Our love affair with OscarEntertainment Feature, Top Highlights Thursday, February 14th, 2013
Officially it’s the Academy Award of Merit. But we all know it as “Oscar,” though the origin of that name has long been debated and disputed. One thing that can’t be argued is that we love Oscar! Maybe not everyone, but ditching the stereotypes, the truth is that a big segment of the LGBT community has an undying fascination with all things Oscar: the movie industry, its history, the glitz, the award process, stars, the show, everything. “Oscar time” is our hunting or football season. We just can’t get enough. But why this attraction, this captivation? Perhaps it’s two or three – or a combination of all – of the following.
The Oscar itself. By some estimation, it is the most recognized statuette in the world. People may not know the difference between Judi Dench and Helen Mirren, but they know the Oscar is a symbol of excellence and achievement. It owes its high regard in large part to its longevity of 85 years, a lifetime really.
It has a stunning simplicity – an art deco knight holding a crusader’s sword, standing on a reel of film above a black metal base. It’s gold-plated over an alloy of britannium, 13.5 inches high, weighing 8.5 pounds, and only 2,900 of them have ever been awarded, including multiple co-recipients for categories like Screenplay, Song or Producer. That makes it a rather exclusive club. Katharine Hepburn won four of them; three each for Walter Brennan, Ingrid Bergman, Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep. Daniel Day-Lewis will likely join that group this year. They still pale to Walt Disney’s 22 (that’s right), costume designer Edith Head’s eight, and composer John Williams, who has won five.
Oscar’s sense of magic. How many of us have fantasized about walking the red carpet or up on stage to receive an Oscar? Or practiced an acceptance speech?
In 2006, at a Hollywood Oscar exhibition in the Hollywood and Highlands Center, home to the Dolby Theater that hosts the Academy Awards show, I actually got to hold an Oscar. A real “live” Oscar! And yes, it was tethered so no one would run off with it. I even went through the line twice. It was one of the big singular thrills of my life.
We also like success stories. It excites us when an actor nominated numerous times finally wins or a Slumdog Millionaire or Million Dollar Baby comes out of nowhere to win the top prize.
Who would have predicted that in 2012 a silent black-and-white film, The Artist, would be named Best Picture? Or that an American Idol contestant like Jennifer Hudson would win an Oscar in her film debut?
Our love affair with the movies. Mine began at 13, after years of parental sheltering when we rarely went to the movies.
One night, a neighbor family invited me to go see a film that would change my life forever. It was West Side Story. I was mesmerized by the music, the dancing, the bittersweet love story (for some reason I was focused on Tony), the cinematography and other technical aspects. I was totally hooked. Unbeknownst to my parents, the next Saturday I walked two cold, wintry miles to the nearest mall, so I could buy the movie soundtrack, which I still have.
We all have our West Side Story, the movie that first touched us, drew us in and kept us transfixed to the screen. Then, or soon, we’re in love! Why? Movies provide a not unhealthy escape from reality and, at the same time, characters and situations to which we can relate. They make us laugh, cry, feel, emote.
My first movie “cry” was when Tony died in West Side Story. My most recent was at Les Misérables. I even admit to tears at the end of Sleepless in Seattle because I was so … happy. Seeing it four times, I still cried every time E.T died – even after I knew he would come back to life. Movies may scare or thrill us, make us angry, cause us to think or see the world and people in a different light. Or leave us wondering, “What in the heck was that all about?” Though we may feel we just wasted $11, we always come back.
The competition. We can deny it, but we love the “horse race” of who will be nominated and who will win. It’s our Kentucky Derby, our Wimbledon and our World Series.
We join Oscar ‘pools,’ attend Oscar parties, or privately make our own predictions. And just as when our political candidate loses, we are devastated when our favorite’s name isn’t called. Think Brokeback Mountain. Or It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp beating out Travelin’ Thru by Dolly Parton for Best Song in 2006. We may even compensate with our own imaginary awards. And in a year like this with clear-cut favorites, some categories still hold stout competition.
For Best Picture it’s become a race between Argo and Lincoln. All five Supporting Actor nominees have won before, and Director, Film Editing, and Adapted Screenplay offer no sure-fire bets.
Our affection for the creative arts. We can appreciate that an action movie may draw millions and gross $300 million and more, but we also know what really stands out artistically.
In recent years, many of the big Oscar winners have not been huge financial successes. In fact, it is rare that the highest grossing film of the year wins the Best Picture Oscar. A Titanic is an exception, not the rule. This year, for a change, the most highly touted films – Lincoln, Life of Pi, Argo, and Les Misérables – have all done well at the box office. Still, they’re no Hunger Games.
Even if we don’t know a key grip from a dolly grip, we know that fine filmmaking doesn’t just happen. It’s writing, editing, directing, music, cinematography and more.
We know it can take years between the original concept for a film and the Oscar ceremony. We value the fine nuances that a Meryl Streep, Maggie Smith or Dustin Hoffman bring to a role. We idolize the James Deans (the only actor to ever receive two posthumous nominations) and Elizabeth Taylors, who were truly larger than life. And we take pride in the huge LGBT presence in the movie industry.
Where Oscar was once the “only game in town” for film awards, there are now the Golden Globes, Guild Awards and scores of local critics’ awards from New York to San Diego. At this rate, Lakeside and Julian can’t be far behind.
The Golden Globes may be more fun, but for honor, glamour, history and prestige, it’s still that tall, slim gold guy standing atop a reel of film. No other award stands as tall.
So, mentally prepare your acceptance speech and pull out your Oscar ballot for the big night Sunday, Feb. 24. While glued to the Oscar telecast, know that there are good reasons to relish the evening and for your love affair with Oscar.
Best of all; know that you’re not alone.
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