Oscar's Nazi Past
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Brandy Dean of the website Pretty Clever Films offered an interesting essay on the very first Academy Awards ceremony in 1928. Anyone who is intimate with me knows that one of my defining qualities is my obsession with the Oscars (along with a fascination for Internet pornography and my tragically misshapen genitalia) so I read with interest Ms. Dean's account of the banquet (until 1940, the awards were handed out in a hotel ballroom instead of a theatre), especially of the Academy's presentation of a special award to Charlie Chaplin "for versatility and genius in acting, writing, directing and producing The Circus." The Circus is not considered one of the highlights of Le Charlot's blue chip career (he was going through a bitter divorce while making it) and Ms. Dean concluded that "I don't have any specific information to support this theory, but this strikes me as a "We really should give Charlie an award but all he's got this year is The Circus.'" A valid conclusion (especially considering that his masterpieces City Lights and Modern Times failed to be nominated in any category in years the Best Picture Oscars were given to the dubious choices of Cimarron and The Great Ziegfeld), but there's more to the story than that. When those first nominations were first announced and the Academy was still working out the kinks in the system, Chaplin was among the three finalists in the categories of Best Actor and Best Comedy Direction (the only time that classification was given an award) for his work on The Circus but the Academy wrote him "The Academy Board of Judges on merit awards for individual achievement in motion picture arts during the year ending August 1, 1928, unanimously decided that your name should be removed from the competitive classes, and that a special first award should be conferred upon you for writing, acting, directing and producing The Circus. The collective accomplishments thus displayed place you in a class by yourself." This made Chaplin ineligible for the competitive categories he was nominated in (the only time that a nominee was taken out of the running for competitive awards after being given a special award instead) so the man many people regard as the greatest artist in film history wouldn't win a competitive Oscar until 1972, when his 1952 classic Limelight won him the award for Best Music, Original Dramatic Score when it became eligible on the loophole that it hadn't played in Los Angeles until 20 years after it had first been made because of Chaplin's difficulties with the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s.
All this is a mere prelude to why the Motion Picture Academy is taken to task on these pages this week. With Chaplin out of the running for Best Actor (an honor I would like to think he would have won if the judges had allowed him to stay in the race), the remaining nominees were Richard Barthelmess (an actor best remembered for his moving portrayal of a Chinese coolie in love with a little girl played by 25 year old Lillian Gish in D.W. Griffith's masterpiece Broken Blossoms) in the forgotten The Noose and The Patent Leather Kid (they gave the acting awards for performances in multiple films that year), and the prestigious German star Emil Jannings for his powerful work in The Last Command and the now-lost The Way of All Flesh. Jannings was named the winner and actually became the first person to be awarded an Oscar statuette when he was given the award two weeks before the ceremony so that he wouldn't have to postpone a trip to his homeland. Alas, Jannings was reluctant to stay in the United States when sound films came into vogue (although his speech in the English-language version of the 1930 classic The Blue Angel - made concurrently with the German version – seems perfectly acceptable) and returned permanently to Germany where he aligned himself with the Nazi Party and was placed on the Board of Directors of the Tobis movie studio where he starred in such Nazi-produced films as Der alte und der junge Künig (1935) and Ohm Krüger (1941), the latter one of the most expensive anti-British propaganda productions of the Third Reich. The result was that Jannings is the only person who received the Academy Award in addition to being awarded a medal by Goebbels and honored as "Artist of the State." But when Berlin fell and he pathetically approached U.S. soldiers who were storming the city, it was the Academy honor he was holding over his head while screaming "Don't shoot! I have Oscar!" Jannings was blacklisted after the war despite claiming that he was forced to make the propaganda films against his will. Nobody believed him then and I don't believe him now and I'm sure that if the Academy had it to do over again, they would have given that first Best Actor award to Chaplin. Even Richard Barthelmess would have been less of an embarrassment.
My buddies Tiffany Caccoyannis and Harmony Sanchez, which whom I dined last week. The three of us met in one of our favorite eateries, a Chinese café that specializes in mouth-watering strawberry shrimp (and if strawberry shrimp sounds odd to you, I suggest that you try it and prepare yourself for the unprecedented experience of having your mouth orgasm). The food is so delicious that it perplexes me that the place never seems to have any customers so that when we arrived, the waiter was so anxious to attend to us that I had to shoo him away several times so that he wouldn't remove the plates from our table while we were still shoveling food from off them into our faces. When a couple of other lonely patrons staggered into the place to be fed and the waiter's attention was diverted so that we could finally look around the place without our strawberry shrimp being snatched away from us, we noticed a beautiful Chinese mandarin robe and boots displayed in an ornate frame on the wall above us. This prompted me to concoct a scenario where Ms. Sanchez was a beautiful Chinese Empress and I was her devoted eunuch, dutifully following her around carrying my detached junk over my head in a box like the guys in the movie The Last Emperor. As Ms. Sanchez and Ms. Caccoyannis stared uncomfortably into their final remaining chunks of broccoli, I concluded the fantasy with my eunuch discovering that the box which he thought held his sacred manhood actually contained a pair of Keds tennis shoes, with my acting out the discovery by screaming "Where's my junk?!!!" This prompted our waiter to come by and once again clean out the table, only this time it was with the idea of throwing me into the garbage instead of the remnants of our meal. Fortunately, I found enough uneaten strawberry shrimp in the dumpster that it worked out for everybody.
My friends Ken and Trish Seranos, whose first child Andrew Kenneth Seranos was born yesterday at 4:48 a.m. There was much speculation as to what Andrew would ultimately be named (I was pushing for Crocodile in honor of Mrs. Seranos' Australian heritage) but I think they made a perfect final selection because it offers him so many choices in life. The name Andrew has a proven track record if the boy is voted President of the United States (and if scandal befalls his administration, he won't even have to suffer the humiliation of being the first president Andrew to be impeached thanks to Andrew Johnson). If he becomes a country-western singer, a NASCAR driver or a blue collar comedian he can be known by the folksy Andy. And should he choose the career path of spy, millionaire playboy or international jewel thief, he can go by the pizzazzy Drew. He can even return to his mother's ancestral home and become a backwoodsman in the Australian outback since there's nothing stopping him from adopting "Crocodile" as a nickname. I tell you, that boy has potential.
Facebook. My buddy Stephanie Fredricks celebrated a birthday yesterday so in celebration, I posted the hilarious image on the left of Jonny from Jonny Comics laying nude in bed with a piece of birthday cake laying of his firm derriére on her Facebook wall, adding the caption "May all your birthday fantasies come true." You will notice though that the picture is subtly animated, showing the candle in the cake dancing carelessly on Jonny's rump and the frame sparkling happily around it. Regretfully, I discovered that Facebook doesn't allow animated images so when I posted it on Ms. Fredricks wall it lied there lifelessly, as if the Jonny in the image was lazily waiting for her to do all the work. At first I was upset until I realized that it was a fairly accurate depiction of what would happen if Ms. Fredricks' dream (at least I assume what her dream is – I have only discussed it with her attorneys when negotiating a restraining order they were filing against me) actually came true, since sexual intercourse with me has been described by more than one woman as being similar to "fucking a dead manatee" and any movement that takes place is due strictly to the woman attempting to escape being crushed to death by my burgeoning weight or if there happens to be an earthquake occurring at the same time. So I hope that Ms. Fredricks enjoyed her birthday and the image of a cold, motionless me on her Facebook page gave her a sufficient erotic charge. If not, she can probably go to the beach tonight and find a dead manatee that's washed up on shore. She'll get the experience of having a sexual encounter with me except that she won't have to listen to it cry afterwards.
My actor-buddy Jeebus Burbano, I wrote last week about another actor acquaintance of mine appearing in a television pilot that was picked up by ABC. This time it was Ms. Burbano's turn, as she played the role of "Hispanic Mother"in Betas which has been picked up for a run on Amazon Prime, one of 15 original programs that Amazon is trying out for a pilot season. While there are no plans to include Hispanic Mother as a series regular, Ms. Burbano expressed delight for the permanent company and told me in her actor vernacular that "I'm gunning for recurring but I'll take reruns!" Personally, I think the producers of Betas are missing an enormous opportunity by not making Hispanic Mother (as portrayed by Ms. Burbano) the focal point of the show. While I haven't seen the pilot and only know the character by name, she is shrouded in a mystery that I find nothing short of compelling. Which Hispanic country does she come from? Spain? Portugal? Somewhere along the Iberian Peninsula? And who is she the mother of? A boy? A girl? Or perhaps some extraterrestrial death spawn which has come to earth to enslave mankind? Even this publicity still from the show is filled with intrigue. Hispanic Mother is reaching into a washing machine, but to retrieve what? A clown costume that is worn by a John Wayne Gacy-like killer? Some erotic lingerie that she'll wear later that night for an assignation with her lover; an international spy? Or perhaps it isn't clothing at all. Maybe she's drying out a treasure map that contains the hiding place of the legendary Blood Lust Diamond. I am enthralled and want to know more, so I'm starting a letter writing campaign for one of the networks to pick up Hispanic Mother for a thirteen episode guarantee this coming season. I figure if they need to keep Two and a Half Men going with Ashton Kutcher, they must be desperate for programming.