A Pagan’s Guide to the Oscars

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I have a confession to make, I love award shows. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s the pomp and pageantry, maybe it’s the idea of a shared cultural experience, maybe I’m just drawn to fabulously wealthy people giving each other statues. Whatever the reason, barring a few exceptions, if there’s an award show on, I’m generally watching. So it’s a given that I’ll be tuning into the 82nd Annual Academy Awards tonight. So as long as I’m doing that, why don’t we examine the nominees from a Pagan perspective.

Avatar’s pantheism vs. monotheistic morality: If there’s one dominant theme this year, it’s James Cameron’s “Avatar” vs. just about everybody else. Will the highest grossing movie of all time, the one that sends conservative Christians into fits, also take home the critical accolades of its peers? Most critics are split on whether Avatar, up for nine Oscars, will sweep the big awards, or if it will be shut out by critical darling “The Hurt Locker”. What’s fascinating when looking at the best picture, best director, and top acting awards, is that if Avatar is a showpiece for pantheism, then it’s up against a slate of films very much centered in Judeo-Christian morality (to different extents). From the evangelical dark-horse hit “The Blind Side”, to the vengeful Jews of “Inglourious Basterds” (and the suffering Jew in “A Serious Man”), to the redemption-song of “Precious”. We’ll have to wait and see if the pagan CGI blue people can win it, though Vanity Fair seems pretty certain of “Avatar” bringing home the best picture award.

“So, you’re left with Avatar vs. The Hurt Locker. One made mega-billions; the other isn’t even posting its box-office results for its Oscar re-release. One ends with its hero suffering shell-shocked ennui and masochistically heading once more into the breach; the other ends with a bulimic blue Ewok rave party and true love conquering all, even American capitalism. Because that’s what connects today’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with Louis B. Mayer’s, faith in a simple movie formula that never seems to wear: boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy turns into giant blue alien. All in 3-D!”

There’s a part of me that still has a hard time believing that box-office populism (and “rampant pantheism”) will win out at the Oscars, but then, the lightweight but popular Shakespeare in Love did win best picture once, as did “Dances With Wolves”, which “Avatar” is compared to quite often.

Other films to watch for: It’s often the smaller categories where we find interesting films for a Pagan sensibility. For instance, in the Animated Feature Film category you have Neil Gaiman’s darkly inviting otherworld-traveling “Coraline” and the (for better or for worse) Voodoo-drenched Disney production “The Princess and the Frog”. There’s also the little-seen Celtic myth-drenched film “The Secret of Kells”.

You may also want to see if “Food, Inc”, which examines food production in America, wins an award.

Beyond that, pickings get even slimmer. Will the imagination vs. base desires weirdness of “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” take home a statue? Will they throw a bone to the latest Harry Potter flick? Will the Golden Dawn/Masonic occult conspiracies of “Sherlock Holmes” garner an art direction award? Will they give an award to Helen Mirren simply because she’s so awesome? We’ll find out tonight. See you at the red carpet!