So what if the economy is in a dismal state?
Who cares if the stock market has plummeted so far that Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World each put bears on their covers?
It’s Oscar Week. And Sunday is Oscar Night, the highest secular holy day of the year. It’s time for the faithful to honor our favorite false gods with a night of reverent hype.
Everyone complains that traditional religious holidays — Christmas, Easter, the Super Bowl — have become too commercialized. But look at Oscar Night, the movie industry PR party for itself. It becomes more religious every year.
Don’t buy it? Check out Vanity Fair’s annual “Legends of Hollywood” issue, which appears each April as a glossy hymn book to Tinsel Town, past and present.
Vanity Fair, as you may know, is infamous for puffy celebrity profiles. Otherwise, it passes itself off as smart and super-sophisticated — and usually it is.
Its editor, Graydon Carter, was co-founder of Spy magazine, the dead 1980s satire magazine. But while once he made a good living mocking the culture of celebrity, he now makes an even better one sucking up to Hollywood every April.
He does this mainly by filling his magazine with semi-idolatrous, over-posed, double-page publicity portraits of movie stars taken by Annie Leibovitz, Herb Ritts and Helmut Newton.
That’s not to say Vanity Fair’s three-pound, 438-page Hollywood issue doesn’t have its good points. As usual, there are several solid articles hiding in those forests of Prada and DKNY ads.
If you don’t live in Ojai, you can be excused for not giving a darn about super-agent Michael Ovitz’ latest career moves. But even professional Hollywood haters will enjoy reading about what an ugly human being Bette Davis was in real life.
Vanity Fair isn’t the only non-entertainment magazine that annually sells its soul to Hollywood during Oscartime, however. GQ’s March issue has become an all-Hollywood excess too.
Entertainment Weekly, People, US Weekly, In Style, etc., owe their very existences to chronicling celebrity culture, so they can’t help themselves. But look at who else has found religion in Hollywood for the third year in a row — the good atheists at The Nation.
The Nation’s multiplex of articles is highly politicized. Subjects include the troubles in Hollywood’s union scene and worry that Hitler-groupie and Nazi film-maker/propagandist Leni Riefenstahl will be glorified if Jodie Foster makes and stars in a movie about her.
A professor named Ellen Willis goes on for an eternity rhapsodizing about “The Sopranos.” (Meanwhile, a piece in the Weekly Standard, “Mob Mentality,” can’t figure out why liberal intellectuals and conservatives like George Will love the show equally.)
And “Hollywood’s Big Sleep” reprints letters from novelist and screenwriter Raymond Chandler, who in 1946 rather perceptively described the natural state of Hollywood’s creative community as being “a chronic case of spurious excitement over absolutely nothing.”
If that sounds too cynical, don’t dare read the Nation article explaining why the Oscar for best documentary consistently goes to bad/boring movies and not good ones like “Hoop Dreams.” It will destroy any faith you have that the statues they’ll award at Sunday’s ceremonies mean anything.