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Warren Adler

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Oscars and the War Against the Aging

Posted: 03/ 1/2012 5:40 pm

One can always find things to criticize at the Academy Awards television shows. Its blatant over-the-top orgy of self-congratulation and fawning, its contrived red carpet fiesta of excess, its simpering announcers whose nauseating flattery and butt-kissing is a shameless embarrassment, the contrived grandstanding of movie star worshipers, the general atmosphere of faux glamour and hype and the often stupid scripting and the corny jokes.

Despite all these hollow trappings of celebrity worship, beneath the surface lies the talent, artistry and imagination of people who create the illusions, insights and joy that have created the movies and television which have had such enormous and, yes, mostly positive impact on our lives.

That part cannot be denied by the journalists who revel in their own intellectual superiority and seem to wait for the award shows to practice their creative and often stupid snobbery.

One appalling example is the criticism of the event and its choices by Alessandra Stanley of the New York Times. Her beef, under the headline "Even the Jokes Have Wrinkles" offers high dudgeon about the older white people who seem to dominate both the attendees, their choices of films and the general atmosphere of maturity which she dubs an "AARP pep rally."

This absurdity from a reporter who writes for a newspaper whose demographic skews older, probably older than the audience at the Oscars, from a city where the theater audience is older, where most of the shows are recycled from earlier times, where museums celebrate the past, the bulk of whose income come from advertisement for luxury goods that only the older can possibly afford. One wonders for what audience she is writing.

One is almost tempted to accuse this reporter of advocating "age warfare."

For us decrepit folks over 50, the age of AARP eligibility, we have endured the long reign of movies pointed primarily to kiddies, teenagers, and dating couples and a starvation diet of films addressed to mature audiences, meaning folks in their thirties and beyond.

Her singling out Christopher Plummer, the 82-year-old best supporting actor winner as a straight man playing a gay as a symbol of the industry's "progressive heart," was yet another mean-minded comment by this ranting writer who apparently has neither understanding nor insight into the art of acting. But then, she had already put him down for having the temerity to be an older white man, a category for which she has abiding contempt. One wonders which she detests more the "older" or the "white."

Her characterization of The Artist provided her with yet another ugly snipe, calling it "a fantasy for older Hollywood men....a star facing decline finds new vigor from the love of a younger, trophy wife." I wonder how she acquired the birth certificates of the two main characters of this absolutely unforgettable and outstanding movie, but it does give her yet another shot against her insidious pet peeve, the aging white male.

Frankly, it surprised me that she did not take aim at Uggi, the canine star of The Artist. Perhaps he hadn't reached the dog age to inflame her fury.

She did, however, use her research skills to determine that the median age of the academy voters is 62, as if somehow it was a badge of dishonor. Oddly, Meryl Streep, who is 63, does not escape her angry age scythe, as she mentions her record of nominations as further subtle proof that age is somehow a handicap to talent.

I wonder if she has the same prejudices against older men as she confronts the bosses at her newspaper, who are no doubt in the same age category that she obviously detests.

There was a time when movie fare was far more balanced in terms of age. There was a kid's fare and an adult fare and the old moguls knew which was which. The problems facing Hollywood now is that the cost of movies has risen so high that lots of younger people are opting out of the audience mix while there is a steady rise of the mature with money in hand and no product that interests them.

Indeed, the time is coming when the demographic for movie attendance in large auditoriums will shift dramatically to the "AARP" old farts, who are living longer and whose depth of experience and insight will cause them to turn away from the shallow contrivances that now afflict the Hollywood film makers and marketers.

As for this clueless writer from the New York Times, I hope she is not symptomatic of what passes for objectivity in this hoary, wizened and aged 160-odd-year newspaper which has long passed the rubicon of time that incurs her wrath.

Warren Adler is the author of 32 novels and short story collections published in numerous languages. Films adapted from his books include "The War of the Roses," "Random Hearts" and the PBS trilogy "The Sunset Gang." He is a pioneer in digital publishing. For more information visit Warren's website at warrenadler.com.

 
 
 

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