Crash, Cash, M*A*S*H and Trash.
That rhetorical device pretty well sums up the 78th annual Academy Awards, as far as I'm concerned.
O.K., so it doesn't include Philip Seymour Hoffman's superb channeling of the Truman Capote character in In Cold Blood, which, as emcee Jon Stewart quipped about two hunky Wyoming ranch hands who batted for the other side, proved that "not all gay people are virile cowboys." Or best supporting actor and actress awards for CIA operative-cum-liberal spokesman George Clooney in "Syriana" and very pregnant Rachel Wiesz in the pharmaceutical industry thriller, "The Constant Gardner."
(By the way, isn't Dick Cheney from Wyoming? Do you think Lynne Cheney, who wrote a western novel featuring lesbian sex scenes, will do a Brokeback Mountain joke when she speaks for the Republicans at the annual Gridiron Dinner in Washington on Saturday? Count on it. And also count on a joke about her husband's quail-hunting misadventure as well.)
Nevertheless, unlike the Gridiron Dinner, where journalists poke fun at politicians and deflate official egos, the Academy Awards are designed to reassure Hollywood that it's still loved by Middle America, despite the decadent, self-absorbed, self-congratulatory orgy of celebrification (I made that word up), aided and abetted by fawning TV shills pleading in red carpet interviews for details about who designed your dress and who did your hair and how do you feel about your chances tonight?
It may be hard for Middle America to relate to Hollywood, given that all the best picture nominees were pretty much out of touch with most of the folks on Main Street -- a movie about racial tensions in Los Angeles as the best picture as well as best original screenplay and best editing (Crash) ; homosexuality (Brokeback Mountain, In Cold Blood), Edward Murrow and his efforts to combat Cold War communist witch-hunting (Good Night, and Good Luck) and a sympathetic look at Middle East suicide bombers (Munich).
But Middle America has to love Reese Witherspoon, and her co-star Joaquin Phoenix, as Johnny and June Cash in "I Walk the Line," as I did, as well as Robert Altman, the 81-year-old legendary director who made M*AS*H and 40 other films and won an honorary award to go with his heart transplant. (He was introduced by Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep in the zaniest and funniest moment of the whole evening.)
And what's all this griping about Jon Stewart? I thought he was great, maybe because he challenged the smug Hollywood types to take themselves less seriously. I've never watched his cable faux-news program but I think I will now.
However, I doubt that the great mass of movie ticket buyers will relate to the glorification of pimps and hos and hip hop rappers, whose unique contributions to American society were honored in the category of best original song, "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp." Do you think "pimp" as a verb will really catch on in Providence, Peoria and Pocatello?
It's hard for this Middle American to relate to much of what I saw in the Academy Awards telecast, but I accept the fact that many Americans will find it resonates with their daily lives. That's fine. Live and let live.
But when I want to be entertained, give me a bag of popcorn while watching King Kong, Memoirs of a Geisha or Cinderella Man, and not the Three 6 Mafia bringing the bling.