by Luke Bumgarten & r & & r & For Your Consideration & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & M & lt;/span & ost people understand that the Academy Awards, for more than a decade, have declined into a shrine of bad taste ruled by publicists. They know this even without subscribing to the trade publications that make millions of dollars every Oscar season running electioneering ads that boast "FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION."
Taking that relatively arcane phrase as the title of his new satire, Christopher Guest indulges the very vainglory and networking smarminess he should be exposing. For Your Consideration never critiques how Harvey Weinstein turned the Oscars into a celebrity horse race, permanently altering the way Americans relate to the film industry into a doofus version of hometown cheerleading. And because the subject of film-industry greed is no longer esoteric, Guest's humor is slack compared to the average moviegoer's cynicism. His core group of satiric performers--Harry Shearer, Catherine O'Hara, Fred Willard, Parker Posey--this time embodies foolish Tinseltown pros who get crazily ambitious once Oscar "buzz" invades their routines.
But when sappy, over-the-top music underscores the actors while filming various "takes," who is it exactly that director Christopher Guest is addressing? Smart-alecky Guest keeps punching his audience in the ribs, congratulating them for "getting" his jokes. But is the joke on sentimentality or egotism? Guest never accurately satirizes his subject or reveals the cultural depravity at the root of Oscar mania.
It's been more than a decade since Bob Dylan quipped about "the world of entertainment exploding." Today, we breathe that pollution as if it were natural. Between weekend box-office charts and Oscar promotion, there is little protection from the movie industry. All bow down. Entertainment Weekly is the new Bible for both easy-to-fleece teens and anxious consumers. TV's numerous show-biz programs are their nightly oracles. Consider the current Borat catastrophe in which mainstream media speaks as one: The only sensible reporting one could find was journalist Lewis Beale's account in The Reeler of how publicists and media colluded to sell the movie--agreeing only to promote the Borat character but never interviewing the insidiously calculating actor behind it.
This is the hegemony that Guest and company seem afraid to touch. They've bought into the idiocy that the exploded world of entertainment is a delight (taking too much fun in easy ridicule of TV's showbiz shows) rather than a pity. Guest misses his mark by focusing only on the mild lunacies of narcissistic actors. This may seem more significant to performers like Guest and friends than it does to outsiders, but surely it was the deeply sympathetic observation of ambitious non-professionals that made Guest's 2001 dog-show parody Best of Show so good. For Your Consideration merely contributes to inside-Hollywood gossip and nut-job egotism.
In the production that Guest scrutinizes a piece of holiday treacle titled Home for Purim members of an American family, decked out like Norman Rockwell totems, open their mouths to spout Yiddish clich & eacute;s. Guest shows studio executives (one played by last-years-comic-genius Ricky Gervais) interrupting the in-progress shoot to cravenly change the films ethnicity for maximal market potential. (Tone down the Jewishness!) But this inane situation seems desperately self-congratulatory, as though the American mainstream is unfamiliar with Jewish humor and pathos.
Sure, media moguls are afraid of missing the gravy train and displeasing the high-spending demographics, but since Guest is not a political satirist, he looks for another cause: presuming that the fault lies within character idiosyncrasy. As in Guest's lame A Mighty Wind, which ignored how the '60s folk music movement represented change in social attitudes toward history and community, For Your Consideration never grasps contemporary Hollywood's cultural decline: It smirks at how Hollywood divas connect their egos to money, their insecurities to fame, their work to prizes. Instead of shaming Hollywood vanity, For Your Consideration becomes part of the problem. Nothing's sadder than useless satire.