26 February 2007

There Are Worse Things Than Apathy

Plenty of people have been saying the Oscars were fine. Not great, but not terrible either.

I agree.

Ellen had some pretty funny jokes (Taking a picture with Clint Eastwood for her MySpace? Genius.) and some of the winners really deserved it (Hello, Jennifer Hudson! Hey there, Forest Whitaker! Won't you and all your ancestors have a seat?).

Even better, the execrable "Babel" only won for its score.

But all in all, it's not like this was an Oscars that could inspire passion. Not like the soul-deep agony created when "Brokeback Mountain" lost Best Picture, or the swirling joy when Adrien Brody went to the podium for "The Pianist." (If you haven't seen that movie, you should. He really deserved it.)

Nothing better encapsulates how this year's ceremony ran unswervingly down the middle of the road than the surprise win for Melissa Etheridge. Her song "I Need to Wake Up" took home Best Original Song, trumping three good-to-great songs from "Dreamgirls" and one totally ass-tastic creation from Randy Newman.

If Newman had won, it would have been worth getting pissed. But Etheridge? You can't really get upset that a woman so obviously courageous and upstanding--she's an activist for breast cancer awareness and an unashamedly open lesbian--won a major award.

Nor is the song all that bad. But that's the point. Like most of Melissa Etheridge's music, it's sturdy and inoffensive, and if it comes on in a bar, few people are likely to walk out. However, it's not like the song is great. Respectability and awesomeness are not the same thing.

For me, Melissa Etheridge is part of a group that also includes Lenny Kravitz, Sheryl Crow, and The Fray. If their music comes on the radio, I won't change the station, and I might ask for their greatest hits collections for Christmas. However, I won't spend my own money on their songs, and I won't ever really care about them all that much. But it's not like they're hurting me, and it's really fun to sing "Come to My Window" at karaoke.

So in this topsy-turvy world, maybe it's okay for the Melissas of the world to sometimes win the big awards. If Ryan Gosling had been an unexpected winner--thus making me cheer--and Babel had taken seven Oscars--thus making me shriek--my blood pressure would be out of control, my vision would be blurry, and my world would be a little askew. And I don't need that kind of stimulus when I'm already in a tizzy about when Claire's going to meet her dad the Flying Man and whether "Lost" will ever become awesome again.

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