In the wake of the Republican primary season, I’d like to talk about something really important:  the Academy Awards!  The Oscars are a self-declared holiday everywhere in Hollywood.  It is the biggest event of the year in southern California.

Billy Crystal has been host numerous times before, and has agreed to host again.  He had seemingly pushed the boundaries of being a memorable, even legendary host and noted that it was time to let someone else dazzle the audience with witty repartee.  In September of this year Eddie Murphy had been tapped to host this year for the 84th awards ceremony and was reputedly looking forward to it, but he backed out when his good friend Brett Ratner resigned (the polite Hollywood way of declaring “You’re Fired”).  Brett Ratner was under fire for a gay slur as well as inappropriate comments about actresses Olivia Munn and Lindsey Lohan.  What he said while promoting his film Tower Heist was that “rehearsing is for fags.”  Certainly an ill conceived response to questions about his film.  I think he failed to realize that for the most part Jews and homosexuals (and sometimes Jewish homosexuals)practically run Hollywood, even if only behind the scenes, out of the public eye, usually not as actors.  

I’m not sure how many in the audience will remember the nominees or winners for Best Original Screenplay writer or the Best Adapted Screenplay Writer, except for the year that Matt Damon and Ben Affleck won for “Good Will Hunting.”  In my midnight musings I myself wonder whether I might ever be nominated as a writer for a film (I’ve given several practice speeches in the shower).  Trust me,  though, I’m working on a novel, not a screenplay, so that leaves me out of the running, at least for now.  What can I say?  You gotta dream big because you just never know where life will take you.  I couldn’t have predicted five years ago that I would be going to Northwestern University for a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing, but here I am, pursuing my childhood dreams.

But enough about that and on to the drama of the awards ceremony.  To me, the most hotly contested race this year is in the Lead Actress in a Film category.  Meryl Streep and Viola Davis are duking it out, and Glenn Close is the dark horse for Albert Nobbs where she played a woman masquerading as a manservant in late 19th Century Ireland.  Streep is widely acknowledged as the premiere actress of our generation with 16 nominations and 2 wins for Supporting Actress in Kramer vs. Kramer and Lead Actress in Sophie’s Choice way back in 1982.  She is due another win for her turn in The Iron Lady where she plays British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher because she hasn’t won since Sophie’s Choice, yet I favor Viola Davis in the role of a lifetime for The Help.

As a general rule, comedies are not considered for Acadmeny Awards, yet Bridesmaid’s supporting actress Melissa McCarthy may surprise everyone.  However, my heart belongs this year to Octavia Spencer who plays fiesty black maid Minny, once again in The Help.

I’m not certain why I am drawn to the Best and Supporting Actress categories, but the gals nominated tend to really steal the show with amazing, and actually memorable speeches.  Who can forget Halle Berry thanking all the black women in film and music history on whose shoulders she stands?  Or Sally Field, where she said, “You like me, you really like me!” 

One of the worst thing you can do with your allotted 45 seconds is thank industry insiders just because it might benefit your career.  Stretch your acting muscles, folks, and put on a moving, memorable performance.

At its best, the Oscar speech is its own art form.  Louise Fletcher, who won for her role as Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest said, “I’ve loved being hated by you.”  Then she continued by thanking Jack Nicholson, for making “being in a mental institution like being in a mental institution.”

Shirley MacLaine, for Terms of Endearment (one of my favorite films),  waxed philosophical:  “God bless that potential that we all have for making anything possible if we think we deserve it.”  Then said, “I deserve this.”

None of the other categories impact me in quite the same way, except perhaps the winner of Best Director and Best Picture.  My favorite films this year were The Help and Hugo, Hugo for sheer scope and panoramic cinematic profoundity.  I tend to lean toward Hugo, certianly for Best Director, but also for Best Picture (it’s such a quietly beautiful film), but the frontrunner for Best Picture is actually the silent film The Artist.  A silent film hasn’t won since the first Academy Awards show 83 years ago (the film was Wings).

Regardless of who wins and who are the “also-rans,” I love the pomp and circumstance of the Academy Awards.  Books and films nourish my soul and what can I say: you just have to love a good show.

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