How do the Hillary-Geffen-Obama feud, the nonstop coverage of Anna Nicole and Bald Britney, and the utter tedium of the Oscar’s coverage, all relate to each other? Bear with me — I have three interrelated plots going here, sort of like last year’s Oscar-winner Crash and this year’s Oscar-loser Babel.
The answer struck me two hours into the Oscar snooze-fest, right around the time Ellen DeGeneres was getting half-a-laugh for asking Steven Spielberg to take another picture of her with Clint Eastwood. (Whooey! Oscar winners take lousy pics with their cell phones. They’re JUST LIKE us!) What struck me was how incredibly hard the superstars were trying to be bland and uncontroversial and ordinary this year, and how that’s not the way we want them — and how that’s not the way the media seem to want our politicians.
Ellen DeGeneres, in her reddish velour pantsuit, which looked exactly like it was bought from a catalog and not very different from a mistake or two most women have in their closets, was acting so daytime television, with her gulps and exclamations of how excited she was to be there. She seemed to be vying for the senior class’s “Good Sport” award. And Al Gore — who, at the very least, might have been irritating — was just swollen with good intentions.
The pre-programs touting the Oscars, both Oprah’s and Barbara Walters’s, were super bland, too. On Oprah’s show, George Clooney was “interviewed,” with softball questions tossed at him by his pal Julia Roberts. They discussed her pregnancy and how she loves being a mom, while he barbecued lunch for her. Another “Just Like Us!” moment. Only surprise: on the Oprah show Clooney’s hair was gray, at the Oscars it was dark again. Well, L’Oreal was a major sponsor.
After all those dull speeches that many of the winners had to read from bits of paper they brought along, I really began to look forward to the results of Danielynn’s DNA test. Sure, some of the gowns were nice enough, and Helen Mirren is terrific, but even she gave almost the same speech she has given several times before in recent weeks, as she stockpiled awards. And why did she carry her purse on stage? Was that a sly tribute to the Queen, who seems never to be without her handbag ? Nope, she said it was just a bit of awkwardness, something any of us could have done when accepting a very-expected Academy Award.
The gentle jokes and good feelings were a great contrast to the trailer-trash celebrity news that’s been dished out to us the past few weeks. Judge Seidlin crying! Britney in, out, and in rehab once again! But, hey, maybe we really prefer gossiping about and pitying the famous to them boring us to death while they celebrate their achievements.
And maybe we like a little drama from our politicians as well, especially the politicians who act, and are treated like, celebrities. After all, when David Geffen, a Hollywood grand master of p.r., dissed Hillary to Maureen Dowd, he knew exactly what he was doing. He knew that the press wants to treat Hillary like the diva she is, prop her up and gush about her and then bash her down, and always use the opportunity to get gossipy and personal. The same fate will undoubtedly befall Obama. For the time being, Geffen wanted to create the headlines, and Hillary’s staffers certainly took the bait. Was it is as self-destructive to her as Britney shaving her head? No, but it did make Hillary look wobbly and remind us again why those who dislike her dislike her so much.
At the Oscars, Martin Scorsese finally won Best Director, and his good-but-not-great gangster picture won the top prize. The Academy voters decided it was his turn, and he finally got what he probably thought he long deserved. Hillary is also counting on getting what she absolutely thinks she deserves from the voters — though the contest she is in is not going to be as well-mannered as this year’s Oscars. Yet, if she and Obama keep it up, I bet it will be a lot more fun to watch!