The Academy Awards are just around the corner. You say you haven't seen all of the nominated movies? Oh, none of the nominated movies? You say you can't remember the last time you went to a movie? You aren't the only one.

Dinner and a movie has gone the way of party lines, spats and rumble seats. If things keep going the way they are, how long will it be before they turn the multiplex at the local mall into one more Curves and another Starbucks.

Movie attendance has fallen off so much that movie producers send DVDs to voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to make sure they will see their nominated movies. If the people who make movies don't even think people in the movie business will come to the theater to see their movies, when do they think people with real jobs and small children ever find the time to see something like "Brokeback Mountain?" Only if it comes through town as "Brokeback Mountain on Ice" would be my guess.

But I like movies and I see a lot of them. My problem with the Academy Awards (and most other televised awards) is the idea of giving a prize to someone who makes a few million dollars for six weeks work -- work that didn't involve digging ditches or moving heavy furniture. Movie stars have already won a prize -- lots of money. They can stop entering the Reader's Digest sweepstakes. They can stop clipping the coupons. They can stop eating the Ramen noodles for breakfast. To give highly-paid actors a reward for acting is like giving a bank president a prize for cashing your check -- isn't that what they're supposed to do in the first place?

If we want to give rich people awards, what are we planning to get the eight people who just won $22 million apiece in the latest Powerball jackpot? They're rich now, so don't they deserve a little something extra? A free top-of-the-line cell phone maybe? A string of pearls? An HDTV? After all, that's just a few of the freebies wealthy Oscar nominees got in their swag bag when they attended last year's Academy Awards ceremony.

What is this compulsion to give rich, famous, beautiful people prizes? If you make gazillions of dollars; if you're married to a gorgeous starlet half your age who has quit her career to have your babies and worship the ground you walk on; if you have houses in Malibu, Maui, Manhattan, Miami and Milan; if you have nannies and agents and a business manager, haven't you already won life's lottery? Do you really need more?

"Oh, you silly, silly man," I can hear them say. "You must not be an actor. Do you have any idea how many months I had to suffer for my art? Do you know what it's like to study for two or three whole weeks with a very strict and demanding acting teacher? It was brutal. Do you know how many airhead starlets I had to date? How many cocktail parties I had to attend? Think of all the movies I had to make where I only got paid hundreds of thousands of dollars and not the millions I deserve? Think of all the money I had to spend on a dermatologist? On my teeth? Spend a few years in my handmade Italian moccasins, my friend, before you say I don't deserve even more. Face it. It doesn't take any talent to be poor. What are you, some kind of communist?"

You have to wonder, are we really doing enough for the wealthy movie stars? Should rich celebrities have to pay when they eat in four-star restaurants? Should they have to pay for designer clothes? Shouldn't it be given to them? Surely, there must be more we can all do to make their lives a little easier, a little more pleasant. Why can't they be automatically upgraded to the presidential suite when they stay in hotels? Oh, yeah, they already are.



Jim Mullen is the author of "It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life" and "Baby's First Tattoo." You can reach him at jim_mullen@myway.com



Copyright 2005, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.

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