Though this year's Oscars will choose from the most solid list of films since last week's Oscars poll, one category of film is almost universally left out of every ceremony. That category is the sequel.
To its credit, the Academy has recognized the broad impact that film has on American society, and accordingly introduced such diverse awards categories as Best Dangling From Helicopter Struts (expected to be swept this year by The Matrix) and Soundest Financial Decision By A Studio Head. Though sequels usually have lots of dangling and are designed to milk money from a proven audience, they are always left out of both these categories.
However, this year two sequels were released that deserve acclaim. They are brave, controversial and financially successful. The fact that the Academy shut them out of the nominations is criminal and will not be forgotten. We now turn our attention to the awards these films should have won - and the women who love them.
Three Soups and a Ladle
This film is a followup to two originals: Three Men and a Cradle and its less-successful sequel, Three Pimps and a Stable. The first was a popular but lightweight film from the late eighties. The second film - like the first - starred Tom Selleck, but failed to resuscitate his career. All in all, Three Pimps and a Stable, though it addressed relevant themes, did so in a slipshod and unconvincing manner. Although it costarred the guy from Knight Rider and - in an intriguing reversal of gender roles - the car from Knight Rider as the other two pimps, the movie deserves to be forgotten.
In contrast, Three Soups and a Ladle addresses the slackening morals of American society, and thus automatically deserves our attention.
A ladle must decide between three soups, but can't. One is too cold, one is too hot, and the just-right soup is too perfect and obviously could never desire union with such a humble ladle.
As a result of this indecisiveness, the ladle loses its friends, and its grades plummet. Its SAT scores are only high enough to qualify it for the Li'l Lumps of Gravy Votech School. In the wrenching final scene, Ayn Rand emerges and shoots the ladle as punishment for its indecisiveness.
Had this film been nominated in any category, it would have been for the masterful direction and editing. These combined for an explosion of despair in the scene where the ladle, confused and lonely, engages in an orgy with Warhol's "Campbell's Tomato Soup" mural. The scenes come with strobelike quickness and intensity. The labels on the soup cans are shot in such a way that more is hidden than revealed. One can't even be sure whether these are cans of Tomato soup, or Cream of Mushroom instead. However, the scene perfectly illuminates the sad scrapings that are all the ladle has left of a once rich, brothy life.
The film wasn't nominated for an Oscar for one major reason - the drug reference encoded in "Cream of Mushroom". Hollywood's new zero-tolerance policy prohibits it from acknowledging drug use or anything that might be construed as such, even in the context of condemnation of drug use.
While we deplore the unjust snubbing of this film, we applaud the fact that Hollywood has finally recognized that zero tolerance is the only solution. Teenagers are so impressionable that, if they ever find out drugs exist, they are sure to pout until their Daddies score them something.
Faced with the possibility of millions of Britney Spears fans "turning on", we embrace the expediency of zero tolerance. We also applaud the additional steps Monsanto Corp. is taking - to engineer an "off" switch for all Britney Spears fans. It's for their own good, really.
If These Walls Could Talk, Too
A followup to the unwanted-pregnancy anthem If These Walls Could Talk, the sequel takes place entirely inside an interrogation room. The film revolves around the tension between the interrogator and the section of drywall he is grilling for information. The shock ending reveals that the drywall has in fact died and gone to heaven, and is being tested for worthiness.
Snubbed as an art film, this movie should have been nominated in the casting and costume-design categories. The section of drywall perfectly conveys grim stolidity along with confusion and despair. While the casting directors could easily have found a section of cheap, paper-thin stucco, they opted for solid masonite. Their choice gives that extra sense of brooding weight and menace so necessary to the film.
The walls of the actual interrogation room do a terrific job in the film's clincher scene, where they stare wordlessly as their abused brethren is led from the room. They amply convey the sense that they have heard the call of revolution, and The Man is going down.
Gabriel Byrne does a fine job as the interrogator, but it's his costume that steals the show. Rather than dress him in a trenchcoat, the costume designers painstakingly recreated an actual trench from World War One for Mr. Byrne. This adds a dimension of heartbreaking grittiness to the character of the interrogator, and wordlessly demonstrates that he's seen a lot in his career.
To conclude, we hope that we've illuminated the need for the Motion Picture Academy to recognize sequels as an art form in their own right. After all, Hollywood - and the Oscar ceremony itself - are all about repetition. What would happen if the only envelope opened were for Best Hoarding Of A Child Star's Fortune By The Parents - and then no envelopes could ever be opened again? Disaster! We hope this deplorable situation will soon be corrected. Thank you.