It’s Oscar Sunday

That’s right.  

This is the biggest night in all of Filmdom.   It is as big as Superbowl Sunday is to football fanatics;  as big as The Tony Awards presentation is to some gay men.

Usually, the Academy Awards show is one I try to watch, if for nothing else, to witness the depths to which  Oscar head writer, Bruce Valanche will go to get a laugh. 

Sure, the people are pretty and in gowns and jewels that cost as much as the National Debt, but that isn’t why I watch.   I think I watch because there is a surreal factor to being an actor.  I can’t imagine being one.   I mean, we all have to act at certain times in our lives.   Every time we lie, we’re acting.    Every time we fake something, we’re acting and yes,  some are better at lying and faking than others.   

Don’t get me wrong, I DO think the art form that is acting can be called noble and venerable, but the kind which Steven Segal and Governor Arnold and Jessica Simpson have tried to pass off as a “performing”, is a down right insulting and something altogether different. 

Again, I can’t imagine being an actor.  I can’t imagine going to work everyday under lights, in front of a camera and in front of scores of people–Best Boys, gaffers, Runners and a host of other positions and assisitants who’s functions, I plead total ignorance.   I can’t imagine being photographed every where I go or hearing initmate details of my love life on TMZ or having my expanding butt size be the subject of the night’s  monologue on Letterman and Kimmel.   But there are the stars who don’t have faces, butts and boobs that are leveraged by wealthy husbands and studio execs.   There are the everyday stars who exist in all their flawed every, mundane looking glory.    

Like Ernest Borgnine.   here he is during the prime of his career.  He won the Oscar for “Best Actor” in 1955 for his portrayal of Marty, a grossly overweight, homely,  socially awkward Italian butcher living in the Bronx with his Ma.  

In the movie, Marty is a good guy; a little simple in thought.  He’d hardly ever been out of his own neighborhood, much less  the state of New York.  

He also faces constant badgering from family and friends to get married.  He’d love to, if he could, but he’s disheartened by his lack of prospects, so Marty has reluctantly resigned himself to bachelorhood.

Ma, sooner of later, there comes a point in a man’s life when he’s gotta face some facts.  And the one fact I gotta face is that whatever it is than women like, I ain’t got!

How gut wrenching is that?   Having to come to terms with your own limitations and knowing that despite your best intentions, your hopes and dreams, you might never fly simply because you firmly believe you don’t have and could never have wings?

So, Marty’s mother needles him into going to the Stardust Ballroom to dance one Saturday night.  He does and once there, he connects with Clara—a plain looking school teacher who has been abandoned by her blind date. Spending the evening together, Clara and Marty realize they have an emotional connection. The two part company later that evening with Marty’s promise to call the next day.

Marty’s mother learns that her son connected with a woman and suddenly fears that any romance Marty could have could mean her abandonment, so she belittles Clara.  Marty’s friends are no better.  Even though they urged him to meet someone and marry, they find fault with Clara’s plain, homely appearance.    They try to convince Marty to forget about her. Harangued into submission, Marty doesn’t call Clara.

Back in the same lonely rut, Marty realizes that he is giving up a chance at love with a wonderful woman. Over the objections of his friends, he impulsively dashes to a phone booth to give Clara a call.    But before he leaves he tells them:

You don’t like her. My mother don’t like her. She’s a dog and I’m a fat, ugly man. Well, all I know is I had a good time the other night and because of that, I’m gonna have a good time tonight. If we have enough good times together, I’m gonna get down on my knees and I’m gonna beg that girl to marry me. If we make a party on New Year’s, I got a date for that party. You don’t like her? Well, that’s too bad.

 I’ve never seen this movie, but I would imagine that Ernest Borgnine– based on his own life experience as a man who lived in Hollywood without all those Hollywood good looks–probably gave the performance of his life.   It was something from which he could easily convey.   Pain is like that sometimes. 

Marty also won the “Best Picture” Oscar for 1955.

Then there’s Kathy Bates.    Short, squatty–hardly cosmopolitican in appearance, she played the perfect lower middle-class maid in the psychological thriller, Dolores Claiborne.   She was very convincing. 

I loved the movie.

And so did the critics, but it was largely ignored by Academy members, however, Bates won her “Best Actress” Oscar years earlier for her performance in  Misery.  She played chubby, psychopath and obsessed fan Annie Wilkes,  who holds her favorite author (played by James Caan) captive in her home in the snowy mountains.   The movie was based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King.

I find it ironic that often, Hollywood rewards its starts for undergoing changes to their appearance.   Charlize Theron won her Oscar for Monster , a role which required that she gain 25 pounds (eating potato chips mostly)  to play convicted murderer Eileen Wournos.   Make-up helped the convincing portrayal as well. 

If you saw the movie, then you saw Theron up on the big screen looking back at you with a sallow complexion, sagging jowls and bloated body.  The woman onscreen in “Monster” is hardly recognizable as  Theron, best known for her killer legs and baby doll face.   Yep, Charlize Theron , even on her bad days is still stunning, and that made the then  28-year-old actress an unlikely candidate to portray a real-life serial killer.   But when you look at side-by-side photos of the two, the likeness is uncanny. 



 It used to be that an actress’ marketing strength was her beauty. But these days, more actresses are pulling a De Niro, who gained something like 50 pounds to play Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull, for which he won a Best Actor Oscar.    

Hollywood LOVES it when actors change their bodies and faces to suit a role.  Nicole Kidman wore a prosthetic nose for her role as Virginia Wolf in The Hours.   Her gold, Best Actress statue sits on her mantel.    Weight gain for a role is applauded, then booed once filming is wrapped.    The hypocrisy is astounding.    

For example,   if the woman Theron was playing could be beautiful, but weighed 175 pounds and she gained weight accordingly for the part, we’d walk out of the theater saying, ‘My God,  she certainly has gained a buttload of weight’, then we’d hear about it via jokes and jabs on late night talk shows.   For her role in Wournos, we agreed with Hollywood that the weight gain only helped her in a more credible portrayal.   Instead she only got rave reviews.

That Theron gained weight to play a homely, overweight serial killer was awarded.  When Jessica Simpson and Kirstie Alley gained weight in their everyday lives, they’re vilified.

That actresses like Kathy Bates, who are heavy, are reduced to certain, peripheral roles is discriminatory.   She’d never play a romantic lead and if she did, it would be opposite a man probably ot all thyat different than Ernie Borgnine.

I could ask how and why we became an image obsessed society, but I’d have to go back two millenia to find answer that question.   There are age old rules to life that every generation has abided by and that is— to the pretty, goes the spoils.    Our definition of “pretty” has only changed minutely.   Heavier, Rubenesque women used to be all the rage, but some how that morphed into smaller, fit bodies.   Long and lean.   Five percent body fat or less…and to measure that, tweezers are used instead of calipers, thank you very much.

There’s an excellent chance that Mo’Nique will win an Oscar tonight for her brutal role as an angry, abusing welfare mom in the film, Precious.   The comedian has always refused to apologize for her 220-plus pound frame and often extols what she claims, are the beautiful virtues of being “a fat phat girl”.

I’d love to applaud her and I would if I truly believed that she truly believed that.   But I think she’s trying to justify her physique.

And if she actually feels this way, I’m afraid she’s one of the few who do.  I thank God for the Chubby Chasers in the world–the men who have a thing for heavier women, but they too, are a minority and often a silent one.

Here’s my reality:  I have constantly battled my love of bread with my 5′ frame.   It hasn’t gotten any easier with age, either.  When I turned 50 on my last birthday, I contacted the Houston Police Department to place an APB  for my missing waistline,  but they’ve yet to find it, thoughthey’re being police.  We both  know where to look for it.  

Hidden under the physical  manifestations of that “Damn, I didn’t get the job” 14-inch consolation pizza;   that “JT didn’t call when he said he would” Supersized Double Whopper Meal;  under that dozen “I’ve got nothing else better to do” chocolate chip cookies I ate, there lies a waistline.   And underneath that waistline lies a metabolism that at age 50,  has seen better days.

I’m convinced, I am the only person on the planet who could gain weight while in the midst of a rampant Meth Amphetamine habit.  

Oh well….

On second thought, I think I’ll skip watching the Oscars tonight.  I don’t have the right mindset for watching size 2 dresses, Harry Winston jewels and zero body fat on parade.   Instead, I believe I’ll make it a Netflix evening.   

I think Marty is available. 


One comment

  1. I am in love with this post. And with bathing suit season upon us, I think it was just the push I needed to say, “You know what? Screw you, judgmental people at the pool. My cottage cheese butt needs a tan.”

    As for your missing waistline, it is probably partying it up with mine somewhere in Jamaica.

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