[Marxism] Bread and games: the funny side of death in Hollywood

Jurriaan Bendien bendien at tomaatnet.nl
Tue Mar 2 05:51:58 MST 2004

The Guardian reported today: "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, the title track of the
1968 album by the west coast psychedelic rock band Iron Butterfly, comprised
17 turgid, interminable minutes of draining solos and negligible lyrics.
(...) In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, the exhibition by Angus Fairhurst, Damien Hirst
and Sarah Lucas that opens tomorrow at Tate Britain, is something else
entirely. Sex, death, religion, the human condition, the nature of consumer
society and the high-art culture industry all get a look-in. (...) Lucas's
"Christ You Know It Ain't Easy" has a sculpted Jesus covered entirely in
cigarettes, crucified on a painted Cross of St George. He wears a crown of
Marlboro Lights and looks over a Hirst vitrine that contains a deformed
calf, stillborn with six legs. In "His Infinite Wisdom" continues the group
of works that began with Hirst's "Away From the Flock", which was vandalised
at the Serpentine Gallery some years ago. Can Christ do anything for the
dead calf? Is it all his fault? Christ in fags on an English flag, a
malformed genetic accident as a freak-show art object. This is blasphemy and
animal rights outrage corner. The calf has been suspended in its
formaldehyde tank as though it were reaching upward, imploringly, or to
suckle. Lucas's Mary is nearby too - a red light in an old bucket, with two
more light bulbs for her tits, dangling from her coat-hanger shoulders. I
was stricken with an utter lack of any feeling whatsoever about all of
this." Source:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/features/story/0,11710,1159918,00.html I had
to think of Kurt Cobain, "All Apologies".

Meanwhile, at least 50 people were killed in Tuesday's attacks on Shiite
shrines in Baghdad and Karbala. The blasts in Karbala apparently killed 31
people and wounded 100 others. Some 30 bodies were piled up outside Karbala
hospital and more were inside, including 17 in one room. Some were
decapitated or otherwise mutilated. More casualties, who included Iranian as
well as Iraqi pilgrims, were being brought in all the time on stretchers,
wrapped in blankets and dripping blood, in ambulances or private cars,
followed by relatives. In Baghdad, officials at two hospitals reported 19
people killed from explosions at the Kazimiya shrine in a northern
neighborhood of the city. An unknown number of victims were taken to other
hospitals. In the chaos afterward, an Iraqi policeman was shot in the head
and killed by small arms fire, he said. The attacks in the two cities took
place nearly simultaneously as tens of thousands of Shiite pilgrims gathered
for Ashoura, the holiest day in the Shiite religious calendar. Karbala hotel
owner Aziz Aziz Mazhat, who saw at least 20 bodies lying in the street,
raged against US President George W. Bush. "You came here to get rid of
Saddam but you do not protect us," he said. "What happened today is the
start of civil war against everyone, including Americans, who wants to hurt
At the the 76th annual Academy Awards though, Billy Crystal (56) was back as
master of ceremonies after a three-year hiatus He is a favorite of Oscar
audiences and critics alike for his dead-pan humor, quick ad-libs and
Hollywood send-ups. 10 minutes before showtime, he emerged from his dressing
room, sipped a glass of water with lemon, and grouped his writers together
in a circle. They put their hands in the middle and wished each other a good
show before breaking apart. Crystal paced backstage in the shadows in
glistening black shoes, preparing for his monologue by blowing air between
his lips and making a "yo-yyy, yo-yyy" sound to work his vocal cords. He
whispered to Sean Connery, who then went onstage to introduce the telecast.
There was a toothbrush in his jacket pocket, a tradition since 1990. As a
child growing up on Long Island, he'd rehearse Oscar speeches in the
bathroom mirror while holding his toothbrush like an award. Little
traditions like that help keep him "grounded". Next came Crystal's
videotaped comedy montage, featuring Billy doing everything from riding
Seabiscuit to clowning as wicked Gollum. The live audience of thousands
laughed hysterically. Crystal, who was standing just offstage, didn't crack
a smile though.

Billy opened the show with a reminder about the first Oscar show he hosted
13 years ago: "Everything was so different," he said. "Bush was president,
the economy was tanking and we'd just finished a war with Iraq." Crystal
kicked off the show with one of his famous pre-taped parody montages and a
musical monologue. The montage started with Billy finding a magical golden
ring in his box of Cracker Jacks, as he sat in a darkened movie house, his
camcorder aimed at the screen. As he slips the ring on his finger, he is
transported by a bolt of lightning into the movie he's watching. The clip
featured Billy in the guise of a troll-like Gollum character, staring at his
reflection in a pond and talking about returning as host of the Oscars. "I
haven't been to the Oscars since they were taken over the by evil wizards."
His reflection asks, "The Orcs?" and Crystal answers, "No, the Weinsteins,"
referring to Miramax Films co-chairmen and perennial Oscar powerhouses Bob
and Harvey Weinstein.

Documentary satirist Michael Moore made a cameo appearance in the montage,
urging an end to the fictional war portrayed in "Lord of the Rings" before
being stomped by an elephantine creature - again drawing roars of laughter
from the crowd. In his presentation, Crystal also aimed some of his wit at
Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ." "For the very, very first time,
we're being simulcast in Aramaic," Crystal joked. Then, turning to Charlize
Theron, nominated as best actress for her role in "Monster," he said, "You
look absolutely beautiful, but in that movie you scared the bejeezus out of
Mel Gibson. You were absolutely scary." "Mel Gibson's movie, unbelievable
hit, $117 million," he added. "Opened on Ash Wednesday, had a Good Friday, a
better Saturday and Sunday, unbelievable." The only black performer
nominated for an Academy Award this year was Djimon Hounsou for his role in
the Brazilian film "City of God," . Since 1927 only 33 black performers have
been nominated (in direction, costume-design or screenwriting, only 15
African Americans have been nominated).

The Oscars were watched by an estimated 43.5 million US viewers, the biggest
audience since 2000 - the year "Gladiator" won for best picture. The number
of American viewers who tuned in for some portion of Sunday night's event,
73.4 million, also was up by more than 10 million from last year. The Oscars
are the No. 1 entertainment program in total viewers and adults aged 18 to
49 for the television season. NBC's Golden Globes telecast averaged 26.8
million viewers, the Grammys on CBS draw 26.3 million and the Fox Emmy
Awards telecast 17.9 million. The Super Bowl, which this year averaged a
six-year high of about 90 million viewers and drew more attention for Janet
Jackson breast-baring halftime performance than for the action on the
football field.


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