As many of you know, I work in the entertainment industry. For about 12 years, I’ve been blessed to work with everything from television networks to small indie films and box office powerhouses. I don’t claim to know everything, understand everything or even come close to being at the level of the people honored last night by the Academy. Everything here is just my opinion so take it with whatever size piece of salt you feel necessary. 🙂
I love stories. I always have. From even before the time I could read, I remember cuddling up in corners with books and building stories to go with the pictures. Many of my childhood books have illustrations that still immediately open my mind to ideas and possibilities. In fact, a phrase that was heard daily in my home was that I lived in a fantasy world and would never really understand reality. I love that I have been able to turn that upside down and now it’s not an insult as much as I’m proud of the fact that I can make a living telling stories.
The Academy Awards has also always been something I have adored. Last night’s flashbacks from previous award ceremonies contained a lot of precious memories for me. Since the time I was aware of them, I would sit and watch the red carpet, enjoy the dresses, and celebrate the storytelling. Never, in my wildest imagination (that same crazy unrealistic imagination mentioned above!) did I think I might be a teeny, tiny molecule in the entire filmmaking world!
I think we all can recognize that in recent years, everything has begun to change. At some point along the way, it didn’t become so much about celebrating storytelling as it was about politics and causes and individuals. I admit that there were some Oscar shows I watched and wished I hadn’t. And there were some I skipped because of those. Those years, I felt burned. See, when I sit down to watch a show about entertainment, I really, honestly, just want to be entertained. I spend a lot of time volunteering, working, and educating people in the rest of my life. I really just want a night to have some fun convo about dresses I can never afford and hairstyles I will never rock. I know some will say I’m shallow and pointless. But I like a moment of just breathing. Bubblegum for the brain as it were.
And I love to celebrate the art of story. My family laughs that I am always the one who watches every credit and says “Hey – the director is” or “so and so produced this!” I am a film geek.
So, that said, let’s talk about last night. I was blessed to watch the awards with friends that are also in the business and currently living in L.A. They were only a few blocks from where the awards were happening while we watched. It wasn’t their location that thrilled me. It was the fact that, via technology, I was able to watch with other people who create and dream for a living. I didn’t have to explain WHY that award was cool. These friends of mine are also missionaries. They have lived overseas serving others and helping others. As we watched last night, we laughed, snarked, reminisced, and talked about what we know from behind the scenes.
What? She wore that??? Did she ASK her designers for the Mad Max look? No, really.
However, we did have a couple of cringe-worthy moments. And no, I’m not talking about that big Best Picture gaffe either. (Although my daughter did mention she wished she could screen shot ALL of us because the grown ups were all staring gape mouthed at the TV as it unfolded!) I’m talking about a couple of other moments that made us uncomfortable. Now I should say here that every time someone stepped up to the mic, we did all watch with fingers ready on the mute. You just don’t know what someone’s going to say and we just really wanted to have a good time while we watched. The speech that made me cringe was one that is being lauded all over the internet today (“XX made a speech and nailed it!” and “Every child should watch this speech!” and “XX made us cry more times than one during this speech!”) so I am aware what I’m stepping into here. But it was this one line from Viola Davis that made me wince:
“I became an artist and thank God I did,” she continued “because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.”
Now again, I tell stories for a living. I LOVE story. I am all about story. And those stories come from life. I know that. But honestly – Hollywood in NO WAY comes close to being the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life. I would hesitate to even say it really does. Because even when it’s a real life story like Hacksaw Ridge or Deepwater Horizon, they are still manipulated and moved around and pressed into a palatable package for the intended audience in order to make money. That really bothered me. Doctors, EMTs, firefighters, military members, police officers, missionaries, volunteers….so many different things that celebrate what it is to live a life. I understood what she was saying and that she wasn’t trying to take out all of those others with the statement, but I think it was mishandled. I also think it did come from a genuine impassioned belief of what she was saying though. And I think this is part of a bigger issue, but not, perhaps, the glamour filled bubble people have been pointing to. I think it is something else. There was another tone last night that I took away from the awards.
What I saw was maybe, possibly a group of people who are trying desperately to convince us that they are as important and relevant as they’ve been saying they are. There was a lot of trying to convince the viewer WHY they should care about film. Why film changes the world. Why is film important. Why are we (Hollywood) important? And during some moments, it really came across panicked and desperate much more than a celebration.
Now here I’m going to talk about the commercials. (I am aware it wasn’t the Oscars itself, but the breaks were full of those same celebs from the Oscars. Let me assure you, that was the full intention on these commercials. It was not by chance that we saw someone in a commercial who was presenting or receiving on the stage when we returned from break. No one even thinks twice when it happens during the Super Bowl. We shouldn’t be shocked at the specific placement during the biggest night in Hollywood either. Now back to those commercials…)They appeared to be celebrating film and the things done with film over the years but I’m not sure that was all that was behind it. It felt more like a hard sell. During one break, I watched these actors tell us repeatedly how important film is to society. In fact, film is vital to keep society moving forward. This was followed by a commercial highlighting seminal moments in film history that we all shared. Ergo – these films united us. And then another commercial about the products that support these courageous storytellers in their righteous cause. Of course those are my words and my paraphrasing. But I vividly recall the moment I went from watching the commercials in rapt attention – thankful to see ‘my tribe’ of storytellers being recognized – to feeling uncomfortable that it had crossed a line. And I watched the rest with that same view. Was I seeing something that wasn’t there? Maybe. It’s possible. It just felt heavy to me a couple of times.
I’ll be honest. I’m still sorting through my feelings on some of this. And I am following the ‘after’ news because this is my business. I’m amused at many of the conversations happening today. (Was best picture a conspiracy? Do I think they were legitimate winners? Was it too political? Not somber enough? Too over the top? What about those ratings? Who was best dressed?) I love my job. I am so blessed to have a job where I can create and learn and stretch into worlds unknown for my job.
So as I sit here trying to wrap it up, I really don’t have a conclusion. This isn’t meant to be a political post or a ‘calling out’ or a rant.Some things made me laugh. Some made me clap. Some made me cry. And some made me uncomfortable. So I thought I’d share.
Oh but I CAN say this. I ended the evening being an even bigger Ryan Gosling fan than I was when I started the evening. I ADORED that he greeted all the tour bus people (favorite part of the night) and that he seemed to handle everything graciously. Even that mess at the end…