Celebrating cinema

By Chris Shores

There’s something special about award shows.

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I’m not talking about the designer dresses and the red carpet celebrity exchanges. Nor do I refer to the tipsy speeches that drag on for minutes on end as actors list anyone that ever did a single thing for them.

No, the great thing about award shows – and all-star games or hall of fames fit the mold as well – has nothing to do with individuals. Instead, it’s the chance to highlight and celebrate the focus area as a whole.

Baseball’s all-star game is a magical night that can remind fans why they love the game. The same goes for award shows, and none shine brighter than the Academy Awards.

The Hollywood & Highland Center Theatre will be filled Sunday with actors and actresses, directors and writers, film editors and visual effects wizards. And attached to each of those individuals are stories – not tabloid tales about their personal lives, but the narratives they told on screen in their movies.

If Christopher Plummer wins best supporting actor, will there be a shadow of Georg Ludwig von Trapp – the “Sound of Music” character he portrayed 47 years ago?

Glenn Close would bring “The Natural” and “Fatal Attractions” with her to the stage. Accompanying Meryl Streep would be “The Deer Hunter” and “Kramer vs. Kramer.” Martin Scorsese comes equipped with “Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull,” “Goodfellas” and “The Departed.”

Each Oscar’s ceremony is a thin thread of a greater interwoven cinematic history. And its annual occurrence provides an opportunity for fans to reconnect with film.

People love seeing movies, but life can get in the way. Moviegoers can’t just watch a film in the background while doing other work; they want to be completely immersed in the experience. There sometimes just aren’t enough hours in the week.

Days and weeks go by, and suddenly “Midnight in Paris” isn’t in theaters anymore. A firm promise is made to watch the film the day it is released to DVD. But life continues, and again, seemingly without warning, its release date comes and passes without fanfare.

So when the Academy Awards are announced each year at the end of January, it provides a pleasant wake-up call. Cinematic fans spend the month of February seeing those films they wanted to see or discovering new ones they hadn’t yet heard of. Theaters bring back the movies for limited special viewing events. The titles are mentioned again in newspapers, on TV shows and blogs across the Internet. Moviegoers have Oscar Fever and it is fantastic.

Those who take issue with the Academy Awards and other awards shows will often say, “It’s just a bunch of celebrities hanging out and demonstrating their view of superiority. What’s the appeal in that?”

While some actors and actresses undoubtedly let the fame go to their heads, it is clear this isn’t always the case. Some are simply downright ecstatic to be there.

YouTube Frank Sinatra’s 1954 best supporting actor acceptance speech and watch as the singer runs down the aisle like a little kid who just received a gold medal from the principal. And it’s hard to forget Halle Berry’s 2002 best actress win, when the actress – overcome with emotion at being the first African-American woman to win the award – delivered her acceptance speech through tears.

ABC producers will show plenty of celebrity shots throughout the night, and there will be many actors and actresses that look uncomfortable in the spotlight. For television and movie star Steve Carell, the award nights are so strange that he and his wife have made it a tradition to get an In-N-Out Burgers drive-through dinner after each show.

Then there are those who argue it’s the same thing every year. In some ways, they’re right; Billy Crystal is hosting again and many of the nominees are regulars.

But let’s not forget about “The Artist” stars Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo or Mexican actor Demián Bichir, nominated for best actor in “A Better Life.” These three were, for the most part, unknown by American audiences before this year. But the success of their films – coupled with their award nominations – has exposed them to a whole new market of cinematic fans.

And then there are those behind the scenes who may not be living a glamorous Hollywood lifestyle. These are the sound editors, the makeup artists, the costume designers and the composers. These are people who likely dedicated most of their past years toward working on the movies. They aren’t appearing on the covers of magazines and their faces aren’t plastered across television sets. Why not then give them credit if credit is due?

There will never be an award show lacking in fame and fortune. The stars will always be there in their dresses and tuxes, with some faking humility and others hogging microphone time.

But strip away this level and the shows can be viewed the way they should be – as celebrations. Actors will fade in and out of the limelight. Directors and technical producers will join and leave the industry. But the stories they work on – the movies that are captured on screen – will endure.

Chris Shores can be reached at [email protected]

 

Correction: The venue for the Academy Awards was erroneously listed as the “Kodak Theatre.” Although the facility is the same, the name of the theatre was recently changed to the “Hollywood & Highland Center Theatre” after Kodak’s bankruptcy filing.