Monday, February 29, 2016

Swag Baggery

I didn’t have a ton of interest in last night’s Academy Awards.

Sure, it might be nice if just about every august Academy voter wasn’t an old white guy. I would hate to see any bogus quotas imposed, but note to Hollywood: everyone in the US of A is not an old white guy. Or a young white guy. Or an old or young white woman. Just sayin’.

Not to dis old white guys, I actually like them. I was even married to one. On this very day, in fact. (Happy Anniversary to me, I guess.)

This all said, the reason I don’t tend to watch the Oscars isn’t because I have any political objections to them. It’s just that I’ve always found it painful to watch a bunch of fakers kiss themselves in the arse.

Plus I don’t go to the movies that often, so I don’t know who and what should or shouldn’t win.

The only movies I saw this year were Black Mass and Spotlight. I – make that a parochial I: both of these are Boston films – thought that both of these films were quite good. Black Mass, I suppose, would have been a bit confusing to folks who hadn’t lived through the many sagas of the many-splendored Bulger family. But, if it’s possible to enjoy a movie about a psychopathic killer and the sociopathic FBI agent who befriended him, I enjoyed it. I especially liked Benedict Cumberbatch’s turn as Billy Bulger, a major state politico and brother to Whitey-the-psycho. He completely nailed Billy B. Just loved the wave of the blackthorn walking stick. Yo, boyo!

Spotlight, which I thought was excellent, did better on the nomination front. It got four. Me, I would have nominated Michael Keaton for Best Actor before Mark Ruffalo for Best Supporting Actor, but I’m not the world’s foremost judges of acting. I just like Keaton better than Ruffalo, an actor I find pretty annoying.

Anyway, I’m writing this before the envelopes are open, so if you’re reading this, you’ll know whether Spotlight won anything. (By the way, I also want to see Room and Brooklyn, since I have read the books these films are based on. Both novels are by authors I admire, Emma Donoghue and Colm Toibin.)

Whatever the outcome, out of the two films I did see in 2015, Spotlight gets my personal Best Picture Award.

What really interests me, of course, is just what’s in the swag bag that nominees receive.

This year, the goody bag is worth $232,000, up from a paltry $160K for last year’s bag o’ swag.

What’s pushing up the value? Well, a $55K trip to Israel provided by the country’s Tourism Ministry and a travel company. The trip details:

All can bring plus-ones to the 10-day travel pack, which includes first-class air travel into Tel-Aviv and, more importantly, “all the falafel you can eat.” The ministry has been working to attract high-profile visitors, and publicize Israel as a luxury destination rather than merely a conflict zone.(Source: Time)

I’d actually like to go to Israel at some point, but I just can’t get past that conflict zone thang. And good luck positioning Israel as a luxury destination. I’m sure there are plenty of lux-y things to do there, but don’t most people think of Israel as an historical, cultural, political or religious destination? I don’t think the swag bag changes that.

Israel’s not the only trip. There’s also a 15-day private walking tour of Japan worth $54K, which might be more interesting/less dangerous than the $55K jaunt to Israel.

The full list can be found here (Harpers Bazaar), but there were a number of items I found of particular interest.

Who wouldn’t want personalized M&M’s ($300)? And I love the idea of a 10,000-meal donation to an animal shelter/rescue ($6.3K). But, gee, I can and do get my own $6 worth of Chapstick.

And what does one do with a lifetime supply of Pu-erh Tea Nourishing Cream and Pu-erh Tea Cleansing Bar, other than report the $31.2K to the IRS? And who really needs $275 toilet paper. Talk about fancy-arse.

There’s $5.5K worth of Park Avenue plastic surgery. Don’t know what $5.5K will get you on Park Ave. Maybe getting you piggy-toe shaved off so you can fit in your Louboutin’s?

The most intriguing item on the gift list is something called a Vampire Breast Lift ($1.9K). And, yes, it does involve blood.

As it turns out, most nominees do take the bags, but don’t always cash in on the items in it. Many donate the contents to charity.

And to add to the interest and intrigue, the company that puts together the swag bags - wooing donors with the opportunity to get some relatively cheap advertising and at least the possibility that Someone Famous will use their wares – is in a legal wrangle with The Academy over use of their name.

Not that I’d bother to watch it, but maybe someone can make a movie about the swag-bags. Best Documentary?

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