Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The State of the Union v. Oscar Nominations

Last night's State of the Union address began appropriately enough by marking the historic occasion of a President addressing a female Speaker of the House. From there it drifted into a feel-good, fact-less, national pep talk that could have originated from the middle of the road of any political party.

Bush has, apparently, just discovered that there are millions of Americans with no health coverage, and that health care costs have been destroying families and lives. Oh, and it seems that making a lot of pollution isn't very good for the environment either. But, by-golly-gosh, we're Americans and we work together to solve all of this, yes-siree!

The speech seemed to be nearly over by the time there was any mention that we might be in the midst of a quagmire. Excuse me, a war against evil. But we're just doing a swell job there, too, if we can just approach it with the same determination that's fixing all those domestic issues we just discussed.

All was swell, and without controversy, on the surface. Just don't scratch the surface too deep. For one thing (reports the Washington Post) Bush's description of "the enemy" was full of misdirection and outright lies. His blending of events and situations into one incohesive mass is typified is such quotes as "The Shia and Sunni extremists are different faces of the same totalitarian threat."
At one point, Bush catalogued what he described as advances in the quest for freedom in the Middle East during 2005 -- such as the departure of Syrian troops from Lebanon and elections in Iraq. Then, Bush asserted, "a thinking enemy watched all of these scenes, adjusted their tactics and in 2006 they struck back." But his description of the actions of "the enemy" tried to tie together a series of diplomatic and military setbacks that had virtually no connection to one another, from an attack on a Sunni mosque in Iraq to the assassination of Maronite Lebanese political figure.
Oh, and there were contradictions in his alternative energy plan too.

Meanwhile, the Oscar nominations (full list here) were all controversy on the surface, but logical and sound choices at the core. The big controversy is that Dreamgirls received the most nominations, over-all, but was snubbed in the Best Picture category.

This supposed snub is, presumably, a result of the latent racism of the Academy and Hollywood in general. Some of these racial snubs in the past may indeed have been unfair, this time, however, I don't buy it.

I loved Dreamgirls. I thought it was a wonderful movie, and certainly one of my favorites of the past year. The nominations it received were all well-deserved and I expect to see a few winners out of the group. But "best picture?" The performances (especially the supporting performances) were great. The art direction, production design, and music all worked together to bring the picture to life. But "best picture?"

I expected it to get a nomination in that category, because of all that went right with the film, but would have been disappointed if it won because of what went wrong. Mainly, the way the story fell apart at the end. Too many loose pieces and disjointed elements were conveniently washed away in order to bring all the characters into the big finale together.

And, as good as Beyonce and Jamie Foxx were, having a "supporting" cast (Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy) that could out-sing, out-act, and consistently up-stage them also took it out of the running.

So, let's see... The State of the Union versus the Oscar Nominations... which was more exciting? The envelope please... And the award goes to... Oscar Nominations!

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