Whatever you think of the Oscar-nominated films, or the Oscars themselves for that matter, this Global Grand Prize Game pulses with fear, desire, inclusion and exclusion on a mass scale. Given that our dedicated focus as of late is the amelioration of fear, what better generally misunderstood figure to place on the analytic couch than Mr. Goldfinger himself (cue the James Bond theme here): Oscar.
Oscar is our quintessential American Gigolo—a hooker with a heart of Oliver stone who wears his gold on his sleeve. Oscar is a king who gives no speech, a Gatsby who doesn’t even float; not on the east coast, nor does he float in Gloria Swanson’s Sunset Boulevard pool either—but that’s still him at the bottom of our collective Theodore Dreiser/An American Tragedy lake that we’ll all be dragging like Rue Paul this Sunday when we’re Watching the Detectives who star in the big recurring dream/nightmare we all seem to Inceive each Oscar season.
So, what strange zeitgeist stirrings might be glimpsed in the collective tealeaves of this year’s best picture nominees? Perhaps we might deconstruct the nominated pictures in terms of raw dread and universal human emotion:
I cannot trust mom, and so I am not sure if I am good or bad. Love and success are not safe—I am not in a safe, sane or integrated place: Black Swan.
Dad cannot be counted on, so I must figure it out alone. I am not in a safe place (and I will lose an arm to get there): True Grit.
Same as above, only add drug problems (but keep own arm and cut dead dad’s arm): Winter’s Bone.
Even Mother Nature is not a safe place, I must lose my arm to get free of the ultimate Mother: 127 Hours. [And what is up in the zeitgeist with three severed arms out of ten top movies anyway? Disintegration of self?]
My narcissism caused the death of my wife and estrangement from my kids, and now I’m not even safe when I’m sleeping (nor am I sure if I am sleeping): Inception.
My low self-esteem and fear is so pervasive that “fight” has become my very identity (and so how can I possibly love and attach and be safe?): The Fighter.
Even when we love and care, we face separation and loss due to the march of time and the growing up of children, but it is good to care, laugh and cry together: Toy Story 3 and The Kids are Alright.
I have no idea how to relate to others, I must crack the code of social relating in order to be good enough (and then I’m rich and famous, but still alone): The Social Network.
I’m totally not safe because mom, dad, nanny and country have not been safe… but if I have one friend who loves and understands me for who I am, I can find my voice and my way, and even contribute to the group: The King’s Speech.
In ancient times “acting” was about communing with the gods and then relaying the messages to the people. So, whether we are awake or we are dreaming, we are all in this together; our social network needs to realize that no one is excluded from the true group—it is merely our consciousness that ebbs and flows with feelings of inclusion, exclusion, love and loss—our survivalist lizard brains (gotta love them) that keep us alive and yet, all too often, prevent us from truly having a life.
Films must be emotional in order to speak to us, but we must also realize (at least when parenting) that while we have feelings, they do not define us. Thus we all, at times, feel unsafe, alone, angry, threatened and inadequate. Yet perhaps the greater truth is that if we all feel these things, maybe we are all included, adequate, even loved.
If we can tame our collective fears by calming our individual fears (in part by becoming more conscious about these fears), our films may become a little less preoccupied with basic trust and move on to explore life and love with more depth… or even fade away into irrelevance, but either way our lives will grow all the richer and more connected.
Then we can heal our fears of being outside the social network, of being inadequate or unloved, and trust that our love is good enough, and that we have the power to give it no matter what anybody says, and no matter how many people seem indifferent.
Even though I admit that I am prone to cynicism and sarcasm in the face of things as false and facile as the Oscars, I hope to find some compassion for poor cold Oscar and for those who will hold him in a love embrace this Sunday.
So, let us savor the gratitude born of our own greatest Oscar fortune: our ability to watch from the couch (not the therapist’s couch, but the living room couch), as we dish, admire, laugh, love or roll our eyes… safely from afar and in the context of “real” (including virtual) friends and family.
And the Namaste goes to: You!