March 13, 2006
This year's Oscars, as usual, happened on a Sunday night
and I was up at the
cottage. The Red Dot, the local hangout, decided to celebrate
with an Oscar
Night Party, requesting everyone to come to watch the event
on the big
screen dressed as their favorite movie star.
So I watched the first part of the show surrounded by a faux
Michael Jackson, a couple that I think were Oliver and Hardy,
Higgins from MY FAIR LADY [liberties were taken], and a whole
other faux celebrities of every movie era. It was fun and
From some reason, the Oscars seemed more important this year.
Was it that
idiosyncratic films like BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN and CRASH were
up for Best
Picture? Was it because the nominees for Best Actor and Actress
the most likable group in a long time? That they were nominated
interesting roles in interesting films? Felicity Huffman was
playing a transsexual in a film called TRANSMERICA, about
a man becoming a
woman crossing the country with her/his hustler son. It has
never been more
offbeat than that.
It may be that I was upstate and someone was throwing a party
and I was
invited and was spending time with people I liked and with
whom I could
laugh. Picking up this week's PEOPLE Magazine, I surrendered
pages of photos of gowns and jewels, tuxes and titillating
accounts of how stars spend the day prepping, followed by
accounts of the PAAAAAAARties.
Because the films were idiosyncratic, the awards were interesting;
was not. It rather felt like a long commercial for the movie
experience, a not unsurprising move for an industry - like
media - under pressure from the changing technological landscape.
Jon Stewart was fine as the host though not stellar. [Where
Carson when you need him?] A few of the speeches were heartfelt
Thank you, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Reese Witherspoon [once
finished thanking everyone].
It was surprising to discover Robert Altman had had a heart
transplant and I
loved the introduction of him by Lili Tomlin and Meryl Streep,
offbeat layering of his films.
Beneath the surface, though, I sensed something was not quite
right. It was
as if the ceremony was a balloon that hadn't quite been filled.
effort to keep it moving, the producers [shame on you, Gil
Gates] kept music
playing during most if not all the acceptance speeches, devaluing
moments of the show, the words from the people whose hard
work was being
honored and who were trying to speak a bit of their hearts.
George Clooney was, perhaps, most memorable - and most dignified.
reminded us that in 1939, it was the Academy of Motion Picture
Sciences that gave Hattie McDaniel an Oscar for her role in
GONE WITH THE
WIND, at a time when most African-Americans were relegated
to the back of
the bus and separate movie theatres, reminding us that being
liberal is not
always a bad thing - and can be a harbinger of things that
should be and
That, in fact, is the moment I remember most, Mr. Clooney's
dignity with which he gave it, which cut through the glitter
and the hype,
the handbags and the hyperbole, the gowns and jewels, make
up and award
madness, a simple statement, reminding us of the dignity of
each of us, even
when not yet recognized by all.
Gordon Parks, like Hattie McDaniel, helped push forward the
for African-Americans by doing brilliant work, giving back
and going on
until the day came when he was not just the best African American
photographer but one of the best photographers of all.
Dana Reeve passed away from lung cancer at the achingly young
age of 44,
widow of Christopher Reeve, and an example to many of love,
stalwartness and fortitude. From all accounts, at no point
did she surrender
to the terrible things happening around her and to her, rather
continued putting one foot in front of another, doing her
best to make
things better for those she loved and the world in which she
In mourning her, one individual in USA Today quoted Edna
Millay's line, "Where you used to be, there is a hole
in the world."
Gone, too, is Kirby Puckett, the Minnesota Twin who played
every game as if
it was his last, a loss I'm sure felt much more keenly by
my brother who
lives in Minnesota than I. Still, he was a man who inspired
and is, like
Dana Reeve, gone far too soon from a world in which he was