Okay, we got it! The sky is falling. Life as we know it is over. We’re all going to Hell in a hand basket. It’s getting to be a real pain in the ass to read the news lately. One dire prediction after another, bankers begging like bums for more billions, company after company laying off workers and internet geeks crying they can’t get start-up millions for their latest annoying internet idea that the world just cannot do without. One insane Congresswoman even lamented that we are running out of (!) rich people, the ignorant bimbo. Woe is us and shit…
While things are pretty bad and a lot of ordinary people are taking major financial hits they cannot afford, well, it it really all that bad? The day after the Academy Awards broadcast, that annual overblown expression of love by Hollywood for itself, you have all sorts of serious news outlets dedicating reams of copy reacting to the show, good, bad and indifferent. How bad can things be when serious people still have time to critique the Oscars? It’s always a good sign when people pursue the frivolous. That means there’s still more to life than the grim business of hunting and gathering. And what’s more frivolous than the Academy Awards?
Thirty six million American households watched the damned thing, with who-knows-how-many people per household riveted to their sets to see who gets the award for Best Performance In A Movie Everybody Hated and things of that sort. It’s been a while since a lot of people have actually seen the nominated movies, but none of that seems to matter. It’s still the same parade of the fabulous, the beautiful and the glamorous preening for each other and praising one another to the skies. And if they go a bit over the top, well, it’s the Oscars, isn’t it? What do we expect from Hollywood, restraint?
And in truth, the auditorium where the Oscars are held is a room full of breathtakingly talented people, not only the actors, directors and writers, but the rest of the people who’s job it is to produce these films, edit them to make the narrative flow seamlessly, operate the cameras, make them sound authentic, light them properly, make the costumes and add all kinds of special effects. And if they get a whole lot carried away with themselves once a year, so what? Who would watch it if they didn’t? Who would care if they showed up in regular clothes and didn’t sing and dance and joke around? They are entertainers, as valuable a national resource as gold, and a hell of a lot more valuable than the miserable failures running our financial institutions.
Pretty much anybody can ruin a giant corporation through greed, corruption and incompetence. Hell, most of us could do it for half of the annual $20 million or so the giant corporations pay their CEOs. But not many people can do what our artists do, and they have not failed us like our corporate princes. Year in and year out, in good times and bad, America’s artists produce an astounding array of great performances, and not only in the movies. Our musicians are still the trend-setters of the music world, writing and performing the soundtracks to our lives. Our comedians punch holes in our assumptions with hilarious precision and get us to think about things in a different way. Our visual artists are painting and sculpting their unique personal visions regardless of what the Dow Jones index says.
And it’s not only our famous artists who give us these gifts. Visit any off-Broadway or regional theater where struggling actors are toiling for peanuts and you’ll see incredible talent on display, as moving and insightful as the big stars. Go to any nightclub featuring live music and listen to some of the musicians few people have heard of and you’ll come away wondering why these brilliant people are not famous. Go to any small art gallery and see the paintings and sculptures of unknown artists; brilliant, beautiful and challenging.
None of these talented artists decides to become an artist. That would be insane and something that can’t be done. You don’t become a great artist because you want to. No, the art picks them, not the other way around. They have no choice but to pursue their visions and share the results with the rest of us. We might want to do what they do, but the truth is, we cannot. It is very difficult and demanding and a rare gift. But we can appreciate the incredible gifts our artists give to us, and how very rich they make our lives. Who among us cannot recite the lines to his favorite movie verbatim, sing along to a thousand great songs, conjure up mental images of their favorite paintings or remember every line of a great poem? All these things have been created for us to enjoy.
None of these pieces of art were created by bankers and accountants. None of them affect the economy one way or another. None of them will feed your family or pay your bills. No piece of art will cure a disease or usher in any scientific breakthroughs. But without our artists, we’d all be poorer than poor, we’d be spiritually bankrupt and adrift in a bleak landscape. So let the Hollywood people celebrate themselves. And why not? These artists know they are the lucky few, the ones who get to be rich and famous. They’d be doing what they do anyway, just like the vast majority of artists and performers everywhere, toiling not for the sake of money or recognition, but for the sake of the art; the music, the acting, the painting, the writing, the sculpture, the photography. They are artists and they have no choice, they must create and they must give. That’s the nature of the beast. Let’s hope things don’t ever get so bad that the rest of us don’t notice. Hurray for Hollywood!