MOVIE REVIEW- Taking aim: Buzz-sawing the Oscar buzz

When critics tout a film's Academy Award chances in reviews, they often have an ulterior motive: 1) to be quoted in ads (e.g., "Hulk Hogan's Hamlet is Oscar-worthy" –Steve Warren); or 2) to jog their own memories when they compile year-end "Best" lists.

For Your Consideration pokes fun at the idea that "Oscar buzz" has become as important as the award itself, that "it's an honor to be almost nominated."

Christopher Guest's fans would probably be disappointed if the Academy ever recognized his work. In comedy, as in horror, it's an honor to be overlooked. The mockumentary format is missing but not missed in this latest effort, co-written with Eugene Levy, by the director of Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, and A Mighty Wind.

The wacky but incisive comic style is the same, and the repertory company is back, augmented by new and familiar faces; and you still can't tell what's scripted from what's improvised.

Oscar buzz impacts a movie, Home for Purim, while it's still in production. Catherine O'Hara (I won't get into character names because the cast is too large and some have additional roles in the film within the film) is the past-her-prime actress starring as the dying mother in a Southern Jewish family who hopes her estranged daughter (Parker Posey) will come home for the holidays. Harry Shearer, an actor best known for playing a hot dog in commercials, plays O'Hara's husband, and Christopher Moynihan is their son. Moynihan and Posey have something going off the set: "playing siblings, living the life of lovers," he tells a reporter. Posey surprises her family by coming home for the first time in 12 years and bringing along her lesbian lover (Rachael Harris).

The first mention of an Oscar comes from an anonymous Internet comment about O'Hara. She becomes obsessed, and the word spreads, the rumor growing to include Shearer and Posey. As soon as Posey's name is mentioned in the same sentence with Oscar, Moynihan's face becomes a composite of Chad Lowe's and Ryan Phillippe's.

Once this little art film begins to smell like money, the suits from the studio (Ricky Gervais, Larry Miller) take an interest and suggest "toning down the Jewishness" to attract a wider audience (like Mel Gibson's going to buy a ticket?): "I don't run around saying, 'I'm a gentile. Here's my foreskin.' I don't try to shove it down your throat."

Among the many targets offered for your consideration are the shows that report on movies, from Ebert & Roeper-like critics to a Charlie Rose-type interviewer to a "Total RequestLive"-ish MTV show to local morning TV and radio to Fred Willard and Jane Lynch, hilarious as hosts of an Entertainment Tonight clone.

Within the movie business, no department is safe, from the producer (Jennifer Coolidge) to the writers (Bob Balaban, Michael McKean) to the cinematographer (Jim Piddock) to the makeup artist (Ed Begley Jr.) to the publicist (John Michael Higgins).

A few gags may be too obvious (agent Eugene Levy is telling Shearer, "You're my number-one priority," when his cell phone rings and Shearer becomes a distant second), some may be too inside (studio head Gervais says he was compelled to read– "the coverage") and some may be too Jewish (am I the first to suggest an Oscar nomination for The Purim Song?); but in this too-much-information age most viewers will get most of the jokes, and the easy ones will placate those who miss the difficult ones. You don't have to be Jewish to know that Yiddish words sound funny when spoken with a Southern drawl learned from watching Jezebel.

One wonders if Guest is making his own inside joke by having O'Hara emerge from a makeover looking like Coolidge usually does.

Like Guest's other films, how much you love For Your Consideration will depend on your level of interest in the subject, but what moviegoer isn't crazy about the movies?

"Oscar...the backbone of this industry"– an industry noted for not having a backbone.  With lines like that, For Your Consideration bites the mouth it feeds. You gotta love it!