a novel by JOHN GRABOWSKI

Where stars stash their gold

In Entertaining Welsey Shaw, the protagonist, Daniel Ferreira, snooping through Welsey’s New York penthouse apartment at the end, finds her Oscar on the night table next to her bed, casually sitting amongst discarded tissues, hair pins, and loose change from her jeans.

He’s sure startled by that find.

Kate Winslet, on the other hand, keeps her Oscar in the bathroom.

She really does.

Most celebrities really go out of their way to show off the little gold man. One well-known actress I won’t name supposedly makes everyone who comes over to her house look at it. She also makes them watch her movies and they are expected to tell her how great she was. That’s why I never accept dinner invitations at her house. The bowel-cleansing regimen that follows is also really rough.

And Kate, by putting her trophy in the powder room instead of a fancy case with soft yellow lighting and glass doors, may be on to something.

Quick: tell me what movie won Best Picture three years ago. No, don’t look it up. Tell me from memory. Bet you can’t.

Who won Best Actor in 2014? Again, off the top of your head.

Bet you have no idea. Offhand I don’t know either.

Once upon a time, Oscar winners commanded box office power. When pictures like Lawrence of Arabia, Ben-Hur, Gandhi, Bridge on the River Kwai, Amadeus, Midnight Cowboy and The French Connection won, their names went into immortality. Their box office went up big time. Their directors, actors, and others got huge career boosts. Names were on people’s lips at parties for years afterwards.

Not anymore. Today we tend to forget the next day by noon.

There are several reasons for this.

One is that movies are no longer big, exclusive events. With home video and now streaming, you can see anything anytime anywhere. In many ways that’s great, but in others it removes the sense of specialness. Imagine if everyone had a Porsche. Driving one wouldn’t be anything special.

Another reason is a change in culture, caused by the Internet. What the critics thought used to matter. My Dinner With Andre was a flop until Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel talked it up; then there were lines. Today people, especially Millennials, who are the biggest share of the audience, pay less attention to critics, and listen more to their peers. The last influential critic was in fact Roger Ebert. He died in 2013.

But the single biggest reason the Oscars aren’t what they used to be is perhaps simpler: the winners today really aren’t all that great.

The Best Picture three years ago was The Artist. Does anyone even remember this film today? Okay, that’s maybe a little too strong, but let’s face it, The Godfather it wasn’t. It wasn’t even Godfather III. Most of the other prize winners of late have been almost as underwhelming.

And the Best Actor of 2014? Alright alright alright, it was Matthew McConaughey.

I wonder where he keeps his award.

It used to be that just no one cared about what won Best Original Song. Now most of the categories are that way.

And people don’t go to movies based on awards or accolades anymore. The IMAX blockbusters rule, and, with the recent exception of Gravity and what else, these flicks aren’t creaming off the artsy trophies. But people go. Nobody cares how many Oscars a film wins anymore if it’s chock full of CGI effects of cities being swept away by Tsunamis.

Once there was a game show contestant so irate that he had to deliberately get the answer to what movie won Best Picture of 1955 wrong that he blew the lid off the whole quiz show scandal. He had to “forget” the answer was Marty, and he would not forget that, by God! It’s hard to imagine that kind of passion today.

And I’ll bet Sally Field would never keep her Oscar in the bathroom. No way.

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