In the prototypical Hollywood-as-gilded-Gomorrah novella The Day of the Locust, Nathanael West calls Tinseltown the "Sargasso of the imagination": "Just as that imaginary body of water was a history of civilization in the form of a marine junkyard, the studio lot was one in the form of a dream dump."
That might be laying it on a little thick. But watching the Academy Awards some years leaves one half-expecting the boredom-fueled apocalypse that ends West's book. How else to explain the Oscar triumphs of Gladiator, Out of Africa, and the legendarily lugubrious 1968 musical Oliver!?
One of the prime advantages of Hollywood 2004, the latest edition of the Twin Cities' annual Oscar night fete at the State Theatre (doors open at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday), might be the opportunity to observe the Academy Awards from a safe distance. But that's not to say the oldest and largest Oscars celebration outside of Hollywood isn't a worthy event in its own right. In addition to desserts donated by local restaurants, a silent auction, and a full slate of entertainers, partygoers can watch the Oscar telecast on a full-size movie screen. Plus, unlike the real Oscars, Hollywood 2004 is for a good cause: Since it started 17 years ago, as an informal get-together in someone's living room, the event has earned more than $1 million for the Minnesota AIDS Project and associated charities. (Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the door. Visit www.hollywoodevent.org/tickets for more info.)
As in years past, the host is the redoubtable Miss Richfield 1981, the inner-ring suburb's answer to Joan Collins. If Miss Richfield looks like she might blend in more easily on Sunset Boulevard than at the State, know that she has, in fact, been shopping her talents recently on the West Coast. Maybe that's no surprise: After all, even Nathanael West gave up and became a screenwriter in the end.