A Hollywood Lesson in Heroes

And so I sat down and waited for highlights of hero-celebrating fare, looking forward to clips of "End of Shift," "Ladder 49," and "Backdraft." I figured I'd maybe catch a glimpse of a pre-"Cheers" Ted Danson in the role of ill-fated LAPD Officer Ian Campbell in "The Onion Field."

Author Dean Scoville Headshot
Photo: Kelly BrackenPhoto: Kelly Bracken
"Feeling down 'n' dirty,

Feeling kinda mean

I've been from one to another extreme..."

—Foreigner, "Double Vision"

As I suspected, my last blog ("The Naked Truth About Well Endowed Women with High Caliber Firearms (with Photos)") did OK. Within a minute of its posting, it had 14 page views. An hour later, it had more page views than blogs posted days before. By the third day, it was knocking over villages in Tokyo.

Emboldened by such success, I considered following it up with some manner of dirty header this week, particularly as it would be pertinent to the blog that follows. But somehow I couldn't do it. Maybe because while it was a frivolous enterprise that got me into my present frame of mind I just can't view all of it as so readily disposable.

And viewing things—albeit belatedly—is where I started feeling dirty.

You see, one of the nice things about Tivo is that you can watch things not only when you want, but as fast as you want. This comes in handy with the Oscars.

When I was young, I looked forward to the Academy Awards telecast. Not so much for the red carpet stuff with its parade of sartorial indulgences and blown-out pupils, but for the presentations themselves. Even if some of my favorites like "Dirty Harry" were predictably overlooked. C'mon, no nod for Chris Robinson's loathsome killer Scorpio? How about Lalo Schifrin's iconic score? Other films that I have admired since I was a kid such as "The French Connection" got their due. Besides, I have to say that the celluloid images of many of our badged predecessors influenced the career choices of more than one of my generation.  

The intervening decades have seen my enthusiasm for such puffery sufficiently wane to a point where I am as apt to miss the show as catch it, Tivo not withstanding. It might be a matter of some belated maturity asserting itself or other priorities coming to the fore, but more than anything else it is Hollywood and what it has become. These days, watching the film industry pat itself on the back leaves me feeling dirtier than anything that Cinemax After Dark and Epix Drive-In could muster between them during sweeps week.

The changing of the guard doubtlessly has play in this. I lament the fact that Charlton Heston has been gone a decade now and his detractors like Spike Lee continue to produce crap that nobody gives a shit about. Clint is increasingly behind the camera. (has it really been six years since "Gran Torino"?) And conservative Tom Selleck is under house arrest at CBS. Add in the film industry's penchant for pumping out all manner of Occupy Movement allegories (“Elysium") and supporting the re-election of repeat offenders like Obama and one can see where a Libertarian like me has a "ho-hum" take on things these days. 

Still, the announcement that this year's awards theme was going to be "Heroes in Hollywood" rejuvenated me. Whatever else, the Academy has a knack for producing memorable collages of film clips and the memory of those of years past—salutes to stunt men and horror and Westerns—made me think that something special might be in the offing. Afforded an opportunity to review its archive, I believed that the Academy might just find itself reflective enough to produce something truly memorable. 

And so I sat down and waited for highlights of hero-celebrating fare, looking forward to clips of "End of Shift," "Ladder 49," and "Backdraft." I figured I'd maybe catch a glimpse of a pre-"Cheers" Ted Danson in the role of Officer Ian Campbell in "The Onion Field." No doubt, the military would be on prominent display with everything from "Saving Private Ryan" to "Patton" and the "The Sands of Iwo Jima" thrown in for good measure. Even with the Duke already accounted for, there'd be at least one incarnation of Rooster Cogburn in the loop and I could hardly wait for Jack Lemmon's Ensign Pulver to toss that damned palm tree overboard.

But that’s not what I saw.

Admittedly, I blinked a few times, but I am pretty sure that when it came to recognizeable good guys I saw about three soldiers and a couple of cops—one of them being Inspector Clouseau. But there were no firemen. Not. One. Single. One.

Instead I was treated to a parade of whistleblowers and superheroes.

Dismayed, I Googled and found the following promo for the event: "The 86th Oscars will celebrate 'big-screen real-life heroes, super heroes, popular heroes, and animated heroes.' To coincide with the theme, the Academy will host a poster exhibit in the lobby of its Beverly Hills headquarters devoted to still photos and posters from films that include “Gandhi,” “Silkwood,” “Superman,” “The Dark Knight,” “Shrek,” “The Incredibles,” “Gladiator,” “The Grapes of Wrath,” and “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the film that showcased Atticus Finch, the character named by the American Film Institute as the greatest screen hero of all time."

And so, another lesson in reading the fine print and how karma came back to bite me for my last blog's misleading header.

Even then, I wondered: Well, if it really was about fictive heroes, then why the "Silkwood" shots? Why the token nod to "Serpico?" Was this really more of a "Well, we'll toss 'em a bone" thing? A way of killing two birds with one stone by insinuating a few honest-to-God heroes in with the flights of fancy personages first imagined by National Publications and Timely comics? Then I realized: No, it was because such movies showcased performances by Meryl Streep and Al Pacino, respectively (although in the eyes of Hollywood, they are no doubt interchangeable-friendly personas): They were the heroes. Any residual confusion on the matter was eliminated by the show's last hour when best Actor winner Matthew McConaughey clarified things for me in his acceptance speech: It was about them.

And here I'd thought Hollywood had embraced the whole anti-hero thing during the last few decades. Silly me.    

Still, not all was a loss. 

You see, another nice thing about Tivo is that you can watch other things that you have taped, too.

And so it was that I cued up the February 20 broadcast of NBC News with its three-minute coverage of the passing of Medal of Honor recipient Walter Ehlers, the last of those so recognized from D-Day. Thinking about how at the tender age of 23 he'd single-handedly saved so many American men while killing so many of the enemy and losing his brother in the process reminded me of what a hero is.

That got me misty eyed—something Hollywood hasn't succeeded in accomplishing for some time.

And somehow, I felt a little less dirty.


About the Author
Author Dean Scoville Headshot
Associate Editor
View Bio
Page 1 of 56
Next Page