THE USUAL SUSPECTS ‌ And the Losers Are 

The moviegoing patrons of America

Quick Academy Awards question for you: What do Deuce Bigelow: European Gigolo, Aeon Flux, and the 2005 remake of The Bad News Bears have in common?

Besides the bad acting. OK, OK, and horrible scripts. And the fact that they were box office flops ... alright, BESIDES all that — what do they have in common?

More people saw every single one of these dogs than saw multiple-Oscar-nominee and potential "Best Picture of 2005," Capote. In fact, Capote's box office ranking as of this writing is 108th.

When you can't beat Rob Schneider's box office numbers, should you be allowed to win an Oscar? For "Best Picture?" I don't think so.

I'm not picking on Philip Seymour Hoffman — who is, by the way, a fantastic actor. Hoffman is not alone in his solitude. Walk into a theater showing any of the Best Picture nominees — Munich, Brokeback Mountain, Good Night and Good Luck, and Crash — and you're likely to find plenty of good seats. In fact, at the time the Academy Award® nominations were announced, more Americans had seen Wedding Crashers than all five Best Picture nominees combined.

George Clooney's stylized — and fictionalized — anti-McCarthyism film (in Clooney's version of the 1950s, nobody was a Communist, not even the Soviets) ranks 95th in box office. Spielberg's Munich languishes behind The Legend of Zorro and Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous.

Believe it or not, the "boffo" box office in the Best Picture category goes to Brokeback Mountain, which at least cracked the top 40, though it has yet to catch up with such blockbusters as Cheaper By The Dozen 2 or The Exorcism of Emily Rose.

A movie snob by nature, I'm certainly willing to consider the Menckenian explanation that nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American people. In other words, the higher the box office, the lower the brow. Academy Awards® aren't popularity contests. They're about honoring great movies.

Unfortunately, these movies aren't. Great, that is.

Before I get to the real, scandalous secret about Brokeback Mountain that will leave you shocked and speechless, let's knock down this notion that the Academy Awards shun popular films for "high art."

Gladiator, Chicago, Seabiscuit, Million Dollar Baby, The Aviator, and all three Lord of the Rings movies — they were Best Picture winners or nominees in the previous four years. And each one sold at least $100 million worth of tickets.

Not one of this year's "Best" Pictures has crossed the $100 million mark. And there's a reason why you haven't seen these movies, too. You're not supposed to. These movies aren't for you and me. These are "Hollywood" movies.

That term, "Hollywood," used to mean glamorous, glitzy, and gay. Now it means gloomy, self-indulgent, and, well, gay.

Capote is an insider's look at a man that 90 percent of Americans (I'm being generous) don't know about and don't care about. Why should they? He's a writer who wrote mostly for New Yorkers and who, when he spoke, sounded like he was taping an episode of Hollywood Squares.

Crash is a two-hour social studies lesson on race relations in LA filled with liberal California clichés of itself. Munich — probably the best of the bunch — is a fundamentally dishonest movie that doesn't show the Munich Olympic attacks that inspire the rest of the movie until the last scene. Of course the Israeli agents look like murderers if you don't know about the innocent Israeli athletes blown to bits by terrorists at the beginning of the story.

But the biggest scam of all is Brokeback Mountain. And yes, everything you've read is true: Scandal! Shocks! Surprise! And here it is (spoiler alert!):

Brokeback Mountain is ... boring.

I don't know who called this the "love story of our age" (I suspect Larry King), but Brokeback isn't even the best GAY love story to make the big screen. It's a yawner, a nothing, the film that wasn't there. There was more power in the penultimate scene from American Beauty than in Brokeback.

My fellow English majors will know exactly what I mean when I say the two words that nearly always guarantee a lousy movie: "short story." Everyone who remembers those films we watched in high school English when the teacher wanted to grade papers will recognize this movie, too.

Rent On Golden Blonde or The BoyToys from Brazil and stay home instead. You'll have a much better time.

But you aren't supposed to have a good time, at this or any of these movies. You're supposed to learn something, to raise your consciousness, to have your liberal, Bush-hating, right-wing-fearing prejudices reconfirmed.

What? You don't hate George W. Bush? You aren't a liberal and you don't lie awake in fear that Pat Robertson will be listening to your international phone calls?

Too bad. Hollywood's got nothing for you this year. Oh, sure, there was plenty at the box office: Star Wars, Harry Potter, Narnia (a movie based on a Christian book that grossed nearly $300 million — gee, wonder why we've heard so little about it?), even ol' King Kong. All successful, all apolitical, and all ignored by the Academy.

Hollywood is, according to media reports, going through a crisis. Box office is down, and public interest in movies is declining. The movie industry doesn't understand why they're not connecting with average, ordinary Americans.

Well, hey — if Truman Capote, Edward R. Murrow, a gang of sympathetic Palestinian terrorists, and two rump-ridin' cowboys won't connect with John Q. Public, what will?


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