By Ron VandenBoom
It's old news by now, but American Beauty took the high honors last Sunday evening at the Academy Awards.
Described as a dark, provocative look at a typical American Dysfunctional family, the movie is said to be as illuminating as it is dark.
Kevin Spacey, who won an Oscar for playing the lead role of Lester Burnham in the movie, told the audience during his acceptance speech the movie "dealt with sex and drugs, blackmail, homophobia, infidelity and suburban dysfunction."
He goes on to say that in the middle of all this "was a character named Ricky Fitts who at one point says sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it.' And everyone in the audience knew exactly what he meant."
I must confess that I have not yet seen the movie, nor have I been able to find anyone who has, so I am ignorant about the particulars. But I do have to wonder what could be beautiful about sex, drugs, blackmail, homophobia, infidelity and suburban dysfunction.
Unless, of course, the movie gives us the cure for all of these ailments. That, of course, would be a value far exceeding the price of admission and I would forgo all other endeavors to attend.
Based on what I have read or been told about American Beauty, I don't believe I will ever care to watch it. It sounds too depressing for someone of my delicate character. I much prefer keeping my social dysfunction private where it will do the most good and scare the fewest people.
Perhaps I'm just old fashioned. Perhaps I'm missing some socially relevant commentary that in the final analysis will change society for the better. In fact, I hope it does. But I have my doubts.
While American Beauty may be Hollywood's way of holding a mirror to the dark under-belly of society and screaming "LOOK, SEE WHAT MISERABLE BEASTS WE ARE," I prefer confining my mirror to the bathroom wall and screaming "LOOK, STOP THE MOVIE, PLEASE!"
Another nominee for best picture honors was The Cider House Rules. The story of an ether-snifffing doctor who performs abortions and runs an orphanage another uplifting theme, don't you think?
I don't doubt Michael Caine, who won an Oscar for his role as Dr. Wilbur Larch, is a superb actor, but the theme denotes the essence of hypocrisy and a state of self-contradiction that is bound to depress the viewer. Make sure you bring a hanky along when you go to see this one.
Other nominees for best picture include The Green Mile the story of a man in prison for savagely killing two young girls that also happens to have God given miraculous powers.
While I've been told the movie is about friendship and humanity, I got a feeling in real life you won't find much friendship or humanity in someone who kills two young girls.
Another nominee, The Insider, is typical of many today that claims to be based on a true story of greed, ambition, and the corrupt television media. Certainly an easy message to digest when playing to an audience that already believes ambition, corruption, and greed are evil norms.
The last film, The Sixth Sense, tells the story of an eight-year-old boy haunted by ghosts and the child psychologist who tries to uncover the ominous truth about the boy's powers and their purpose.
This movie, too, while offering mystery and some of what you might call the "spine-tingling," still appears far from uplifting.
Maybe it's just me and I'm missing something here, but what ever happened to movies that are fun, inspirational, and pure entertainment? It's bad enough we have to live with the ugly reality of social dysfunction without having our faces rubbed in it in the name of entertainment.
Give me my two hours of escapism and I pay the $6 and enjoy movies again.