Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Whodathunkit?-- The Oscars: The 3 Best Things You REALLY Want to know about the 81st Annual Academy Awards!

This week on Sunday will mark the 81st Annual "Academy Awards," an event which is billed on their website as "The Biggest Movie Event of The Year," a declaration that comes just before a guy whose voice I almost recognize (Kevin Costner? No...) does a Hyundai commercial, which itself comes just before a guy who I completely fail to recognize talks about "The Road To the Oscars."

So apparently it's the Hyundai 81st Annual Academy Awards Brought To You By Hyundai, judging from the abundance of road and driving metaphors. (next up: We put the parking brake on some celebrities' plans to attend the awards, while ensuring that "Benjamin Buttons" has the highest safety rating according to Consumer Reports, just like a certain car that rhymes with Myundai.)

This week on Sunday will also mark approximately the 38th time that I don't watch the Academy Awards; this year, I'm not even planning on tuning in for bits and pieces here and there. I just don't care much who wins these awards, and I can't stand sitting through acceptance speech after acceptance speech, and then various montages that I never get the point of. One year when I watched a bit, I'm pretty sure they showed a montage of Navy scenes. I have no idea why, but I distinctly recall Kelsey Grammar in a sailor's suit.

As I'm writing this, that web video is still playing in another window on my computer and they talked with the costume designer of The Curious Case Of Benjamin Buttons. I'm fascinated with the job of costume designer, and here's why: They put an incredible amount of effort into something that most people don't notice and wouldn't care about if they could, and if the people do notice then I think they're ridiculous.

This past week, for example, Entertainment Weekly had a little piece on how to buy the mittens that Bella wore in the rapidly-collapsing film/book empire that is the Twilight series, about which I will say this: Is there any chance that the next film will be made while the fans of the series are still into it? Probably not, given that the girl who stars in it has apparently been cast in the sequel to "Pineapple Express."

Anyway, Entertainment Weekly noted that the mittens had been found by the costume designer in some store or other way up in Oregon or Wyoming or one of those places where I assume sea otters live and everyone talks about salmon. That store is out of business now, but Entertainment Weekly helpfully pointed out where you might find duplicates.

Costume designers may have a lot to do when they're working on, say, a period piece about Marie Antoinette. But costume designers for movies that take place in the present day? When I read articles about these things (and for some reason, I do read articles about them) costume designers are always telling stories about how they found just the right earrings for Isla Fisher. Well, they'll say I went to a tiny village in Guatamala which is only accessible by burro. From there, I had to descend into an abandoned cave that took me down to the third level of Hades, where I made a deal with Charon to allow me to dip my hand into Styx for just a moment in exchange for a kiss, and I came up with those earrings, which, as it turns out, were worn once by Mary Todd Lincoln. Who'd've expected HER to be in Hades?

Then Entertainment Weekly would point out that you could get earrings that are close to that at K-Mart.

Which is my point here: What's wrong with just running over to Wal-Mart to get some stuff for your character? When someone's got to get mittens for Bella...

...and last night, running some errands, I saw a license plate that read BELLA9, and I got irritated and thought who liked that movie enough to put "BELLA" on their plates, and then got more irritated because apparently nine people did, but then I noticed that it was a veteran's plate and I thought maybe "BELLA9" was some kind of military code, so I felt bad about my irritation because I want to support our troops, but then I thought there's no reason it can't be a veteran who really liked "Twilight" so I was kind of irritated and kind of guilty, a situation I resolved by going home...

... when someone's got to get mittens for Bella, do they have to jump into their SUV and go through the old-growth forests to a mom-and-pop store near the Puget Sound? Or could they simply go down the street to Wal-Mart and pick some up and give those to Smoky? Or do they do that -- do they go to Wal-Mart and get the mittens and then hang out at home for 2 weeks and then go back to Spielberg's office and show him the mittens with an elaborate story about how they got the mittens? Is that why these stores they found the mittens are always out of business now?

I think I'm on to something here. Specifically, I'm onto a new thriller: The Costumer -- A costume designer who bilks studios out of millions with audacious tales about her exploits becomes the subject of a biopic -- only when the filmmakers try to track down some of the places she says she's bought costumes, they discover that none of them exist! I'm picturing what's-her-name, Queen Amidala in the lead. Natalie Portman. Yeah, her.

With that overly-long introduction -- modeled, itself, after the Academy Awards -- it's time for the second TBOE installment of Whodathunkit? This time, I'll be presenting

Whodathunkit?-- The Oscars:
The 3 Best Things You REALLY Want to know about the 81st Annual Academy Awards!

1. Don't tell the stars, but the "red carpet" isn't really an honor: The celebs traditionally walk into the theater on a "red carpet," being honored for their contributions to the arts -- contributions like Hotel for Dogs. Which I'm sure is a movie that would hold anyone's interest for... wait, I dozed off typing that.

It's hard to see why the "red carpet" is considered an honor, though, when in reality walking on that carpet is actually likely to offend the gods and bring punishment on you -- which explains how Brad Pitt got stuck with Angelina Jolie.

The first known instance of someone walking on a red carpet came when Agamemnon did it back in something-or-other B.C. Agamemnon had just returned from a stunning Greek victory over the Trojans -- a Greek victory achieved, in part, because the Gods were upset with Paris for not recognizing the sanctity of marriage...

... are you seeing the Brangelina connection here?...

...and upon returning home, Agamemnon was greeted by his wife Clytemnestra (these names are criminally underused these days, especially given how stars are always looking for unusual names. Instead of Kal-El Cage, why not Agamemnon Cage?) Clytemnestra rolled out the red carpet for Agamemnon, literally; she pressures him to enter his house walking upon a red carpet, even though he doesn't want to do it. She keeps at him and finally he gives in and walks along the carpet, offending the gods in doing so, an offense that somehow ends up with Agamemnon being murdered in his bathtub.

Which is why Brad Pitt always looks so dirty these days.

Clytemnestra wasn't done, though. She also forced Cassandra to be a slave and defended her murder by claiming that Zeus had acted through her body, absolving her of guilt. She thinks that Zeus did that to punish Agamemnon. Why would Zeus, who'd just helped Agamemnon beat the Trojans, want to punish him? Because Agamemnon's father had cooked his own children and fed them to Agamemnon.

Why weren't we studying this stuff in high school?

Will Agamemnon's son Orestes exact justice on Clytemnestra for her exacting justice on Agamemnon after he exacted justice on Paris and the Trojans? Would "Exacting Justice" be a great title for a crime show? Will this be a storyline on an episode of CSI: Miami next season? Stay tuned!

. The Curious Case of Benjamin... I mean, Max Tivoli... I mean Merlin... I mean Jonathan Winters in a Baby Bonnet... I mean... Newsweek, in a major scoop this week, talked to the man who wrote a story about a man who lives backwards in time. No, they didn't talk to F. Scott Fitzgerald (although I understand that a costume designer for the movie Benjamin Buttons went to the south of France and held a seance where F. Scott Fitzgerald appeared and passed along, from the afterlife, the tie he was wearing -- a tie worn by a doctor in the background of the opening scene!)(You can find a similar tie at J. Crew, sans ectoplasm.)

Instead, they talked to Andrew Sean Greer, who in February 2004 published The Confession of Max Tivoli, a book described as "an utterly original love story." Only it wasn't "utterly original," because it was about a guy who is born looking 70 and whose body ages in reverse as his mind grows up. Greer in Newsweek denies having ever read Fitzgerald's story, but that doesn't mean anything, because neither Fitzgerald's nor Greer's story were the only stories about people who age backwards; it's actually a pretty common theme going back to... you guessed it, the Greek gods.

Other characters in movies and literature who have aged backwards include "Mearth," the baby that Mork and Mindy had in their fourth season. The completely-inaptly named "Mearth" was was played by Jonathan Winters, who as an Orkan, aged backwards -- like all of them did, including his teacher, "Miss Geezba."

Then there was Merlin, who throughout literature was said to age backwards, too -- giving him the ability to tell the future becuase he'd lived through it.

And Piers Anthony wrote a series of very well-done, very creative books called Incarnations of Immortality in which one of the characters was Chronos, aka, "Father Time," whose office was held by a series of mortals who would, upon becoming the incarnation of time, age backwards until their birth.

So did they all copy from Fitzgerald? Probably not -- since way way back in Greek days, the Greeks believed that old age and death would come to everyone except the gods-- but kept up hope because they believed, too, that at some point the universe would stop revolving forwards and instead would begin revolving backwards causing time to reverse so that the dead would rise and begin living backwards through old age, then adulthood, then youth, until they disappeared.

Which brings up this important question: When Superman decided to fly around the Earth to make time move backwards and save Lois Lane's life, don't you think he should have announced to the world that he was going to do that, so that everybody would have a chance to undo something terrible that had just happened?

Because it seems kind of selfish for him to get to undo his mistake but we all still had to live with having dropped our ice cream cones.

3. Want to see what it's like to be a celebrity on the red carpet? With Google Street View, you can put yourself right outside where the theater is supposed to be, but it takes some work -- because if you go back to that Oscars official website to find out where, exactly, the whole shebang is held, and learn that it's the "Kodak Theater," (and also learn that they have a clock counting down, by the second, the time until the show starts) and then go to Google Maps and type in "Kodak Theater," you won't go right to the Kodak Theater area. Instead, Google Maps diverts you to an alley labeled "1712 Orchid Avenue," which I thought might be the location where regular folks who try to see the red carpet get thrown after they're beat up by the goons that protect Brangelina, given that it looks like a parking lot and has no apparent connection to the Kodak Theater.

With some work and some mouse-clicking I was able to Googulate (that's google + perambulate, and it's my word for getting around in Google maps) over to where the Kodak Theater was supposed to be, but all I could find was a Gap store.

From which I deduce that shopping at the Gap is exactly like walking down the red carpet. Unless you're Agamemnon, that is, in which case shopping at the Gap is worse.

But why spend all that time googulating -- that's fun to say! -- to the Gap, when instead, you could check out some of the far better views that Google Street View has to offer. And you don't even have to go through the time consuming work of finding them. This site has 15 pretty good ones (including The Void), but this site appears to be a compilation of the best of them -- "best" being a relative term, given that one thing they show right on the front page is Steve Wozniak's garage. (Wozniak makes the list in that first site, too, making him the Brangelina of Google nerds.) You can tell they're nerds because they got so excited about girls in swimsuits that they couldn't even hit Spellcheck. (Unless tannging is a verb I'm unfamiliar with?)

All that looking at Street View has given me a great idea for a new Internet pasttime, which I have just invented and which I will try as soon as I have no other productive things of any sort to do, but here it is. I give you...

The GoogleAbout!

A GoogleAbout is done by picking a random spot on Google Street View and then trying to find your way back home from there -- staying in street view the whole time. It's like a virtual walkabout without all the shoe leather/actual exercise -- which means more time for gaining valuable insight into your life, or civilization, or humankind, or whatever. Or, at the least, less time spent actually doing your job. Wander from a tiny mitten store in Portland back to Madison, Wisconsin. Walk out of your own house and head for Emporia, Kansas. Why? Why not? What will you encounter on the way? Tannging girls? Mysterious voids? Gap stores hosting awards shows? Or, more wondrous and mysterious and life affirming/question answering still, this:

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lisapepin said...

I seem to remember reading that Julius Cesar hired a guy to stand behind him during processions and whisper in his ear "You are but a mortal man," so that, in the glow of the crowd's adoration, he wouldn't accidentally forget and offend the gods. I'd like to see some of that at the Oscars.

Briane P said...

I think just the opposite is happening there.