What is it about the Oscars that just DOES it for me? I see all those radiant faces and talented people as the cameras pan the audience and I am riveted.
In many ways, these actors, actresses, directors, film editors and screenplay writers as well as those in the thousands of other functions that go into moviemaking are people like you and I, making sure they include spouses, family and friends in their speeches. But in other ways they participate in something undeniably important that keeps us going back for those $10+ tickets and red licorice.
Of all the things Americans stand for, the ever-blossoming industry of movie making is among our most amazing claims to fame. For decades, movies have taught us, delighted us, highlighted our flaws and reflected our dreams as no other art form has singularly been able to — and all in such vivid color and all-encompassing sound on a huge canvas as we dig deeper into our popcorn bags.
As I’ve grown up, there have been few years I have missed an Academy Awards evening in front of the TV set either alone, with my family or with my spouse. We order a pizza or make sandwiches and camp out at the coffee table as we watch the glitterati walk on stage in various stages of dress and undress, campiness and elegance and study their faces as they age, get facelifts and wear hairstyles that sometimes look like afterthoughts.
Still, they fascinate us. Unlike those of us working normal jobs, people who act, direct, write, edit, costume or even do the more behind-the-scenes tasks like catering, lighting, special effects and computer imaging don’t do it because they can’t figure out what else to do to make ends meet. They do it because they are passionate about it and no doubt had the goal all their lives of working within the movie industry. And once they get hired and figure out a way to stay within this milieu, they are rewarded as few are – not only with decent incomes, but even more so with an entire population of onlookers who regard them as nearly untouchable.
As a writer, when I think of moviemaking, I naturally conjure up the image of someone who no doubt sat down at a computer screen or had a laptop balanced on his or her legs sitting by a pool somewhere writing a story. Page by page, characters come to life, dialogue is created and the story is told. Sometimes it becomes a book, other times a play. Sometimes they adapt a book to screenplay. And trained, talented writers can write screenplays and bypass all of the above. I will readily admit that I am in awe of them — how they create something from virtually nothing except an idea or an experience that gets a nod of approval from some movie moguls and investors. Around that story an entire section of the industry forms, with hundreds of people making it come alive. Leading parts are studied like science projects that require intense training and the result is that these actors and actresses become the characters on screen that once resided in someone’s laptop. And if they are lucky, we get to see them on Oscar night, clutching statuettes and giving rambling tributes to the teams of people who made it possible for them to be there.
But there is an important thank you from this crowd that I noticed is lacking on this gala evening. Yes, they thank all the important people who paved the way for their movie careers. But I rarely, if ever, hear them thank us, the moviegoers. We are the ones who make it possible for these people to don their tuxes, fine jewelry, elegant gowns and goofy hairstyles for an evening like this.
Okay, I don’t need a Hollywood air-kiss, but I sure wouldn’t mind being acknowledged from time to time. As avid moviegoers who remain fascinated by how it all comes together, my husband and I are the freaks who sit motionless in a deserted theater as the clean-up crew waits for us to vacate. Why? We watch the movie credits until they stop scrolling as we continue to absorb what we have just experienced even after the rest of the moviegoers have left for the parking lot. We are not ready for it to end. And as we walk out, we voice our delight for, our critiques of, but rarely our indifference to the movie. Mostly, however, we agree that what we just experienced was an evening of entertainment and that nothing can equal majesty and sound of the big screen.
I will continue to buy the movie tickets, order carb-laden popcorn and rock in my comfy theater seat as I am entertained by the genius that is moviemaking. Oscar night is for all of us to enjoy, even if we don’t agree with the choices the Academy makes. We celebrate the industry that sweeps us away from everyday life and places us among them, like flies on the wall of an important event to which only we are privy.
As novelist, poet and essayist Clive James once said, “All television ever did was shrink the demand for ordinary movies. The demand for extraordinary movies increased. If any one thing is wrong with the movie industry today, it is the unrelenting effort to astonish.”
I couldn’t agree more. Just keep on astonishing me.