' ' Cinema Romantico: What Oscar Means To Me

Friday, February 25, 2011

What Oscar Means To Me

Steve Martin hosted the 2003 Academy Award Ceremony and this, of course, was only a couple weeks after the second Iraq war had broken out and, thus, the people in charge of the gala decided against implementing the traditional splashy red carpet arrival and during his opening monologue Martin said this: "You probably noticed there was no fancy red carpet tonight. That’ll show ‘em!" I thought that was hilarious. I still do. One of my favorite lines ever by an Oscar host.

Much later in the same ceremony, upon winning Best Actress for her work in "The Hours", Nicole Kidman said this: "Why do you come to the Academy Awards when the world is in such turmoil? Because art is important. And because you believe in what you do and you want to honor that." I found this entirely moving. I still do. One of my favorite lines ever in an acceptance speech.

And at the heart of each of these moments lies my attitude toward the Academy Awards. We've all heard it a million times. The Oscars are self important and self congratulatory and self reverential and self aggrandizing and, heck, any other adjective you want to toss in there after self. It's all bad jokes and boring montages and awful hip hop dance routines and much ado about dresses. They are big and bloated and over the top. Go ahead! Call them any name you like! Pile it on! Get it outta your system!

And hey, man, it's all kinda true. And kinda the point. After all, this is, like, you know, Hollywood. "The Greatest Show On Earth." Tara. Xanadu. Skull Island. The Emerald City. The train in "Doctor Zhivago." James Cameron re-building part of the "Titanic" so he could re-sink it. Charlton Heston as Moses. Hollywood is big and bloated, bigger and bloated-er (?). Why in the name of Colonel Kurtz wouldn't the Academy Awards be the same? If you buy a ticket for the "Wet Zone" at Kylie's Les Folies Tour, baby, you're gonna get wet. Don't bitch afterwards that your Dolce & Gabbana got soaked. Seriously.

But, at the same time, I'm sort of a sentimental dude. And corny. And (wait, what's the most overused idiotic two word phrase in the English language? Oh! Right!) painfully earnest. And this is why when my homegirl Nicole Kidman got a little teary eyed giving her aforementioned acceptance speech I got a little teary eyed (oh, just f--- off). This is why I still have Kate Winslet's acceptance speech saved to my DVR (no, really, I do). This is why I high fived my friend Rory when "Shakespeare In Love" beat "Saving Private Ryan" for Best Picture because I might be the only person on earth who believed (and still believes to this exact second) that "Shakespeare In Love" was truly a better film.

Eat it, Pvt. James Francis Ryan.
When I expound on my dislike for "Saving Private Ryan" and expound on my infatutation with "Shakespeare In Love" and how that ending - that glorious ending! - makes me soar on wings like eagles and then proceed to make extravagant hand gestures and pound on walls and ring hypothetical bells while shouting how "Shakespeare In Love" winning may very well have been the direct result of Harvey Weinstein and his minions running around Tinseltown threatening to break Academy members' fingers with ball peen hammers if they didn't vote for it but that it doesn't matter because it was the best film and then the person I'm expounding to will inevitably back away from me, frightened.

At that point I remember that not everyone is like me. Not everyone gets lathered up about decade-old Oscar decisions. Not everyone still holds a grudge against Dianne Weist for stealing Uma Thurman's statue. Not everyone is me and my former roommate Chad when we both became enraged at Michael Caine for winning Best Supporting Actor for "The Cider House Rules" (really?) thereby foiling the bet that he and I had been arguing about for a month (he had Haley Joel Osment for "The Sixth Sense", I had Tom Cruise for "Magnolia")." I remember when I saw "No Country For Old Men" the night it opened and the next night I was hanging out with some friends and I was advising everyone how awesome the movie was and my friend Kristin wondered, confused, "Wait, didn't that just come out yesterday?" and I had to advise that I don't wait to see movies because I have so many movies to see that I have to see them the weekend they open - maybe the second weekend at worst - or I'll fall so far behind that I'll never catch up and that I can't really wait for DVD for a lot of movies because, damn it, that's just not how I do it.

My dad sent me an email a month or so ago declaring that he had just seen "The King's Speech" which meant he had actually seen a Best Picture nominee in the theater. I really wanted to email back: "'The King's Speech?!' 10 Best Picture nominees and you choose 'The King's Speech' over the supreme, stupefying, polar ice cap sized magnificence of 'Black Swan???!!!'" Of course, I did not send that email. Not simply because I'm fairly certain my dad would not actually enjoy "Black Swan" but because I was just excited my dad saw a Best Picture nominee. No, no, no, I was just excited my dad went to the movies.

The movies are not front and center in my dad's life much like they are not front center in a lot of people's lives. But the Oscars are the one time each year when the movies are front and center for everyone. Back in February of '99 when the Oscar noms were announced the movie theater I managed received a print of "Shakespeare In Love" because now there was going to be more business for it which made me so happy because it was a movie I so desperately wanted the whole world to see. "Black Swan" has pushed north of $100 million at the box office and this is a direct result of all its Oscar buzz and that thrills me.

I'm sure many movie fans that mirror my sort of insanity are still disappointed that their favorites did not get nominations and so the masses remain unaware of their beauty and, hey, I get it because I have those years too. But it's okay! Because nonetheless people are going to the movies! And that, I think, is what the Academy Awards, down there at the core, really are - a celebration of going to the movies.

I know, I know, I'm making too big a deal. People are reading this and shaking their heads and thinking, "It's all just a bunch of recorded photographic images projected onto a screen in an auditorium. Calm down." You got me. There is Egypt and Bahrain and Yemen and Libya and Wisconsin and any other place where protests have erupted within the last 10 minutes and car bombs and subway bombs and suicide bombers and earthquakes and monsoons and hurricanes and 35,000 feet of snow in New York City alone (!) and unemployment and the Carmelo Anthony Trade and on and on and on and on and on and on and so, basically, obviously, the world is ending and we'd all be better off just offing ourselves and so, really, who has time for the movies? Get over yourself, Cinema Romantico. Wallow in the mire with the rest of us sad-stop-unlucky depressives. "Life isn't like in the movies. Life is harder."

Duh. Of course, it is. Who doesn't understand that? And that's what makes art so important. Especially with the world in such turmoil. I believe in it. Don't you? If you do, let's all get together this Sunday night and honor it, what do ya say?


Jacob said...

During the Second World War, Winston Churchill’s finance minister said Britain should cut arts funding to support the war effort. Churchill’s response: “Then what are we fighting for?”

Nick Prigge said...

A to the men.

Louis Baxter said...

Oscar does seem to retain a prestige that no amount of mocking can take away. That's kind of cool, but at the same time creates a greater responsibility for them to get it right.