When I was a little girl, few evenings held more magic than that of the Academy Awards. I would surround myself with the comfiest pillows and blankets. Popcorn and hot chocolate sat within easy reach. By the time the award for Best Picture rolled around, I was usually drowsy—and the film was one I had not seen. Most of the nominations were films I had not seen. Yet it was the ‘aura’ of the Oscars that captured my imagination. All the fancy movie stars dressed in beautiful—and sometimes hideous—evening wear. (I still remember the time when Bjork dressed in that swan get-up.) The glamour. The red carpet. The sunny California evenings. The celebration of movies.
As an eleven-year old, I dreamed of the roles I would play in movies. I dreamed of the day I would receive an Academy Award. I even scribbled a few possible lines for my acceptance speech.
With age I have developed a healthy dose of scepticism and realism. The Oscars are decided by a bunch of men and women who comprise The Academy—over 6,000 of them. Sure there are some genuine film artists, critics and makers in that colossus, but it is no illusion that personal preference plays into the ultimate decisions. Once you know the migraine-inducing, absurdly complicated nomination process, the disillusionment cuts even deeper. No wonder deserving films/directors/actors are snubbed each year.
The award ceremony itself can be a gamble with certain years ending up as a monumental waste of time. The Academy Awards is—at its best—a show. It should entertain (like the glorious Hugh Jackman years), and it should educate and remind us of all the advancements, breakthroughs, and stellar performances from the past year in film. Such coupling is rare. More often than not, hosts try too hard—sadly making fools of themselves—and several acceptance speeches make a visit to the dentist sound like a spa retreat.
Despite all this, I love the Academy Awards. Why? Because I love film. I love going to the movies. I love discussing them afterward, whether that means shredding it to pieces or praising its art direction. I love film even more now that I am studying its complexities in grad school. The Oscars are to cinephiles as March Madness is to basketball fans. It’s the Super Bowl of film. (And we’re done with the sports metaphors.)
Most of the Oscar hype goes to the Big Four: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress. These were the categories that used to most interest me as well, but for the past several years I pay far more attention to cinematography, costume design, sound editing, sound mixing, makeup, film editing, and visual effects. To me, these are the lifeblood of film—and thus the most fascinating. I wish more people paid attention to the guts of movies, rather than the glittery ‘stars’ upon the screen. Post-production filmmakers do not receive just recognition. (Are the Sci-Tech Awards even televised?)
Colin Firth, Natalie Portman, David Fincher. The King’s Speech, The Social Network, The Fighter, True Grit. These are the names that surface in articles written about the 2011 Academy Awards. I wish I could say more about the nominations, but truth be told I have had neither the budget nor time to watch every single nominee. I do have the somewhat perverse hope of a major upset this year. The Awards can get so predictable, that a wicked curve ball would be a delightful treat. Fingers crossed.
Oh, and my girlish dreams of accepting an Academy Award for acting? Long gone. The award for ‘Achievement in directing’? Give me ten years.
Do you have Oscar fever? Which films do you want to see recognized?