Monday, February 27, 2012


Ah, movies.  The cinema.  My love for movies began early in childhood long before I'd ever heard of the Oscars.  When I think back about what drew me to them, the first thing that pops to mind is the story.  Even better than someone reading a story aloud, in movies the story is acted out in the story's locations.  My early movie viewing focused on animated films, especially from Walt Disney.  Once I began school and we were allowed to watch more TV shows, I preferred live action.  Real people acted out the stories and I was amazed.  For a long time as a child, I wanted to be an actress when I grew up (or a nurse, inspired by TV medical shows).  I wrote stories for myself.  I created stories for the neighborhood kids and me to act out.  Watching actors at work in movies was the beginning of my education in creating and developing characters.  I moved on to writing, and I never lost my love for movies. 

I look forward to the Oscars every year not for the fashions or the winners but for the celebration of movies.  The 84th Annual Academy Awards on television last night surprised me by going over its allotted time by only three minutes.  Congratulations to the producer and director for a job well done.  I especially liked the "bundling" of similar awards to give them out together.  That saved a lot of time.  I didn't miss production numbers of the nominated songs.  I loved that some presenters chose goofiness over seriousness -- yay, to Jennifer Lopez and Cameron Diaz, Emma Stone (hilarious), Robert Downey, Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow.  Smart too for giving out the  Governors' Awards at a separate evening gala rather than part of the telecast, as the technical awards have been for years.  I think my only quibble concerns how they dealt with winners who looked like they would go over the 45-second acceptance speech limit -- please, please, do not turn off the microphones!  That's just rude.

So, full confession, here: I'd seen only two of all the nominated films, Hugo and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.  However, it felt like I'd seen much more due to the media exposure of most of the movies, especially those nominated for best picture, and the actors in the acting categories.  I'd hoped for some fun upsets to the media consensus about who would win.  My personal favorites?  Gary Oldman, Michelle Williams, Max von Sydow (finally), but none for best director or picture.  I guess the campaigns for my picks weren't strong enough to sway the Academy's voters. 

Loved Billy Crystal.  I do wish James Franco and Anne Hathaway had also been there, though, to have some real fun without the pressure of hosting.  Crystal's opening entertained with its ingenuity and you got to admire the guy for belting out the song medley when his voice is definitely not what it used to be.  What the Academy needs to find is a classy young comedian who can succeed those who have set the standard -- Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, Billy Crystal. 

Nostalgia reigned last night and no big surprises which made for a somewhat bland show.  What would it be like if there were no campaigns for movies?  What would it be like if the media had nothing to speculate on or promote with coverage?  What if there were no foregone conclusions?  Before the advent of campaigning Academy members for votes, no one had a clue who'd win.  There were no frontrunners, no friendly rivalries (Pitt and Clooney), no endless speculation about why one film or performance or screenplay or director was more deserving over another.  Then the awards show was nothing but surprises.  Wouldn't that be fun?  What we have now is sort of like watching a trailer for a movie -- nowadays, trailers include all the major plot points so viewers know exactly what they'll see if they choose to go see the movie.  But sometimes why bother when you know already what happens?

I think sometimes that this need to know what happens before seeing the story is a very human reaction to the uncertainties of real life.  It's like with the popularity of murder mysteries -- it's comforting to see them solved instead of what happens in reality.  We cannot control our environment to the extent we'd like, perhaps, but we can control our storytelling.  Sad.  We need stories in our lives to help us deal with life, not to make it easy or create the illusion that it's controllable.  We need stories to see how others deal with both ordinary and extraordinary situations, to challenge us with how we might deal with the same situations.  Welcome surprises.  Especially to awards shows!

Next year, I'd like to see no campaigning to the Academy members and the media for the Oscars.  Let's be truly surprised.....


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