The Chronicle’s View: You don’t know Jack? No, you don’t know Oscar

T his Sunday marks the 77thAnnual Academy Awards, andwith it, the usual fanfare, hype,propaganda and other associatedmayhem that popular culture greetsthe worlds largest movie awards ceremonywith.It’s no secret that, in weeks leadingup to the actual events, after the nomineeshave been announced, culturesavvyfilmgoers separate themselvesinto divisive camps, representing whatthey believe to be the best movies ineach category.However, this is no trivial division.Have you ever seen a “Titanic” fan getinto a fistfight with a “Boys Don’t Cry”fan? It get’s ugly.This year is no less controversial,and with the introduction of raucousmic-wielder and ultra-famous comedianChris Rock-a man better knownfor his raunchy MTV Movie Awardshosting gigs and racially experimentalstand-up-the Oscars are gearing upto be a lighting rod for critical andcultural scrutiny.What does all this mean?Simply, lest you be left out of theonly cultural loop that matters thisweekend, it means watch the Oscars.Even if it’s simply so that you arenot left out of Monday’s water-coolertalk, it’s a good idea-and an entertainingone, as well-to catch theproceedings.Fear not, though, you won’t haveto stretch for interesting discussionmaterial-there are a plethora of goodmovies to get psyched about, andconsequently, myriad movies to takepersonal, emotional investment in.Clint Eastwood’s phenomenal powerhouse”Million Dollar Baby” breaksmore than just quality cinematicground with its breathtaking minimalismand subtle characterization-itbroaches pressing and time-sensitivesocial issues such as euthanasia andthe equitability of sport, as well. Assuch, Eastwood’s film (nominatedfor numerous awards, including BestPicture and Best Director) is a perfectcontender to get behind.Jaime Foxx was revolutionary in hisflat-out perfect portrayal of troubledmusical genius/innovator Ray Charlesin “Ray,” and his nomination for BestActor amid stiff competition fromEastwood (who also co-starred in hisfilm) creates a division within the BestActor category between those whofeel that age and respect are decidingfactors in the decision, as opposed tothose who feel raw talent and skill arethe only qualifications that matter.Even the independent type has filmsto support in the traditionally bigbudget,big-studio Academy crowd.Giamatti’s acting vehicle, “Sideways,”is an intimate and low-budget beauty,complimented with a sublime adaptedscreenplay and endearing performancesfrom literally every memberof its cast. For such an underdog tobe running with the likes of MartinScorsese’s multi-million dollar big dog”The Aviator” is a pat on the back tosmall-time filmmakers and generalauteurs everywhere.The point is, there are reasons tocare about the Oscars. Yes, it’s stodgy.Yes, it’s often predictable. More importantly,yes, the Academy Awardsdo matter.If you haven’t had a chance to seesome of the nominated films, tonightand tomorrow are excellent opportunitiesto remedy your inadequacy-most of the big films are still playingprominently in theatres all over thegreater Salt Lake Valley.