March 17, 2006

Schadenfreude Friday Part II

Last Friday, I brought you a tale of woe from the Thomas Kinkade camp. I have to guiltily admit, I thoroughly enjoyed witnessing the Painter Of Light suffering so. This week, it's author Annie Proulx's turn to implode in front of us all.

Last weekend, Annie unleashed a rather scathing rant regarding the loss of Brokeback Mountain, based on a short story she authored, at the Academy Awards. While the piece is quite well-written, she only succeeds in making herself look like a selfish, 70-year old brat.

Roughly 6,000 film industry voters, most in the Los Angeles area, many living cloistered lives behind wrought-iron gates or in deluxe rest-homes, out of touch not only with the shifting larger culture and the yeasty ferment that is America these days, but also out of touch with their own segregated city, decide which films are good. And rumour has it that Lions Gate inundated the academy voters with DVD copies of Trash - excuse me - Crash a few weeks before the ballot deadline.

If Annie is claiming that Hollywood is out of touch with the rest of the world, well, no shit. And "segregated city"? Funny. The way she describes L.A. is the way the folks who came up with Crash described L.A. Which is odd, since the elements of racism and class the movie brought out are, in actuality, quite representative of the problems faced across the country, at least as I see it. It's at least as relevant as gay cowboys.

From the first there was an atmosphere of insufferable self-importance emanating from "the show" which, as the audience was reminded several times, was televised and being watched by billions of people all over the world. Those lucky watchers could get up any time they wished and do something worthwhile, like go to the bathroom.

Annie needs to decide something here. Either an Academy Award is something of honor, in which case she has the right to be disappointed, or they're a farce, a popularity contest, a masturbatory exercise amongst a small group of self-important people, in which case, why would she care if she lost?

You can't have it both ways, Annie. You can't believe that we'll feel your pain if you turn around and diminish the importance of whatever it is you hoped to win. I, for instance, don't particularly like the idea of blog awards. I've been nominated for a few, even won a few, and both experiences were nice. But, personally, I think they're kind of silly. Now, if I turned around and bashed a particular blogging award I was nominated for and lost knowing that, you'd think I was a spoiled, insufferable human being, right? If the shoe fits, Annie...

And that was it, three awards, putting it on equal footing with King Kong. When Jack Nicholson said best picture went to Crash, there was a gasp of shock, and then applause from many - the choice was a hit with the home team since the film is set in Los Angeles. It was a safe pick of "controversial film" for the heffalumps.

I didn't see the gay cowboy movie. I didn't see any of them with the exception of Crash, which I thought was slightly less than safe. And who cares? Movie makers aren't mandated to solve societal problems. They're not required to tackle controversial subjects. Movies are made, first and foremost, to entertain.

With the exception of her column in The Guardian, I've never read anything by Annie. I hear she's an excellent writer. Pity I'll never find out. Grace, like writing, is a talent. A talent Annie doesn't have. She might be right about a few things. But she sure didn't help herself by throwing a verbal temper tantrum in front of a public she deemed shallow to begin with.

Posted by Chris at March 17, 2006 7:35 AM

HAH! Got here first, I haven't read the post yet, I just wanted to be the first commenter!!!!

Posted by: doobyus at March 17, 2006 7:37 AM

We here in the boonies call that poor sportsmanship. You're absolutely correct, Chris. I didn't see either movie and I confess to not having seen the Oscars, but now I can say that I'm glad things turned out the way they did. What a baby.

Posted by: Contary at March 17, 2006 7:38 AM

She is, indeed, a fine writer. Put her huffiness to the side and read Shipping News. Anyway... the yeasty ferment that is America these days? Beer or thrush? Whichever, it's a good line.

Posted by: doobyus at March 17, 2006 7:41 AM

Before I read that article, I really liked her... but what she wrote there makes me want to take her aside like I do my daughter and explain that being a poor loser isn't the way that we do things around here.

Posted by: amber at March 17, 2006 7:53 AM

I like this line: "Either an Academy Award is something of honor, in which case she has the right to be disappointed, or they're a farce, a popularity contest, a masturbatory exercise amongst a small group of self-important people, in which case, why would she care if she lost?"

And this line: "Grace, like writing, is a talent."

I just sat here and nodded in agreement with you as I read... And you my friend seem to have both the talent of writing... and grace.

Posted by: Amber at March 17, 2006 7:56 AM

Oh, yeah, that was ugly. Maybe she's going senile?

Posted by: Kris at March 17, 2006 7:57 AM

Is my wife hitting on you? Slut.

Posted by: doobyus at March 17, 2006 8:16 AM

If she's going senile, then the family members, and her editor, need to "take away the car keys"!

I look at things from a business perspective. I have a job where I try to sell the most things to get recognition/commission/bonus. If I don't win, I work harder the next time.

Sorry if her "product" takes longer to get to shelves than mine, but she still needs to recognize and respect the process in which she participates.

Maybe she's getting up in years and she's afraid she's not going to have another chance to win an award--just due to sheer time. Well, if that's the case, and she had expressed it that way, I'd be a lot more sympathetic to her situation...but I'd STILL say, "Try, try again."

Posted by: kristen at March 17, 2006 8:17 AM

I was really disappointed when I read that article earlier in the week. Her parting line really made me laugh: "For those who call this little piece a Sour Grapes Rants, play it as it lays."; as if it's something more. I can't help but feel like she just Tom Cruise'd herself.

Posted by: Jenn at March 17, 2006 8:20 AM

what a little baby.
so..she didn't win the oscar. big fucking deal. it was still a fabulous movie written by a great writer. only now, it's a fabulous movie written by an ass.

Posted by: ali at March 17, 2006 8:29 AM

I read this article in my local paper this morning. I couldn't believe it.

She has pretty much killed any interest I had in watching Brokeback Mountain.

Posted by: Allan at March 17, 2006 8:32 AM

i read her letter earlier this week and had the same thoughts (although certainly not as eloquently put...mine was more "sore-loser much?" but you get the idea =P)

The Shipping News is well worth a read, despite what you may think now of the author. Other than that, I've not read much of her work. I did enjoy Brokeback Mountain, and it is about much more than just simply gay cowboys, but I wasn't shocked or heartbroken that it didn't win. It was a very good movie. But so was Crash.

Posted by: suze at March 17, 2006 8:36 AM

hear freakin' hear. When I first read her diatribe, I immediately thought "well take your damn ball and go HOME then"

Posted by: cristin in NJ at March 17, 2006 8:40 AM

I think Annie forgot to take her meds. All this brouhaha over "Brokeback" not winning Best Picture is making me really NOT want to see it. I RARELY agree with the "Best Picture" winner...but this year I was thrilled. Not because I think "Crash" is a masterpiece, but because of the message it tried to convey. Here's the part that really galls me: if "Brokeback" had won and the "Crash" supporters started claiming that the reason "Crash" lost was because this country still doesn't want to deal with racism, the "Brokeback" fans would claim that they were just sore losers. But somehow they don't seem to get that that's exactly what they sound like.

Posted by: Marilyn at March 17, 2006 8:50 AM

The ONLY writing by Prouxl that I've ever been able to get through is Brokeback Mountain. I've tried on numerous occasions to get into her writing but, though the writing is good, I can't ever seem to get into the rhythm and tone of her books.

After reading Brokeback I'd made a mental note to give her another chance, this poor ungraceful showing makes me unwilling now to pick up any of her books.

You know what kills me? All the people that are ranting and moaning about how bad Crash is, where were all these people when the movie first came out or even when the Oscar nominations were announced? I don't remember reading that so many people thought it pure trash and drivel.

Posted by: pea at March 17, 2006 8:54 AM

Good lord. I don't want to read anything she's written now, either. Cool out, lady.

Posted by: Fraulein N at March 17, 2006 9:03 AM

I've struggled through The Shipping News. I'm not a huge fan of fiction in the first place, give me a good true crime book or biography, but The Shipping News was soooo slow and nothing really happened. So I never entertained the thought of seeing Brokeback Mountain, nothing to do with the subject matter, I just don't care for the writer. Her little temper tantrum confirms my decision.

I thought Crash was an excellent movie. Being the white parent of a biracial adopted child, I found a lot of insight in the movie, as well as an honest portrayal of class and race. I was not only entertained, I learned something.

(My daughter, by the way, is named Mia Celeste.)

Oscar Smoscar anyway. Remember, Titatic won a bunch of Oscars as well and how boring that film was? I didn't even need to watch that one. What was the point? We all know what happened, anyway. The damn boat sank.

Posted by: Lisa at March 17, 2006 9:15 AM

I have always loved Annie's writing. Chris, if you change your mind take a pass on Shipping News and read Accordian Crimes.
I didnt read her short story because I hate short stories, always have.
This is definatly one of those things I dont understand. She can be a great writer and also an ass. It's permissable.
I love Hemingway's writing too but I certainly think he was the textbook example of someone I would despise (his life choices, his misogyny).

Posted by: That Girl at March 17, 2006 9:27 AM

I actually loved Crash. Well, let me rephrase that. I loved it, loathed it and was at parts frightened by it. Anything that has me sitting on the edge of my seat is amazing. What a cast!
I immediately went out and bought the DVD and all of my co-workers really enjoyed it as well.
I love the idea of us all being part of a huge "spider web". Makes me think of that song by Joan Osborne.
Great comments. Crash won. Get over it.

Posted by: Jamie at March 17, 2006 9:36 AM

I really liked Brokeback Mountain, and I didn't care for what she had to say. I haven't seen Crash, so I can't really make a call about which movie was better. But generally, the movies that get nominated are all good movies, so it is a little odd that she's so bitter.

Posted by: bad penguin at March 17, 2006 10:22 AM

They were sheepherders, not cowboys. Must be a story there somewhere too.

Leave it to me to be a voice of dissent. I haven't seen Crash but I was spellbound through Brokeback Mountain even though I hadn't read the book. First movie I've paid admisstion to see in years. I always wait for the dvd but I had made such a fuss here when I thought the theater was boycotting, I had to put my money where my Letter to the Editor was.

She shouldn't have had a snit. On the other hand, entertainment and the arts seem to be full of brats. It wasn't anything unusual and it may be a more honest reaction than all the losers cheering wildly for the winner when they're ready to spit nails.

Crash may have been the better movie. We've rented it a couple of times but I am usually put off by violence. I'll have to give it another shot to see what I'm missing.

Posted by: ann adams at March 17, 2006 10:25 AM

She does sound like a brat. I've never heard of her. I couldn't drag my husband to go watch Brokeback Mountain. He refused. Wonder why? lol I've heard Crash is excellent though. Haven't seen that one either.

Posted by: Sabrina at March 17, 2006 10:33 AM

1. Proulx is a masterful fiction writer. If you don't care for her essay-writing, that's fine. But don't dismiss her fiction-writing until you've tried it. When I first read Brokeback (the story) almost 10 years ago, I was ABSOLUTELY blown away. I immediately reread it, which I never do.
2. I thought Crash sucked, and I said so in my blog long before the Oscar post-mortems began (to respond to a comment above).
3. I loved Brokeback (the movie), but it's not a "gay cowboy" movie. It's a star-crossed lovers' story. They could have been black and white in the 50s, or Montagues and Capulets, or stuck in bad marriages to others, or whatever; they happened to be gay at the wrong time in the wrong place. My husband liked it as much he likes any "chick flicks" (read: love stories) I drag him to.
4. I do agree with you that if you think awards are silly, then don't complain if you don't win, but I think Proulx was making other points as well.

Posted by: Karen at March 17, 2006 10:57 AM

Great commentary. I disagree (only slightly) with only one point: "Movies are made, first and foremost, to entertain."

Unfortunately, mainstream movies (big Hollywood studio movies) are made to make money. I honestly don't think that most moviemakers these days give a rat's furry bum about "entertaining" the masses. They just want the green.

Speaking of green... Happy St. Patrick's Day!

(Like the segway?)

Posted by: mooalex at March 17, 2006 11:10 AM

Did she attempt to blame it on Scientology near the end there, or am I just inferring that the wrong way?

Posted by: Gavin at March 17, 2006 11:32 AM

She wrote one of my least favorite books of all time "The Shipping News." I hated that book, which was a pick in the book club I belonged to at the time. I made the mistake of bringing that book, and only that book, on a camping trip with me. I hated it so much I threw it in the woods, hoping a bear would poo on it. I took it home with me, wet, warped and muddy. And when I went to bookclub, I rated it the lowest I have ever rated a book... EVER.

Posted by: jodi at March 17, 2006 12:47 PM

I haven't seen either movie, so I can't make a judgement on which I thought was better.

But her reaction just seems so childish. If the letter had come from anyone else *not* affiliated with the movie, I'd be more inclined to be sympathetic. This is behavior I don't allow from my nine-year-old.

Posted by: candace at March 17, 2006 12:54 PM

I don't think she was 'blaming' Scientology (though she wouldn't have a hard time creatively connecting imaginary dots.)

The Scientology reference I think points to the fact that Hollywood as we know it already has an affinity for throwing money at unusual cults and causes. No real surprise given the local fiscal support that the Hubbard Foundation has a major office right down the block from the Kodak theatre.

Conincidence? I think not.

Posted by: Scratch at March 17, 2006 1:14 PM

Here's the thing. Award's at those shows rarely go with anything I have ever seen. And that's the way it is. People are always disappointed. It is what it is. "Insufferable self-importance", well duh. We all know it is about a bunch of celebrities getting their faces on TV and in magazines. I've lived in LA my entire life. It has always been and will always be that way. And it's ok. Life moves on. All that woman succeeded in doing was making an ass out of herself.

Posted by: Melissa at March 17, 2006 2:12 PM

Okay, I didn't see either movie.

But I did read Annie's short story and thought it sucked. How anyone could read it and think "hum, this would make an AWESOME movie!" is besides me.

She does seem childish. Not impressive. No matter how well written.

(Still loving last week's post on the painter of light. He sucks.)

Posted by: Isabel at March 17, 2006 2:27 PM

i've seen both movies. in my mind, they were both at their very cores about personal politics surrounding publicly controversial situations. i think that the issue at the academy awards was not which movie was THE BEST, but which movie best represented in a full-spectrum way the crux of the issue at hand.

brokeback was beautiful- a good rendition of a story that allows for some serious though on the issues of openly gay relationships in places where people define themselves through stereotypically traditonal [i hesitate to use that word, traditional...] relationships. but crash- crash rendered me and my two girlfriends speechless until we literally blew up with conversation. i think it got to the bare bones of things much better and managed to connect in a stronger fashion than the easy-on-the-eyes cowboys. or sheep herders. or whatever.

annie needs to quit fussing- a little gold man shouldn't define her happiness.

[i'm glad ang lee won for best director though.]

Posted by: meg at March 17, 2006 2:35 PM

I have to ditto what some of your earlier posters said. I've seen both movies as well. While I liked Brokeback Mountain it didn't blow me away like I thought it would. I was reminded of Romeo and Juliet and felt, just like Karen said, that it was more a movie about star-crossed lovers than anything else. That being said I still thought it would win best picture over Crash just because it seemed to be the critics' darling. After Crash won I was surprised but I completely understood why. Apparently the producers of Crash played the Oscars game better than the producers of Brokeback did and I think that's why it won - it has nothing to do with which movie is better although Crash is definitely worthy. It's a great movie that really makes you think and the ensemble cast was fabulous.

Posted by: Beth in StL at March 17, 2006 8:11 PM

I know...I was very disappointed in Proulx's response. "Bitter..Party of Two...Your table is ready.". Usually I'm a big fan of her writing, but I don't see how she could slam CRASH. It was a thoughtfully-done movie...and every bit as truthful as Brokeback Mountain.

Posted by: wordgirl at March 19, 2006 8:01 PM