If I ran the Oscars: Lloyd Kaufman
In this interview series, we ask some famous free thinkers to recast the Oscars in their own image. Please welcome to the stage: producer-director ("The Toxic Avenger"), Troma Entertainment co-founder, and stalwart champion of independent film, Lloyd Kaufman.
Lloyd, I'm almost afraid to ask, but. ... if you were in charge of the academy voting this year, which films or performers would get the Oscar?
Intellectually, I and millions like me don't give a ... for the Oscars. With the earthquake in Haiti and a 10-15 percent unemployment rate in this country, should we really be concerned with the celebrity red carpet culture of the Oscars? Furthermore, a truly brilliant, independent, visionary artist with limited resources simply can't compete with the big time Hollywood producers who dole out massive amounts of money for trade advertising in order to campaign for Oscars. Many of us on the consumer side believe that the Oscars are bought, like the money changers in the temple!
Nevertheless, we cynics -- emotionally, we can't help ourselves -- we can't help but care about old Oscar, no matter what we do or say. So regarding 2009, "Observe and Report," directed by Jody Hill and starring Seth Rogen, was an unappreciated, brilliant movie. "District 9" should sweep for best picture, best special effects and best actor for Sharlto Copley. Unlike "Avatar," the CGI in "District 9" doesn't intrude or take over the film, but enhances it, like a Bernard Herrmann musical score for a Hitchcock movie.
"Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead" was also highly, highly underrated and overlooked by the academy (author's note: Lloyd Kaufman directed "Poultrygeist")! Also worthy of an Oscar are "The Girlfriend Experience," directed by Steven Soderbergh; "Life Is Hot in Cracktown," directed by Buddy Giovinazzo; "Crank 2: High Voltage," directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (and featuring a cameo by the hunky Lloyd Kaufman), and "The Hurt Locker," directed by Kathryn Bigelow, though that film was perhaps a little too one-sided for my tastes.
In your opinion, which films and performances from the past deserved an Oscar but didn't win one? And are there movies that didn't deserve the award?
Charlie Chaplin deserved Oscar gold for every single movie he made, especially "Monsieur Verdoux." So did Bjork for Lars von Trier's "Dancer in the Dark." I can't pass up a musical with a good bludgeoning and a horrendous hanging!
As for rewriting history, I'd retract the Oscars given to "Forrest Gump." The message of that movie is terrible! Essentially, if you're a mentally retarded male, and you go through life obeying orders as if you were a Nazi (to the point of supporting an obscenely wrong war such as Vietnam), then you too can end up a billionaire! But if you're female, working for peace and a better world, then you'll get punished! God will give you AIDS! "Forrest Gump" is a hateful film, worthy of Pat Robertson.
Which categories would you add? And which need deleting?
The categories themselves are fine, but there's a hypocrisy in who and what is selected. There's nothing wrong with a category called best actor, but why do plastic automatons like Russell Crowe, Julia Roberts, Mel Gibson and George Clooney are nominated, who act like film students, receive such adulation? Why not give the Oscar to someone deserving, like Sam Rockwell, Bill Pullman, Laura Linney, Ellen Page, Kerry Washington or Amy Adams? They're all brilliant actors.
As far as the major media goes, there are really only two categories at the Oscars: who is the best on the red carpet and who is the best advertised. In the past, the Oscars were about respect, not ratings. If this were true today, the categories would actually mean something.
Which parts of the telecast would you remove, and what would you replace it with?
Get rid of the hokey-jokey hosts and toastmasters and bring in some serious inspiration. If real talents and earth-shakers like Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Woody Allen, Jonas Mekas, Penelope Spheeris, Don Cheadle, Jon Voight, Jane Fonda and Oliver Stone could speak from the heart and not be required to read pre-scripted schlock from a teleprompter, then it might make for an interesting evening. I'd rather hear Oliver Stone, as crazy as he might be, over a blathering, clown-like acceptance speech from Roberto Benigni any night!
Which part of the Oscars would you never change?
The best part is the In Memoriam tribute. I'd give a bit more information on each of the honorees so that younger people might learn something about them. Also, as I've already said, we should preserve the original idealism of the Oscars and nix the red carpet and worship of conspicuous consumption.
Who would be your dream host and musical presenters?
Wow. So who would receive your honorary Oscars for lifetime achievement?
George A. Romero. He is the most overlooked American director today. And Karen Black deserves an Oscar -- she has an amazing body of work and goes out of her way to support truly independent filmmakers. Also, Kirk Douglas should receive a competitive Oscar instead of the honorary Oscar for "50 years as a moral and creative force in the motion picture community." What is that, a consolation prize? Kirk broke the blacklist, for god's sake! Don't forget Werner Herzog, Mike Leigh, Lars von Trier and Stan Brakhage, of course!
The academy should also pay tribute to director John G. Avildsen, who directed "Rocky" and "Save the Tiger," both of which won Oscars. His "Karate Kid" series, "Cry Uncle!" and "Rocky" have sold billions of dollars in tickets and influenced a generation of movie makers and moviegoers. Because Avildsen fights for his art, he was removed from "Serpico," "Saturday Night Fever" and "Howard Stern's Private Parts." However, Avildsen's early, visionary stewardship of these films helped them make millions of dollars for the studios and, with the exception of "Private Parts," were also cinematic landmarks.
Do you have a favorite Oscar moment -- good or bad -- from the past?
For me, the most inspirational and important Oscar moment was when Marlon Brando sent Sacheen Littlefeather onstage in his place to protest the treatment of American Indians. Now that's what I call getting punk'd! This was one of the first moments in American and world consciousness where attention had to be paid to the historic genocide of Native Americans by the white race. Thanks to that Oscar moment, U.S. social history was changed -- and it led to the resurrection of the ancient Native American tradition of casino gambling!
You like me! You really like me! I would like to thank God, Jesus Christ and the MPAA ratings board for creating this incredibly historic occasion. Now, if we could bow our heads for a moment of silence in honor of all the alcoholic, crack-addicted, ugly, Native American, unmarried mothers and other distasteful minorities whom the Hollywood elite have banned and blacklisted ... Hollywood, we don't need your awards. We're the Troma Team! Now let's make some art!
-- Paul Gaita
Top Photo: Lloyd Kaufman. Bottom Photo: Lloyd Kaufman in "Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead." Credit: Troma Entertainment.
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