The Oscars

The stars aren’t sexy. I’m not talking about physical appearance, I’m talking in advertising terms. They’re no longer special. They’ve been demoted image-wise. And traditional media doesn’t want to admit this.

Want to know who’s a star? Greta Thunberg. Because she believes what she says, irrelevant of whether you agree or not.

You see the generations have changed and this is unfathomable to boomers and Gen-X’ers. Because they remember when.

Call it the internet. Sly Stone had it right, everybody is a star. Actors in momentary pictures can’t compete. Even Kim Kardashian is being eclipsed. Because the paradigm changed. TikTok is all about being real, testifying, and the movie stars were never real, they were built by the studios for the audience to adore.

And we did.

The Oscars used to be a ritual. Not only because of the movies, but because we got to see the stars. This was rare. We had no access to them. Now we have access to everybody. Everybody’s on the same plane except for the billionaires. They’re the ones people look up to, or look down on today. Because they’ve got enough money to do it their way, to write the rules, and it’s always about the rules.

Talk to a Gen-Z’er, ask them what is hot. Chances are they’ll mention a TikTokker or YouTube influencer you’ve never heard of. But they spend hours with these people, it’s like they’re friends. We never thought we were friends with the movie stars, never ever.

I didn’t bother to watch the Oscars. I stopped about seven or eight years ago, when I was traveling and couldn’t tune in…and realized I wasn’t missing anything.

And the only people talking to me about the movies were oldsters. It’d crack me up when my contemporaries told me they went to the movies. Really? You took all that time? When there’s so much entertainment at your fingertips in your house? You drove, parked, sat through previews and commercials because..? It’s kind of like baseball, the younger generation decided it wasn’t interested. It was too slow, they didn’t grow up with the game, they had no allegiance. Everything has a time frame, everything is superseded, but many people can’t accept this, that their time is gone.

Before he became a pariah, Woody Allen was a genius. Whose girlfriend was Diane Keaton, who was not only beautiful, but had her own unique identity. Remember when women started wearing vests? Keaton started that. The two were exotic, and you had no access to them whatsoever. You could only see them on screen, Allen famously didn’t even go to the Oscar show. He thought competition in the arts was a fool’s errand, an artificial construct placed upon that which cannot be judged. I agree, but that’s not the point. We hungered for more information. They put out a double album of Allen’s early standup routines. We couldn’t get enough. We salivated for more. Today we’ve got too much, of not only the individual, but everything.

And the movies themselves are not visceral enough.

Driving home from hiking just now I heard the theme to “Midnight Express” on Casey Kasem’s Top 40 Countdown from this week in 1979. Man was that movie a big deal. It was directed by Alan Parker, who was not known for special effects, but story. And Giorgio Moroder was at his peak. His time passed too. But for a moment there he was everywhere. We hungered for more, there were stories about the real Billy Hayes. We wondered if we’d take the same risk. Then again, this was when the goal of a college student was to spend a summer in Europe, bumming around. Airfares were cheap and so were the lodgings. I remember sleeping twenty to a room, on cots. Kids today wouldn’t stand for that. But they also see no reason to go to Europe. Why? They’re already in college, they don’t have to build their resumé, it won’t help them get a job…

I’m not saying they should stop making movies, then again they’re so much less satisfying than series. There’s more buzz on series than movies. I mean how many people have told you about “Ted Lasso”? And let’s be clear, they paid for that too!

And unlike Giorgio Moroder’s theme from “Midnight Express,” the songs nominated for Oscars today were not hits, we’ve never heard them, how great can they be? It’s like the Oscars are a sideshow. And Tom Cruise didn’t even show up. Jack Nicholson knew showing up and being cool was part of his image, it made him even more cool. But in real life, Tom Cruise isn’t cool. A cooler person is Kelly McGillis, a star of the first “Top Gun” who wasn’t called back for the sequel, she said she looked like a regular sixtysomething woman. She’d moved on. Tom Cruise looks barely older than he was during the first film. What’s there to believe in?

And we all want something to believe in.

And the change is we believe in ourselves. We think we can do it, we can make it. First and foremost, we’ve got the tools, and they’re free, or close thereto. Anybody can put music on streaming services, and post to TikTok. And if you’re innovative enough, you too can be famous, maybe only in your own town, but… And there are people just like you who got rich online. They’re not nepo-babies. They didn’t start with a leg up. They made it purely on their wits.

Of course there are people who worship BTS. And Taylor Swift. And even the aforementioned Kim Kardashian. But they’re young, looking for something to hold on to, they haven’t been disillusioned yet.

That’s the flip side. Sure, you can become rich and famous, but odds are low. And you’ve got a low-paying job. And everybody with a brain doesn’t even go into the arts. It’s not the zenith of culture. That’s the economic titans. The revolutionaries delivering exotica to us virtually, instantly. Come on, ChatGPT is cooler than any movie, any record. Forget the blowback from the media, about its imperfections. We’ve been hearing about AI for a decade, and here it is. And it can write your school paper and… Wow, that changes things.

And I’m down on Elon Musk, but he did change an entire industry. Elon Musk made the electric car the standard, all over the world, a decade from now the only gas guzzlers you’ll see on the road will be old, passé.

So the Oscars are a circle jerk. Almost like the Wizard of Oz. We’re supposed to be overwhelmed, impressed, but when the curtain parts, when we see the people behind the show…they’re not giants, they’re very small, and they’re flawed.

I don’t care if the ratings go up. They won’t double. All awards shows have this problem. The stars are not as big as they used to be. And we can see them all the time online. What’s so special about the show?


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