AND THE OSCAR GOES TO?

It’s Oscar time!

Long ago, when Sandy (of the Wales trip) and I were younger and had more energy, we made a pact. Each year we would get together and see each movie nominated for “Best Picture.” We made a sport out of watching the Oscars and felt we could be indignant, but not RIGHTEOUSLY indignant about the results unless we had ACTUALLY SEEN the movies. (We’re sticklers that way.) We prefer righteous indignation any day. So, THE PLAN was born.

This was back when they allowed only five nominees, so it really shouldn’t have been that challenging. Confession: We usually only made it to four. Sometimes only three. 1995 was a pretty good year in which we saw everything except The Postman. (Apollo 13, Braveheart, Babe, and Sense and Sensibility.) Yes. Babe was nominated for Best Picture. Braveheart won. Remember, this was before Mel went publicly nutso. Damn him.

In 1996, The Plan totally fell apart with this line up:

Jerry Maguire, The English Patient, Shine, Fargo, Secrets and Lies.

I believe I saw Jerry Maguire in the theater. That’s it. Sandy saw The English Patient and described it thusly: “Long. Boring. English. Girlfriend. Death.”

I have tried to watch it three times myself, and agree wholeheartedly with Sandy. In fact, The English Patient makes me almost hostile. My husband cannot comprehend my reaction. I actually wish death upon them throughout much of the picture. Sometimes screaming “DIE! DIE! DIE already!!” at the screen.

1997 was the year that will live forever in our hearts as the year WE DID IT!! We actually managed to see all five nominees; Titanic, As Good As it Gets, Good Will Hunting, The Full Monty, and L.A. Confidential. (I believe that was also the year of THE INCIDENT. Sandy became audibly snarky in the theater when they lost power during The Full Monty, accidentally starting a fight with the girls sitting in front of us – which nearly ended in a girl-brawl in the parking lot.)

Funny now. Then, not so much. It was more like, “THEY ARE GOING TO CUT US.”

That year, Titanic won Best Picture. Another confession. I saw that movie not once, but twice in the theater. I LOVED it. I BOUGHT it. This was in spite of the fact I couldn’t be “on board,” so to speak, with Rose, who was annoyed at having to marry a rich dude. At one point my eyes rolled so far back in my head I saw stars. It’s when Rose said, “I saw my whole life as if I’d already lived it. An endless parade of parties and cotillions, yachts and polo matches. Always the same narrow people, the same mindless chatter.”

Talk about mindless chatter. “Really?” I thought, “Parties and cotillions, yachts and polo matches? Sign me up!” Big whiner. A girl can’t lounge around forever being sketched in the buff by penniless artists. I know. I’VE TRIED.

At brunch today, I was asked the nominees for this year and could name only a handful. Keeping to my old standard, I’ve seen four: The Help, The Artist, Midnight in Paris, and Moneyball.

Other nominees this year include:

War Horse – Cannot possibly see it because the horse is no doubt unhappy and mistreated, otherwise, it wouldn’t be a riveting story.)

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Best described by a radio personality: “Sounds like an encounter with a drunk.”

Hugo – I would probably see it if I could borrow someone’s kid.

The Descendants – Not sure why this doesn’t appeal to me, if only for the Hawaiian ambiance, but it doesn’t.

The Tree of Life – Frankly, never heard of it until the nomination. And I cannot support Sean Penn emotionally or financially, so that’s out.

We watched Moneyball Friday night. It’s a good movie, but why it’s up for Best Picture is beyond me. Unless it’s for Brad Pitt’s work out sessions. But there weren’t enough to warrant an Academy Award for that.

(This is NOT a scene from Moneyball, but who cares?)

So, which piece of cinematic glory is going to win?

The Los Angeles Times reported that nearly 94 percent of Academy Award voters are white, 77 percent are male and the median age is 62.

That said, I predict the Best Picture award will go to…(Drum roll, please.)

“The Best Years of Our Lives,” starring Myrna Loy and Frederic March. (Somehow, the doddering, yet spunky Academy Award voters thought they were watching their DVDs, but were actually on TCM, thus the confusion.)

Hey, with a median age of 62? It could happen.

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THERE’S NEVER ENOUGH KLEENEX WHEN YOU NEED IT: THE HELP

Like apparently almost everyone else in the world I read The Help, and raced to see the movie last weekend. My friends, Max and Tony, had already been treated to a preview showing two weeks before the opening and were raving about it  – actually to the point I was afraid my expectations were going to be too high. 

They weren’t. 

What can I say? I sat in the theater trying to make my three measly Kleenexes make it to the end of the film. Frankly, it’s more of a 4 or 5 hanky picture.

Afterward, we quoted lines to each other and recalled our favorite moments. (Okay, we basically reenacted the entire film.) Something about this story STRIKES HOME. We love it. We love the characters. We love the sets, the costumes, the accents, and the one liners. We love that it hurts our hearts as we watch the carelessness of people – (Hilly, especially.) We shake our heads in disgust. We cry. And cry some more because we cannot fully comprehend the mentality that existed at that point in history.  (And horrifyingly, still does in some cases.)

Aside from the huge, huge, obvious issue of race are additional issues of equality (not only  racial, but social), loyalty, decency and friendship (and its limits). Those issues define us as human beings, regardless of color.

Now, I have absolutely no way of knowing what it feels like to be discriminated against because of the color of my skin. I can’t come close to imagining that reality. The closest thing I can even personally draw from was an experience in middle school. I attended an elite, yet public school in Dallas. I was not of the same social class (spoiled brat) as the majority of students. I had not one friend. People made fun of me. I was mocked. I was kicked.

I don’t remember a lot of detail about that year, but one thing I do recall was a school dance. I told a classmate, Alice, that my mother and I would give her a ride to the dance. Alice was THE ONLY black child in the middle school. I knew her from sharing the same “excluded” lunch table together. 

Alice was the daughter of a Park Cities maid who lived in a house behind the “main” house.  Earlier that day someone commented, “You complain because you don’t fit in and yet you offer a ride to a maid’s daughter. This is not going to help your case.”

I don’t think I was particularly worried about making a political statement at the time, but shrugging, “Well, it can’t get any worse,” was not exactly a courageous stand. 

I regret that.

I have no idea what happened to Alice after that evening. I suppose I should make up some sort of better ending, but that’s the truth. I know we didn’t hang out together or become best friends. Maybe we thought the two of us together made a bigger target, so chose to avoid that. 

The finer points made by The Help can be applied to bullies and bigots alike – not to mention those who stand on the sidelines, unwilling to lose popularity points. We ask ourselves – who’s worse?  The instigator, or the one who’s too weak-minded, or weak-willed to take a stand?

Anyone who has been made to feel unimportant, worthless, or unaccepted for ANY reason knows what it’s like to have a metaphorical door closed in your face. Lost. Alone. Forsaken. The Help will put all that in perspective for you.

So, why do we love it so? Weeping our eyes out and cringing at the heartless Hilly?

Maybe because we’ve all known a Hilly – or been one.

And we all love thinking things will change, and we can change them.

That’s what people call, “hope,” isn’t it?