Pop some corn, settle in for a date with Oscar

Wally’s World

Well, gang, after considerable promotion and the usual display of Vera Wang evening attire worn by a long parade of emotional retards, the Critics’ Choice Awards, People’s Choice Awards and the Golden Globes are finally behind us and – if you can muster any further suspense and interest in the movies and the superstars who make them – we can prepare yet another bowl of popcorn and settle back to watch the most prestigious crapshoot of the bunch, the Oscars.

It’s been a good year for Hollywood; perhaps a bit shy of last year’s record-breaking box-office, but still quite profitable given our tanked economy. Historically, the movies have always survived recessions better than other entertainment venues – for instance, sports, live theater, and concerts – in part because movies remain relatively cheap, despite recent increases in the price of admittance and especially concessions. Even during the worst years of the Great Depression, most Hollywood studios managed to squeeze out a profit.

As usual, some of the biggest money making films were those inane and crude sex comedies that always draw young adults, especially males over 17 years of age, which is the age limit to view “brief nudity.” Animated movies were also popular, particularly with the tween set; films like “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” and “WALL-E.” I haven’t seen either one, but I understand “WALL-E” is quite delightful. (What else would you expect from my namesake?) I also didn’t see the U2 three-dimensional, concert film, but the unanimous critical praise heaped upon it leads me to believe it’s on the cutting edge of a new kind of technology.

There were, of course, a number of excellent flicks aimed at a more “mature” audience; for example, “Benjamin Button,” “Vicky Cristina” (which is kind of a comeback for Woody Allen but still far from his best work), “The Reader,” “Revolutionary Road” and “Doubt,” all of which I’ve seen. Yet, I haven’t seen enough of the nominated films to predict any winners, though, based upon all the hype, “Slumdog Millionaire” would seem to have the inside track. I feel the Best Actress trophy will go to Meryl Streep or Kate Winslet. The Best Actor is more difficult to call.

“Sex and the City” was such a huge box-office success, there’s a sequel in the works. Surprisingly enough, despite the graphic sex scenes, men weren’t particularly attracted to this film. Rather, it was women who flocked to the theaters, apparently not so much for the sex as for the urban lifestyles it portrays and the frank, humorous, and obscenity-laced conversations of the female stars.

Action flicks brought in their customary bushel-basket of cash. We may not have seen the last of Indiana Jones, though Harrison Ford might yield the role to a younger dude, and the public is still enthralled by James Bond, even if the modern Daniel Craig version is more involved with flat-out action than with Bond’s subtle and suave personality.

It was another big year for superheroes. Hancock, the Spirit, Iron Man, and Batman all made very respectable profits and – surprise, surprise – “The Dark Knight” (Batman) broke box-office records and actually made the Top 10 list of several movie critics. Personally, I didn’t think the film was really that good; it was just another better-than-average action flick. Nevertheless, I highly recommend it because, as I mentioned in one of last summer’s columns, the late Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker is absolutely mesmerizing. Trust me, he has the “Supporting Actor” trophy all locked up.

This promises to be another super year for superheroes. Screenplays are being written for The Flash, Doctor Strange and another Iron Man. And listen up, comic book fans. Your favorite super-patriot goes into production this year. That’s right, gang, Captain America is on the way.