Every great columnist has his Signature Column, a repeating event for which he is known, for which the column readers clamor. Dave Barry has exploding cows and toilets. Tony Kornheiser has his Redskins bandwagon. Army Archard has his Thanksgiving Day in Paris column.
Yeah, columns where he's in Paris on Thanksgiving.
That's Art Buchwald, you imbecile.
Anyway, I am known for my Oscar Picks column--or I will be, after this year--that yearly romp in which I charmingly wax poetic and pontificate about the best movies of the year even though I have seen few, if any of them. (Who has time to go to the movies any more?) A column famous for its clever wit and slick urbane verbiage, whose only small flaw is that, year after year, it's dreadfully unfunny.
I hate it. I never have anything to say. Yet I am tethered to it. Even though this is my first one.
In February, as soon as the Oscar nominations are announced, the mail starts pouring in.
"Dear Noah, who are you picking for Best Supporting Actress this year? I was amazed at the strength of Jennifer Connelly's performance in A Beautiful Mind. But knowing you, Noah, I'd bet you're probably partial to Marisa Tomei. Can't wait to see the column."
(Actually, I'm partial to pina coladas. Right now.)
Jennifer Connelly's strength? The poor girl doesn't even look strong enough to shoplift a large Prada handbag. (Well, if Winona can, I guess anyone can....) And Marisa Tomei? Sounds like an Italian white semi-sweet wine that no self-respecting Italian would ever drink. Undaunted, I will still compare her work to that of her predecessors in the oeuvre of slow-moving American art house films that are supposed to display the unspoken grief of middle-class angst.
Boy, would I love to "Soprano" this column.
My friend Kit says that the way to send this to Davy Jones' locker is to write a column so bad, so choked with mistakes, misinformation and lousy jokes, so bloated with inane, redundant rhetoric, that no one will ever ask for my column again.
It looks as though you're on your way.
My second reaction was uncertainty: Who'd notice the difference between that and my ordinary column?
"Fine," Kit replied. "Stick to your principles, and you'll have to do this pathetic column every year until you die. And on your gravestone, it will say, 'Here lies Noah Davis, a (somewhat) responsible journalist who kept writing silly, inane foolishness about the Oscars, year after year, so we're really glad he's dead.'"
Pondering this sticky situation, movies come to mind. I could take Kit's advice and do a Producers-type piece, but what happens if it's a success? Could I be bombastic enough each week to fill this space with specious trivialities?
I wouldn't go there if I were you.
You are me, and thanks for the input.
I think, rather, that I should press on gallantly, in the face of overwhelming odds, much like the outmatched slaves in Spartacus.
This year, my pick for Best Picture is In the Bedroom, mainly because that's where I'd like to be right now, whether it's sleeping or doing the other thing I do in the bedroom, clipping my toenails.
Best Actress goes to Halle Berry for the obvious reason. Actually, the two obvious reasons she bared in Swordfish. Don't talk to me about Monster's Ball. Only two people in the United States have seen it, and it's just an excuse for the normally stodgy Academy voters to nominate some of the most perfect mammary glands ever seen on screen.
Best Actor is Denzel. (Like Madonna, he has reverted to just one name.) He's well overdue, and I really loved him in Training Wheels, the story of a bicycle cop who finally learns to ride a two-wheeler.
Best Supporting Actress is clearly the strong Jennifer Connelly. (Jen, honey, can I get a date?)
Best Supporting Actor goes to Ben Kingsley, as voters were wowed how a guy like Gandhi could go from the most peace-loving person in the British Empire to such a foul-mouthed bad-ass gangster boss.
I'll skip right over the other big prizes on the theory that the reader is more interested in lesser-known categories such as Documentary Short Subject (my favorite is Poor Alan, not a movie, but an ex-boyfriend of my sister's--talk about a "short subject....") and Best Music (Score), which will go to Sting by a final margin of six to four.
I'll move directly to the prize for Best Short Film--Animated, a category I find compelling because it encompasses the full breadth of the human experience, filmed as art but rooted in the intense drama of human striving, and featuring the irreproducible intimacy of realism, yet as animation. The nominees are...
You can stop now, Noah. No one is reading anymore.