Interview: Joe Bob Briggs
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Joe Bob Briggs doesn't suffer big-budget Hollywood fluff lightly. For over 25 years, his crass, anarchic film reviews have rubbed against the glitterati grain, and his numerous books, TV work, and movie roles—including a bit part in Martin Scorsese's Casino—have solidified his position as a champion of visceral cinema. During the week of the 79th Academy Awards, Briggs spoke with The A.V. Club about his undying love of cheap horror, as well as how he really feels about those little gold statues.
The A.V. Club: Do you get excited for The Oscars?
Joe Bob Briggs: I hate The Oscars. The Oscars make me want to throw things at the TV. In the ancient history of The Oscars, people would go on and make political statements and get thrown off the stage, but the last great political statement, I think, was when Michael Moore started raging against Bush a few years back. Everybody booed him, even though I can't imagine Hollywood booing a guy who's bashing Bush. That was the last great spontaneous moment on The Oscars.
AVC: Do you think there's any merit at all to what gets nominated?
JBB: I always remind people why The Oscars got started in 1928: It was an effort by the studios to suppress the unions. [Laughs.] They started the Academy because all the screenwriters and directors and actors were unionizing, and they thought, "We'll have something that resembles a union, but that's completely controlled by the moneyed interests in Hollywood." That's what it's been all these years. It's something that reinforces Hollywood's image of itself. The Best Picture one year was Gandhi. Nobody watched Gandhi, but that's the kind of picture that always wins. I wouldn't be surprised this year if Babel wins.
AVC: Yeah, but The Departed is up for Best Picture.
JBB: I love Martin Scorsese, but there's another indication of what The Oscars are all about. They've ignored Martin Scorsese for going on 35 years now, and I wouldn't be surprised if they passed him over again. He'll get one of The Oscars they give you at the end of your life because they feel guilty for never giving you an Oscar.
AVC: You usually drop dead six months after you get one of those. Look at Robert Altman.
JBB: Yeah, they'll give you one if they think you're about to drop dead. The problem with The Oscars is, the average age of The Academy is 84. They wheel those people in from Palm Springs and hook up their IVs and they vote. The people that go to movies are under the age of 28, for the most part, so there's this total disconnect between what the Academy thinks is a great movie and what the audience actually wants to see.
AVC: Few people agree with The Oscars every year, yet everyone watches them. What's the appeal?
JBB: The fashion and the celebrity. Of course, it's always used as a promotional vehicle for those movies. Babel will earn an extra $10 million just from being mentioned five or six times. Or Letters From Iwo Jima—once people heard it was in Japanese, I don't think a lot of them wanted to see it, but when Clint Eastwood's name gets put up there, they're like, "Oh, this might be interesting."
AVC: And Clint Eastwood won Best Picture a couple years back with Million Dollar Baby.
JBB: Yeah, I saw Million Dollar Baby. If they let Morgan Freeman do one of those narrations one more time, I'm just gonna shoot him.
AVC: For years you had The Hubbies, your own version of The Oscars. Do you think you'll ever bring them back?
JBB: I'd love to bring back The Hubbies, but I stopped doing my syndicated column a few years ago 'cause I was too busy with TV stuff. I should do it again. You know, the only person who ever showed up and picked up his Hubbie was Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was for the original Terminator. He wasn't really a megastar when he made The Terminator; it was kind of considered a B-movie. He didn't quite know what the award was. He had this big grin on his face, and he was very charming and personable in accepting it. We actually engraved his name on a Chevy hubcap. I hope it's somewhere in his office.
AVC: If you had done Hubbie nominations for 2006, what would have made the list?
JBB: If you're talking about stuff that people have heard of, Slither was probably the best horror movie. There's Razor Eaters, which would be the Australian entry. The XXXorcist, from the creators of Re-Penetrator, that was a pretty disturbing movie. But none of that stuff's going to show up on any Oscar lists. They've got Helen Mirren trying to play all the queens in history. And what's that other one? Little Miss Sunshine. It's just a lame version of National Lampoon's Vacation.
AVC: Right, the dead relative stuck in the car on a road trip.
JBB: The movies that are honored at The Oscars are always a certain type: Old-fashioned. It's a bunch of well-made, old-fashioned movies that support our idea of ourselves. They uplift the human spirit. [Laughs.] That's why horror films never even get nominated.
AVC: Imagine Joe Bob Briggs being invited to host The Oscars. Would you accept?
JBB: Oh, my God. How much does that job pay? It would have to be a lot.