lundi, février 28, 2005

Considering Simplicity and Humility the Day After the Academy Awards

Is everything political?

How does the old saying go? Everything is politics, but politics is not everything. So true. Still, the staff here at ILIM watched the 70th-something Academy Awards last night, and we have to share our reaction. Hint: it’s a political reaction.

First, how long will Hollywood continue to deny the massacre in Rwanda? How long? How long must we sing this song?

We’re being silly there as a way of not mentioning that the godless pagans in Hollywood pitched Jesus an awful shutout last night. When will they figure it out? FYI: although we did not see “The Passion of the Christ” we feel that giving it an award would have been a lot like prayer. It may or may not help, but it definitely won’t hurt (and it might make you feel better).

We also have not seen “The Aviator”, but somehow we felt the film was robbed. Maybe a movie buff can explain to us how a film can win just about everything it was nominated for, but not be the best film. Please don’t tell us that the award selections are political!

We DID see “Million Dollar Baby” and we liked it better when it was called “Shawkshank Redemption” – at least at the end of “Shawshank Redemption” the (successful and glamorized) white guy honored his friendship to the (less successful and less glamorized) black guy. “Million Dollar Baby” is a fine film, but trust me when I tell you that when we look back on 2004, the Year in Film, we will not be talking about MDB. We’ll be talking about “Sideways” and “Fahrenheit 9/11.” Trust me.

So, here’s our brief but big political essay on the Academy Awards:

Lately, in our conversations with friends, we’ve been talking a lot about simplicity and about humility. Now, even the curmudgeonly staff here at ILIM is not advocating for an end to the largesse and bling of the Academy Awards. Sure, it's fun to see the famous decked out in finery. There should be Versace dresses, and there should be Harry Winston necklaces. In fact, Mrs. Duf deserves a Harry Winston necklace (though his average piece costs more than our house and her chances of getting one in this lifetime are even smaller than her interest in having one). But let's talk about all this largesse and what it means. What we need is a thesis.

HERE’S OUR THESIS: does our societal willingness (nay, eagerness) to embrace excess undermine our ability to challenge it? I think you can guess what we think here at ILIM.

Case in point: on our favorite television show, Nancy Giles (on whom we have a tremendous (though respectful) crush) had a wonderful commentary about the gifts that are given out during Academy Awards show. Everyone who presents an award and everyone who is nominated for an award (or perhaps just major nominees) receives a gift bag worth about $110,000.

I know what you're thinking: "hey Duf, jealous much?" Well, no. I got a gift bag at the AA party (here, AA = Academy Awards, believe me, there was plenty of booze) I went to last night. Here are the contents:

2 minature Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

One black Paper Mate ink pen (disposable, ball size medium)

One red, white and blue "United We Stand" pencil (with a red white and blue star eraser at the top - yes, it's meant to be tongue-in-cheek)

One plastic black cat (approximate size 1" long by 1/2" tall)

One miniature Hershey's Milk chocolate bar

One miniature Hershey's Dark chocolate bar

One Superbowl XXXIX napking (yes, it's meant to be tongue-in-cheek)

One cool, light-blue clothespin

One clementine

One sheet of dolphin stickers (with 14 dolphin stickers)

One "fresh cut grass" scented candle (smells good - way better than my lawn post-mow)

One refrigerator magnet which features a ponderous woman and reads "Whatever shall I do?"

One refrigerator magnet which features three women on a swing set and reads "Mood Swing."

And yes, we understand that not everything is driven by need. Wanting things is fun too. For all my talk about simplicity and humility, I want a lakeshore cabin in either Northern Minnesota or Northern Wisconsin and a Saab 9-5 (turbo). And, no, not every event needs a party pooper on site to remind everyone that while Johnny Depp looks really bad in a really expensive suit, there are people who are naked and hungry. But can we crave a sense of balance? Must everything be irretrievably vulgar?

Here at ILIM, as we watched the AA, we yearned for two things: first, we yearned for all of our entertainment media to consider how they might use their elevated profile to directly benefit others. The PGA, LPGA and SPGA are excellent examples. Almost all pro golf tour stops are tied to charity so that the events support local organizations which in turn support the underprivileged or disadvantaged or differently abled. The events themselves are still devoted to glitz and glam, but out of it all, there is room for some really positive work to be done. There is no moment where the tournament is disrupted to bring everybody down. We wish that all events, the NBA, the NFL, the Academy Awards, rock concerts etc. would look for ways to use their profile to benefit others.

Second, of course, we yearn for a world where the need for our entertainment industries to also serve the poor is diminished or non-existent. This could happen in two ways: first, the present Administration could do more to support the underprivileged (the Bush Budget was a disgrace, there is no other word – cut aid to the poor to fund the tax cuts to the rich, broken promises on Workfare and on No Child Left Behind, no money in the budget for the war against Afghanistan or the war against Iraq (which make the budget a dishonest one), but mainly deep social cuts that directly impact the lives of the citizens who can least bear additional cuts).

Once more with the Wellstone quote “government exists to make people’s lives better.”

Second, the need for supporting charities with our glamorous entertainment will be diminished when we achieve that utopian dream where need is eliminated.

Until that day, as Nancy Giles pointed out so eloquently, we should get more from our opportunities. Because she gave me the idea for this post, I’ll let her conclude.

"Forget the red states and the blue states. Here's how the country's really divided: one country where the rich and famous are given carte blanche and don't even pay to have their own wrinkles filled in; and the other country where the rest of us schmos pay our taxes, get parking tickets, and hope for a sale. Around 125 Oscar goody bags, last year's estimated value: $110,000 a piece. Do the math. That's more than $13 million of stuff that could really help people, organizations, and communities who actually need it."