Working Class Oscars

I’m a movie buff.  I’m really into movies, and I’m not talking about celebrities.  I could care less about who’s sleeping with who, what star did what to get arrested, or what designer they are wearing on the red carpet.  When I say I’m a movie buff, I truly love the art of cinema.  And I regularly partake in my obsession.  Last year I averaged watching over a movie a day and saw 126 movies at the cinema.  You get the idea.

So Oscar night at my house is more akin to Super bowl Sunday in most American households (I hate the sports analogy, as the only sport watched in my household is cycling).  But if you had a silent camera on me during the ceremony, you would think you were watching an avid sports fan, whose team is usually losing.

Why I watch it I don’t know, as I usually get so upset that it’s hard to get to sleep afterwards.  This year looks especially heartburn inducing.  The industry that has been in so much financial pain, that they are not even pretending to be about the art this year.  Ten best picture nods?  Come on, I realize that having “Nominated for Best Picture” on the DVD is good for a few million more in sales, but at what price to the art?  I don’t see how even the best actors alive can announce with a straight face some of the nominees such as District 9, The Blind Side, Up or even the slightly less ridiculous Up in the Air (which seemed more like a 108 minute Hilton commercial).

Why not just treat the Oscars like sports and have a Harry Carayesque sports announcer give out the awards?  I can hear it now, “At great odds, overcoming it’s bloated 200+ million dollar budget, ending the season ahead of the box office for a record seven weeks the Best Picture goes to … Avatar.”  Gag.

But what has really got my goat this awards night is the almost assured win by Sandra Bullock for her portrayal of Leigh Anne Tuohy in the Blind Side.  Don’t get me wrong, Bullock is quite likable as an actress, albeit a bit of a lightweight when it comes to more serious fare, but it’s not the actress I have major problems with but the character.

I’ve heard Leigh Anne Tuohy’s story quite often being a Memphian, and even had the opportunity to listen to her speak in person.  She is about as self-righteous as they come, and even had the audacity to challenge the 300+ members of her audience to make a difference like she did.   What did she really do?  From the film and her BS you get the impression that out of the loving kindness of her generous heart, she saved an impressionable young African-American from homeless gang life.  It just so happened that he turned out to be a collegiate and ultimately a NFL level player.  Of course it was just luck that he ended up signing a letter of intent with the same school that the Tuohy’s are huge supporters of, Ole Miss.  The idea that they didn’t influence his decision is just laughable, and the situation was even investigated by the NCAA.

I don’t begrudge Michael Oher from taking advantage of his natural abilities.  Poverty in Memphis or any other inner city is a brutally cruel environment and it is no wonder that many who aren’t 6’ 5” and 300 plus pounds turn to petty crime just to survive.  Trying to pass off the Tuohy’s intentions as purely philanthropic is insulting to the point of being offensive.  The football coach that recruited Oher to the private school in the first place isn’t publically challenging others to emulate his good deeds.

The travesty (and my point) of this story is ironically the Tuohy’s are in the position to REALLY make a difference in MANY under privileged lives.    Sean Tuohy had a privileged childhood; even the gym in which he was a standout in high school is named after his father.  After having an outstanding record setting college basketball career, like many former sports stars, Tuohy found that the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is in restaurants and broadcasting.

The Tuohy’s own more than 80 fast food restaurants including Taco Bells, Long John Silvers and Kentucky Fried Chickens.  Franchises known for exploiting their workers with below poverty wages, unsafe work conditions, high turn over, and virtually non existent benefits such as health insurance, paid vacations, incentive pay, regularly scheduled wage hikes, etc.   Instead of their self-lobbying for sainthood for helping one individual, it is within their power to change the lives of hundreds of their employees and their families by being decent employers.

Pay a living wage.  Provide the health insurance that allows the peace of mind that an employee is not going to lose everything they have if they get sick. Give the employees who are creating their vast wealth a fair piece of the pie.

Once those heroic goals are met, that would be a story worthy of an Oscar nomination.  However, I’m not sure if Sandra Bullock would be available for the sequel, as she might be shooting All About Steve 2.