the raucous hip-hop tune "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" from "Hustle & Flow," whose expletive-laden lyrics had to be toned down for performance on live TV, won the prize for best song. The song was written by the rap group Three 6 Mafia — aka Jordan Houston, Cedric Coleman and Paul Beauregard.
Featuring dancers dressed as hookers and pimps gyrating on stage, the song's performance stood in sharp contrast to the other nominated tunes and the general stateliness of the Oscars.
Don't hold your breath waiting to see It's Hard Out Here for a Baptist get a Best Song Oscar.
George, most of us here in the Peanut Gallery are out of touch, too, but in a different direction; the coarsening of society has left us a bit out of the loop, too. On many issues, we're having a tug-of-war with you, with you trying to yank society in a "progressive" direction and us trying to yank it back in a more godly direction; I almost said "traditional" rather than "godly," but some traditions like racism and sexism are better left in the past.
Hopefully, we can do this in a loving and gentle manner, but we're going to keep on our end of the rope.