coldcat's wit

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Few Oscar winners for best picture have been half as creepy as 1958ís winner Gigi. We open in Bois de Boulogne, the immense park in western Paris where an elderly man gawks at hot young chicks while singing a song called "Thank Heaven for Little Girls." By the way, Iím not kidding. That really is the first scene of the movie. These days that kind of behaviour would result in jail time.

The little girl that the man, Honore, seems most infatuated by is Gigi, the title character who seems to be maybe 15 or so. Gigi is being trained by her grandmother and great aunt to be a whore. A high class Parisian whore of course, but a money grubbing whore nonetheless.

They set about training her to be high class, teaching her how to eat things and sit down properly. At one point, her aunt tells her more relationships have been ruined by poor table manners than by infidelity. Iím sorry, but if my significant other used the wrong fork I doubt I would notice, but if she fucked another guy Iíd be a little upset.

They are grooming her to land a high class man, not as a husband, but someone she can sleep with who will put her up in a house until the next guy comes along. What confounds the issue is her growing relationship with millionaire socialite playboy Gaston, who happens to be Honoreís nephew. We first see Gaston and Gigi together as he is leaving her grandmotherís house on the way to pick up his girlfriend at her skating lesson. They flirt, he invites her to tag along, and a blind person could see where itís all heading.

Itís a musical and as with all musicals the songs are far more important than the plot, which like all musicals is absurd and in this case is very creepy. The worst part is Gigiís age. The actress, Leslie Caron, was 27 when the movie was released, but Gigi is still in school and in the first scene while Honore is singing his ode to pedophiles, she is playing with friends in the park. No matter how old the character is, she canít be old enough to date a guy who seems to have been the Wilt Chamberlain of the late 19th century.

There isnít much in the other best picture nominees from that year that is too memorable. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof featured great performances from Paul Newman and Liz Taylor but thatís about it. In fact, the best movie from that year is one that didnít get any major nominations, Vertigo. Was the Academy really convinced there were five movies that came out in 1958 that were better than Vertigo? Auntie Mame is better than Vertigo? Really? In the end, what should have been a second best picture Oscar for Alfred Hitchcock, instead turned into a validation of pedophilia and whoring.

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