Sunday, March 7, 2010

Wanna watch the Oscars? Don't Wait for Mickey Mouse

By Steve Evans

Millions of Cablevision customers will not be able to watch the annual Academy Awards ceremony tonight due to a pissing contest between Cablevision and the Walt Disney company, which owns the ABC network that broadcasts the Oscars.

Cablevision says Disney wants $40 million more annually to provide service to the cable system, while revealing that the company already pays the House of Mouse $200 million per year for its programming. The pinstripe suits over at Disney argue that Cablevision puts the touch on customers for $18 each per month for basic cable but doesn't kick up a tribute to Disney.

That leaves Oscar fans (and a dwindling number of ABC programming fans) in the dark.

What to do? Well, you could boot-scoot over to Radio Shack double quick and snag an antenna and a digital TV converter box, dropping about $75 in the process. ABC is still on the free-to-air list of broadcasting stations if you have an antenna and the right gear to connect it with. Then hook up the hardware and position the aerial so you can enjoy awkward speeches, overwrought dance numbers, and Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin trading scripted jokes.

Or just get a good night's sleep and take my word for it: "Up in the Air" will win Best Picture and Oscar nom Mo'Nique will wake up Monday morning as fat and coarse as ever. Check her out in "Beerfest" for an exercise in jaw-dropping incredulousness, then shag over to a nearby multiplex when you're ready for real cinema and scope out Martin Scorsese's "Shutter Island," which truly has something to say.

James Cameron's computer-generated cartoon "Avatar" and his ex-wife's (Kathryn Bigelow's) war flick "The Hurt Locker" are vying for Best Picture. Forget it. "Avatar" will cop a little anatomically incorrect gold man for special effects. Bigelow might waltz offstage with a Best Director Oscar, although my money is on either Jason Reitman for "Up in the Air" or Quentin Tarantino for his audacious, ridiculous and hugely entertaining World War II revenge-fantasy, "Inglourious Basterds," for which Cristoph Waltz will most assuredly win Best Supporting Actor. If there was an award for silliest Italian accent, Brad Pitt would also take home a prize for his amusing work in "Basterds."

A rather lame year for American movies, as it turns out. Where's the fun in pictures anymore? Where's the substance? The gravitas? Well, dear, it's parked firmly in the past, mostly in black and white. Italian neo-realism. German Expressionism. "The Third Man" and films noir. Hitchcock. Kubrick. Jean Renoir. And other dead heroes of mine whose visions transcend culture, time and space to achieve immortality.

Yes, watching the Oscars in 2010 is nothing more than an excuse to wolf down spinach and artichoke dip and chug mediocre Chardonnay or metallic-tasting American beer in aluminum cans while celebrating cinematic mediocrity in all its money-generating forms. Just like the Super Bowl.

Me? Tonight I'll be watching reruns of Penn & Teller's "Bullshit!" -- a show that has more to say about America than Upton Sinclair and the Founding Fathers before him could ever fathom. When it comes down to freedom of expression, I'll take a couple of sharp dudes calling dumb people "motherfuckers" and "assholes" over anything else passing itself off as popular entertainment today.


Cinema Uprising copyright (c) 2010 by Cinematic Cteve. All rights reserved.

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