Hollywood's Big Ho-Hum

Having recently written about the politicization of various awards, I decided to sit in on Sunday night's Academy Awards just to verify that my criticism was justified. All I can say to those who wrote to me vociferously denying the politicization of awards such as the OscarsTM is that one would have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to recoil from the orgy of liberal self-congratulation on display.

As predicted, former Vice-President Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth won the award for Best Documentary. All political messages aside, the documentary itself (which I forced myself to sit through for the purposes of an article) had no filmmaking merit whatsoever and this award was an insult to all those documentarians that actually try to produce quality work. But the OscarTM was indeed all about politics, as Gore's not-so-hilarious jokes about running for president in 2008 indicated. It was patronage awarding at its best.

Religion of a sort also played a part. The belief in man-made catastrophic global warming, or what Gore kept dubbing the "climate crisis," (any bad weather will do, as in this year's extremely cold winter) is the new secular religion and Gore its preacher. And Hollywood has become the locus for its devotees. One could see it in the shiny upturned faces of audience members as they cheered on Gore and Melissa Etheridge for the numbingly dull and therefore aptly titled Inconvenient Truth theme song "I Need to Wake Up," which, of course, won the award for Best Song. They truly believe they are doing God's work (or rather Gaia's work) simply by mouthing slogans about low-flush toilets, recycling and compost, such as those appearing on the screen behind Etheridge during her performance. I'm sure audience members got right on saving the planet, after jumping into their hybrid limos at the end of the night and jaunting back home in their emissions-spewing private jets, that is. Hollywood, thy name is hypocrisy.

The Hersholt Humanitarian Award bestowed upon former chairman of Paramount Pictures Motion Picture Group Sherry Lansing was similarly nauseating. Lansing has had a brilliant career in Hollywood and has donated a fair amount of money to various charities and organizations (including the much-tainted Carter Center). But this hardly qualifies her, of all the world's people, as the "great humanitarian" claimed by presenter Tom Cruise. But Hollywood loves to award its own and Lansing's glowing references to embryonic stem cell research and the noble scientists toiling in their laboratories (no word about the advances in adult stem cell research for some strange reason) were likely the real reason for her award. Again, mouth the right mottos and give money to the right people and you're golden - literally.

Laughable moments in environmentalist silliness were aplenty. When Inconvenient Truth co-producer Lesley Chilcott prattled on to the surreal looking Joan Rivers about her "biodegradable" gown made of bamboo and recycled cotton (no human waste?), it could have been a Saturday Night Live skit. The slogans flashing on the screen behind Melissa Etheridge as she performed her mediocre song were astounding in both their banality and their nanny-statism. No doubt "mommy" (or rather the United Nations) will tell us all how to flush our toilets if the Democrats take over in 2008. At one point, Al Gore and his adoring co-presenter actor Leonardo DiCaprio announced that the Academy Awards had officially "gone green," whatever that means. From here on in, the Great Leader has decided that they will be dubbed the Green Academy Awards.

Beyond the constant preening about saving the environment, Hollywood couldn't get enough of its international and ethnic "diversity," which presenters trumpeted on every occasion. At one point, host Ellen Degeneres (whom I normally find funny, but this time seemed subdued) pointed to black (originally from Africa) actor Djimoun Hounsou and then referenced Hollywood's wonderful diversity. Sort of a "some of my best friends are black" moment. One can only hope that deserving black actors such as Jennifer Hudson and Forest Whitaker were awarded their OscarsTM based on merit and not white guilt.

Mexico won big with various awards for Pan's Labyrinth, Italian composer-conductor Ennio Morricone gave his Honorary Academy Award acceptance speech in Italian, and presenters French actress Catherine Deneuve and Japanese actor Ken Watanabe made sure to remind audience members that they were French and Japanese, respectively. Indeed, cast members from Clint Eastwood's OscarTM nominated Letters from Iwo Jima injected a rare Asian presence into the occasion. Too bad it was on behalf of imperial Japan. Next up, a warm fuzzy film from the perspective of the Nazis - all in the name of diversity, of course.

In an uncommon moment of equanimity, the award for Best Foreign Film went to The Lives of Others, a German film about life in East Germany's former totalitarian state and the machinations of its secret police, the Stasi. Presenter, actress Cate Blanchett, sounded almost shocked upon announcing the winner. Normally, the commies get off scott free in Hollywood, as such leanings hit a little too close to home. Not that anyone in Hollywood is now or has ever been a member of the Communist Party, mind you.

There was another unusual instance, this time of patriotism, when actress Helen Mirren accepted the award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen. When Mirren spoke of the Queen's dignity and dedication (something that would be unheard of here in the United States in reference to the office of the president), she was met with an uncomfortable silence. Patriotism of any sort, in this case British, is not typically well-received in Hollywood. It's not as if making millions off one's own country is something to be thankful for or anything.

With a few exceptions, this year's Academy Awards again demonstrated that Hollywood is little more than a mutual admiration society. And if one's politics lean leftward, it sure doesn't hurt. Stay tuned next year for more of the same old, same old.

Cinnamon Stillwell is a columnist for SFGate.com, the online arm of the San Francisco Chronicle, and a contributing editor to FamilySecurityMatters.org. Contact Cinnamon and read her website and blog.