Thoughts on the 2017 Oscars
Well now, wasn't that a show!
With Moonlight pulling off the upset, in M. Night Shamalan formation, the 2017 Oscars will go down as a "best of" TV moment. But what about the rest of the night? Here's a few thoughts.
The acting awards offered no real surprises, with award darlings Viola, Casey, Emma, and Ali running the course to the finish line. Thought Denzel looked peed off!
The writing and director if awards seemed to be on par with the general consensus.
Techie and below the line awards were split accordingly. Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, and La La Land won where most saw them winning.
So why do we tune in then? For speeches like this:
On the surface, what an emotional moment. Under the surface...what a self righteous piece of crap.
Part 1: The Process
On Saturday February 11, 2017 I became part of the cattle call of reality competition wanna-bes. I auditioned for America's Got Talent at the LA Convention Center. I left my house at 5:30am. Fought the morning storm. Two car crashes. LA parking. And found myself with a badge number.
Thousands from LA and surrounding areas were there. Moms. Dads. Friends. People in custumes. People who should have hidden themselves in costumes.
I was was lucky to have been called about an hour into the auditions. From the way it was explained to me, you meet a producer, perform, and if they like you, they move you to another room to perform for another producer. This process takes all day if they like you.
Simon and Howie are not there. That seemed to shock the people I met.
Part 2: Moving On Up
I was there in a room with ten 25-30 year old Adele wanna-bes. All with guitar in hand. There was a magician who did a weird nose and floss gag. Then I went. I stumbled out of the gate but got my mojo and had the room laughing hard. It was a good feeling. The room was a convention hall room. Not a club. No mic. No stage. This was like a pyramid scheme pre-meeting.
I sat down. I assumed it ends here.
The producer said, "Okay. Thank you everyone. Everyone but Paul is released for the day!" Wait. Paul? But I'm Paul! I'm Paul!
The others got up. Some became human puddles of mush. One girl asked, "Does this mean we aren't going to be on the show?" The producer said, "Sorry. No one here but Paul has a shot this year."
I was then taken to another room. The sweet production assistant said no one had made it yet, so she didn't know where to go. I said, "Ask another person with a badge." My fate was in the hands of an ill prepared 25 year old girl. Sounds right.
Finally we we found a room. I walked in. There was a camera crew. Two producers. This room was definitely not the last one.
Part 3: Parents Should Be Fired
Turns out I was in the right room but wrong time. The room was no longer a sea of 25-30 year old Adele wannabes. It was now a sea of 10-17 year old Adele wannabes. I realized this was not a 35 year old man's show. To be honest, I never really followed AGT. But they showcased comedians. So I went.
Eventually, I was brought in with the kiddos. One was a 10 year old girl whose father kept whispering to her, "You're going to win this whole thing." How cruel. She sang a Chris Isaac song about sex called "Wicked Game." The most erotic song of the 1990s. I'm pretty sure her dad's dream was being fulfilled. Not her's.
The next few girls were all terrible. There was a family that flew across the country to try out. Poor 17 year old girl out of tune the entire time. The redneck mother probably spent $2,000 for all of them to come out to Los Angeles. That's the first semester of books for the fall semester of college. Who told them to fly across the country? How cruel.
One girl was a 14 year old girl going on 24. Her father and two friends were there to support. She was just as mediocre as the rest. But I could see why they were past onto round two. Everyone there had a look. They'd play TV well.
I went. And the camera guy laughed. The producer laughed. The audience laughed. It was a good set. I sat down.
"Okay...I got some great news for everyone!" Oh crap, I thought. I don't want to be included with everybody! "I know you thought you would be here all day...but you were all so good I'm going to send you home before lunch!"
The girls cheered not understanding that we have all been sent home. Was I upset? Not really. I knew I was a long shot. But getting moved on once sparked hope.
Part 4: Final Thoughts
I knew that fame and fortune wasn't coming on February 11th. I knew that the real contenders have been already plucked by NBC executives from other deals. But parents didn't know that.
There were people that day who really thought they were going to win. They thought they'd become Hollywood's next big thing. And that's what made me sad.
The American Dream used to be the logical fallacy that hard work equaled success. Now The American Dream is to be the winner of a TV show.
Last Comic Standing
The Amazing Race
All promise to "discover" you. But what if there is little to discover? The saddest part is that parents make their kids believe they'll win. That's a psychological pressure that kids shouldn't endure. So many kids were cut that day. Their parents can now use this as a power play over them. Kids will quit singing, dancing, comedy, etc. because they think AGT didn't want them.
I'm conflicted about these shows. On one level I hate how they mock people. On another level they give people the "opportunity" to pursue a dream. In a weird way, if they were great, truly great, they could get on the main stage in prime time. It's just so unlikely.
As a teacher I taught Death of a Salesman. There is a line where Biff tells his dad he's not a special person. Just a normal guy. His dad, Willy, screams a mantra many scream through actions today.
That sentence defines our current generation. A generation of parents who believe their kids are more special than they are.
But what frustrates me is that these shows are what perpetuate the narrative that they are.
The Art of Binge Watching
The art of binge watching is new to me. I had never done it until the weekend of February 3, 2017. From 2/3 - 2/7 I watched three of the best TV shows I've ever seen, and now I'm scared I'll never find anything worth binging on again.
I drowned myself in Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortuante Events, Stranger Things, and The People v. OJ Simpson. All three completely different. All three very much a reflection of my adolescence and early adulthood.
Lemon Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events
I loved the books. I worked at Border's Bookstore from 2002-2003, when the books were at the height of their popularity. I'll never forget how engaged I was in the witty writing and pessimistic storytelling. I felt for the kids, but I loved the adventures. I was 21 and 22. I was a literature major at CSUN. I was taking a children's literature class at the time. It was destiny.
The TV show captures the misery. Though, I thought the film was more whimsical, the show plays up the tragedy better. You really hate the adults. And that's the point. I didn't really understand the narrow mindness of adults at 22. At 35 I fully understand it. The lack of paying attention or the inability to listen. That's what the books were about. That's what the show does so well. It's as close to literature as you'll see on Netflix!
Stranger Things is Steven Spielberg meets Aliens. It's both whimsical and John Hughes like, while also being a great horror show. It's 1983 setting is so spot on, I almost wondered if the show was made 30 years ago. The special effects are too good for that.
Winona Rider has earned a lot of acclaim for her role as a mother who lost her child, and she deserves it. Rider was once one of our best film actresses, but a jewelry theft gone wrong sent her to actor purgatory. Now she's one of best reasons to subscribe to Netflix.
What this show reminds us is that imagination without cynicism can be refreshing and inspirational. Filled with clichés, the show plays them as strengths. The nerd/jock/pretty girl subplot, the fat nerd, the drunken sheriff, the evil government agency, etc. All are iconic 80's motifs, but here are given fresh eyes.
This isn't an 80's hack job. This is what Tarantino did with. black spoiltation films and spaghetti westerns. He gave them facelifts. Stranger Things does the same.
The People v. OJ Simpson
This is the best piece of TV I've seen since Seinfeld. I was mesmerized from frame one to the last second. I lived through the 1994-1995 trial. I was in 8th grade and remember my grandma making me listen to a John & Ken to know he was guilty.
What the show does in 10 segments is not prove or disprove his innocence, but instead makes us look back at an era where there was no 24 hour news outside of CNN. When Americans were clueless about DNA evidence. When we just a few years out from the LA riots from Rodney King. The show is a pure reflection of a different era.
The acting is top notch. The writing Pulitzer level. The direction crisp. It's a brilliant piece of art.
The film leans toward a guilty action by OJ, but a not guilty criminal trial. You can see how Cochran got him off. Had we been on that jury during that time, we might have voted not guilty too. Either way...what a trip down memory lane.
Binge watching is a pure joy. It's pure escapism. And I look forward to the next journey.
Road Stories: Almost Famous
In mid January I went on the road. You know, like a rock star. But for comedy.
I was was able to get 5 shows in Tucson, AZ at Laffs Comedy Club. 5 shows. 5 killer sets. The road is easier than LA. And a Laffs is an amazing club.
But it was the Friday night after the 10pm show I'll never forget. It was the two beautiful girls who waited outside of the club to take me out after that show I'll always remember. It was the idea that on the road I'm living the dream, and the locals admired it. It was the fact that the gorgeous girl I sat next to all night after the show admired my choices.
In fact, during a dance party at a club the next night, three people came up to me and said "you were funny at Laffs!" They had been at the show. They had seen me. They admired the guts it takes to perform.
The next weekend I was in Claremont and Ontario, and the bartenders at the local bar were impressed I was opening for 6 shows at the local club. I felt like I was living one of my Top 5 favorite films, Almost Famous.
Recently, I filmed for Laughs on Fox. I'll be on national network TV in 2017. Things are going well. Which means I'm due for a tragedy. I'm kidding. Kind of.
I will say that the experience on the road has been a blessing.
But no matter what happens, I'll never forget that night with the girls who asked me to join them for drinks and Karaoke. That beautiful girl with the amazing eyes. That's when I felt Almost Famous.
The film Million Dollar Baby talks about what most think before they die. That they didn't get their shot. I got my shot. And that that keeps me strong.
Paul Douglas Moomjean Blog's About What's on His Mind
Blogging allows for me to rant when there is no stage in the moment to talk about what's important and/or funny to me.