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And The Oscar Goes To?

I used to care. I don't really anymore. Old age setting in? Credit Crunch? The Obama Factor (real change more exciting than the fictive kind)? More and more, awards seem built for other people, established at a level where awards don't seem relevant, or real - I refer mainly to rock stars and millionaire actors. Now and again, of course, a genuine, unsung talent is permitted to step forward (one thinks of Borgnine winning).

Underdogs, too, though, are part of the Hollywood myth - and this year has several. Heath Ledger, of course, as dead, is the ultimate underdog, and will likely win for his weird and flexible performance - and that seems fair. Mickey Rourke, half-dead and barely recognizable after years of tough love and uneasy living, seems likely, too, to win - which is a sort of small miracle. Finally, small British movie Slumdog Millionaire, literally about the rise of the underclass and the underdog, seems destined to triumph. Slumdog is a curious tour-de-force - at once slick and empty, and yet, at times, subtly disturbing, even ugly.

It seems like lucky timing (or was it written?) that the film - a plucky outsider - should arrive at a new Depression-era-moment - with its emphasis on the Horatio Alger story, and Angels With Dirty Faces type of Thirties Gangster flick plotting. Despite what anyone might tell you, these and other Oscar wins - if they happen -are not truly multicultural, international, or British, so much as magnetically American - just as cinema itself has been and continues to be - the ultimate story being how everything and everyone gets drawn (like Underdog's symbol, the giant U) like iron filings to Los Angeles, to live, and, of course, to die. That's the pulling power of Hollywood's Dream. And that's what they give the statues to - those who keep it going.

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