Yeah, when I bought my 92 SSEi the stupid hood wouldn't open. What I did was -- okay, I can hear the laughing already -- took some foam pipe insulation, like you put around a water pipe, and stuffed it up into half of the latch hole. Pops open every time, because it puts adequate pressure on the hood from the underside.
Ghetto? Son, I was ghetto before Elvis sang about it!!!!
Seriously, check your spring. There should be a coil spring under the underside of the hood. That is what puts pressure on the heavy hood so that when the mechinism is triggered by pulling the release cable, the hood pops up.
Chances are yours is missing, or very very weak.
Also, check the alignment of the hood mechinism. Could be binding. My wife'* Buick Regal, that was smashed in the front, also had this problem. Took a few tries before I got it.
On the grille paint: I wouldn't bother with basecoat/clearcoat. On such a small item, acryllic enamel (single stage) should give good results. Just visit a parts store that mixes paint, get a 1/4 pint and a small sprayer, some reducer, and go to town!
Good luck with all that. Hope it helps ya!