Why the man who co-wrote 'The Oscar' hates the Oscars -- and all kudocasts
Harlan Ellison® has written or edited 75 books, written 1,700 stories, essays, articles, and newspaper columns, two dozen teleplays and a dozen motion pictures. He has won the WGA Award for teleplay four times. He is also one of the three credited screenwriters on “The Oscar,” which he wrote for Steve McQueen and Peter Falk but ended up starring Stephen Boyd and Tony Bennett. He calls the picture “a festering wound” to this day.
As a devout believer in Open Covenants, Openly Entered Into, I will not lie to you from the git-go: I do not merely hate all awards shows, I wish to see them beheaded, stakes driven through their black and corrupted widdle hearts, and to see the decapitated remains buried at a crossroads come midnight. Now we are on the same page.
About the time I matured enough to know there were no such things as yetis, the Loch Ness Monster and the stork bringing babies, I gave up on the Academy Awards, the revered Oscars. It was 1952, and Cecil B. DeMille’s lumbering spaz “The Greatest Show on Earth” was christened best picture, beating out Fred Zinnemann’s “High Noon,” John Huston’s “Moulin Rouge” and John Ford’s “The Quiet Man,” to name only three challengers. I, and everyone in Hollywood knew, the Academy had been embarrassed into throwing the aged director a sop for his having been (correctly or otherwise) passed over for decades. But sitting in New York, watching the annual TV panegyric, I shrieked like a shrike, tore out my eyes, and swore I’d take a marlin-spike to the temple before I ever allowed myself to be taken in again with such flouting chicanery.
Those who give the awards exchange ballots among each other’s categories, provide a pasha’s fortune to publicity flak-providers, logroll, solicit and hustle shamelessly to pit every talent against every other talent, making it a transparent and debased three-card Monte scam. Phoney deified. Ass-kissing sanctified. As Bogart called it: “A mugg’s game.”
There are, at rough, hardly comprehensive total presently more than 70 awards ceremonies ranging from the Oscars and Golden Globes and Emmys and Grammys to the BAFTA, Image, Country Music Awards and People’s Choice Awards. Very nice, to acknowledge outstanding work by one’s peers: Rent a hotel ballroom, print up brochures enumerating the honorables at-bat, have some rubber chicken and frozen peas, and get on with it. I’ve been to many such events, and have even won a plentiful share of plaques, orbs, medals and parchments … and almost without exception each ceremony was boring. That’s the reason television programming should eschew all awards-giving hours-long rituals of self-aggrandizement, phoney-baloney pomp and pretense at trustworthiness.
Like World Wrestling, the Strident Housewives of the New Jersey Marshlands and the chance of winning the Publishers Clearance Sweepstakes, these soi-disant jubilations of achievement are phonies. Boring, bought and traded, lugubrious and endless shams that try to convince the naive and gullible that one should waste an entire TV evening just to “see what the lades are wearing on the red carpet.” I had to murder my beloved wife with an Anthony Bourdain cheese grater when she uttered those words and cozened me into exhausting 500 years of my remaining life watching the most recent Oscar extravaganza of bad gags, false humility, inflated encomia and dance routines that haven’t been inventive since Busby Berkeley worked with Ruby Keeler.
How to better the environment, clean up the airwaves, stop this madness? Unless the gullible masses stop muttering and rise with cudgel and vomit, my answer is: Armageddon.