6/CHRONICLESnThe Oscar would have appealed tonLord Melbourne. Like the Order ofnthe Garter, it “has no demn’d meritnabout it.” The rest of us have problems.nThe more prestigious awards, fornbest actor or director or movie, arenunpredictably awarded on the basis ofnpopularity (popularity in Hollywood,nthat is, not at the box office), lifetimenachievement, and relevance to “popular”n(i.e., elite) causes. The losers arenas interesting as the winners: BobnHope never won nor did Fred Astaire,nClint Eastwood, or Paul Newman. (Ansix-time loser, Newman received anhumiliating Lifetime AchievementnAward at the most recent ceremony,nwith a composer who has lost 15ntimes.) John Wayne won for a mediocrenmovie. True Grit, when his bestnparts were behind him, John Fordnnever won for a Western, and two ofnhis winners. The Grapes of Wrath andnThe Informer, were untypically leftist.nUsually I have some feeling for thenlikely winners in the major categories.nThis year I did not have a clue, andnneither did the media. We were confusednby the mediocrity of the nomineesnand the absence of this year’snmost popular money-makers: Stallonenwas passed over, and such films asnBack to the Future received only tokennnominations, although ChristophernLloyd was clearly this year’s Best SupportingnActor.nA battie between Sidney Pollack’snOut of Africa and Steven Spielberg’snThe Color Purple seemed to be in thenoffing, with each movie receiving 11nAcademy nominations. Pollack hadnbeautiful photography and MerylnStreep on his side; Spielberg had thensympathy of those who felt that hisnmoney-makers had been unfairly ignorednby the Hollywood establishment.nSpielberg was not even nominatednfor Best Director, but his film’snserious nature—made, like Out ofnAfrica, from a prestigious novel —nseemed to be in its favor.nBoth movies, for all their attractivencinematic virtues, were morally offensive.nOut of Africa follows a promiscu­nCULTURAL REVOLUTIONSnous Danish woman fleeing to Africa tonescape the failure of her personal life atnhome, only to compound her failurenin love with failure in business. Streepnhas been attending the Larry OliviernSchool for Ridiculous Accents, andnher self-pity is near comic. She discoversnthat promiscuity leads to venerealndisease and that men who sleep withnyou do not marry you. Socrates couldnteach a slave the Pythagorean theorem,nbut nobody can teach some girls.nThe Color Purple was worse. Onenfriend observed that if you liked D.W.nGriffith’s film version of the Klansman,nyou would love The Color Purple.nThe comment seems malapropos.nBirth of a Nation is certainly pro-nAmerican, and even pro-white, butnthis movie, faithful here to the book, isnantiwhite, antimale, antiauthority,nantitradition. We are left with mawkishnreligiosity and lesbian sex.nSo the academy voted for sentimentalnfavorites. Geraldine Page had beennnominated seven times before, and shendid appear in a low-key success, A Tripnto Bountiful, made from a HortonnFoote script, like Robert Duvall’snOscar-winning performance in TendernMercies. Don Ameche had never beennnominated before, but he is a swellnfellow, and he was fun to watch innRon Howard’s Cocoon, although nonmore so than Hume Cronyn. AnjelicanHuston is part of a grand Hollywoodndynasty, going back to granddad Walternand dad John, although her performancenin Prizzi’s Honor was devotednto a singularly unsympathetic character.nJohn Hurt has long deserved annOscar and received one for his performancenin Kiss of the Spider Woman,none of those typically unwatchablenforeign films that Roger and Gene lovento rave about. Pollack got Best Directornand Best Movie, and he deserved thenfirst. Spielberg, in spite of the groundswellnof sympathy for him reported innthe newspapers, received nothing.nTwo observations. Every majornaward went to one of the Hollywoodnin-crowd, some of them deserving,nsome not. Increasingly, the most pop­nnnular movies are being made by thosenwho do not belong: Stallone, Eastwood,nChuck Norris, Spielberg,nLucas, Schwarzenegger, even BarbranStreisand. Giving awards to thenFriends of the Friends while ignoringnthe wishes of the American publicnseems no way to maintain the audiencesnthat Hollywood claims that itnwants. TV audiences for the Oscarsnare down each year and no wonder.nThe movies that people have seen arennot even nominated.nThe ethos of the films that won wasnwide-ranging. Any script by HortonnFoote will be of high quality, as literaturenand as ethics. Ron Howard hasnmastered the touch of dancing lightiynaround themes of great seriousness.nCocoon exemplified this with old agenand death. But the rest. The ColornPurple was an insult to nine-tenths ofnthe normal people in America, and angood two-thirds of the perverts. Out ofnAfrica parlayed the silliest 60’s superstition:nthat you can fulfill yourself bynrunning away from your own countrynand culture and every country’s sexualnmores. It made Isak Dinesen sterile; itnkilled Sylvia Plath. It is boring to findngrown-ups still mouthing this stupidnlie. John Hurt played a homosexual innjail with a leftist. Anjelica Hustonnplayed a crazed slut who sleeps aroundnto aggravate her folks and ends upngetting people murdered to satiate hernsexual jealousy.nNow look at the movies that werenpassed over. Both Rambo and Rockynloved their country and were loyal tontheir buddies. Christopher Lloyd’snmad doctor was delightfully kooky andncreative; Michael J. Fox’s embarrassednreactions in a risque situation were asnnormal as they were funny. Witnessnshowed us people trying hard to maintainndecency and family in our modernnworld.nThe Hollywood in-crowd, havingnlost touch with the mainstream Americannfeelings and instincts, can benaroused to enthusiasm only by weirdness.nIt cannot even tell the good fromnthe bad anymore and just votes for itsn