Reminders like this are why I feel so apathetic towards American life lately. The less I follow the so-called news, which is a bunch of baloney, the better. What in the world do I care about dead playmates, doped-up aging teeny-boppers, or what movie is going to win an Oscar when ex-coworkers of mine are getting shot at on a daily basis?
I found this article at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,2019344,00.html
Better dump the Oscars
It’s an embarrassment that we pause for movie awards – and treat war and peace as a game show.
Friday February 23, 2007
We are in the culture of “non-binding decisions”. What I mean by that is that, at this moment, you can measure the hallucinatory experience of living in the US according to a range of decisions that don’t matter. For instance, who is the father of Anna Nicole Smith’s baby? Who will win American Idol? Will Barry Bonds take over the home-run record of Henry Aaron? How high will the sea level rise if global warning sets in? And, this week, what is going to win best picture at the Oscars on Sunday?
Anything else you can think of? Oh yes, do we support the “surge” in Iraq, or not? Don’t worry over your answers; we don’t worry any more. It’s more than anyone in America can endure, to ask the people to live in real doubt or agony. Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon were ruined by leading in war, you could see it and feel it in their beings. Bush is still a kid, riding high on his own “non-binding decisions”.
It’s not that the questions I have listed are without resonance. If you are Anna Nicole’s child you are going to care, and there are lawyers who will care for you in advance with over $400m at issue. You can dismiss Barry Bonds as someone who has already done his bit to destroy the integrity of baseball and its records. You can say, seriously, that there isn’t a movie this year worthy of best picture – apart from the German film, The Lives of Others. And, yes, you can say that Iraq matters a lot, as well as global warming.
But this is a culture where any cursory examination of the media as February closes shows the inordinate amount of money being spent to praise this movie or that performance. The language offered by the House and Senate on Iraq – the decision to make their votes “non-binding” – is part and parcel of the pusillanimous fear over all decisions. One way of measuring a nation or culture in decline is to point to its preference for frivolous decisions over important ones, and to its degrading of its own important choices.
You see, it doesn’t matter whether Peter O’Toole or Forest Whitaker wins best actor. I’m a film critic and I think that O’Toole’s old man in Venus means more to more of us than Whitaker’s clever but somehow irrelevant Idi Amin. I agree you can’t compare performances. I would happily abandon the Oscars. I am fond of O’Toole and I could bear to see his decrepit elegance hanging on a stick as he utters a sweet word of thanks. O’Toole might be magnificent. But it doesn’t matter. He could as easily die with eight rejections as seven.
It matters that we got into Iraq, all of us. It matters, enormously so, that our “intelligence” led us there, or was led. And in any rational society there would have been firings and resignations in those areas to make the troops shudder. It matters that from the outset we sent troops in without language, a plan, local knowledge or body armour. It matters that our leader said, let’s have a war over the most serious issue of our time but don’t let’s act serious about it – don’t let us tax ourselves more gravely, don’t let us have a draft, don’t let us ask for universal service. Let’s “surge” instead of think. Let’s pass over as fit only for praise that 3,000 of our troops have been killed, 20,000 maimed and unknown numbers of bystanders wiped out. Let’s act as if it’s a game show. Don’t, under any circumstances, upset the American public.
It is an embarrassment that we pause for the Oscars, as well as an anachronism – the great majority of the public gave up the habit of movie-going a long time ago. And it is monstrous and disastrous that we play footsie with non-binding decisions.
· David Thomson is author of The New Biographical Dictionary of Film