“I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t made a version of this speech before, I think I was probably eight years old and staring into the bathroom mirror. And this would’ve been a shampoo bottle.”
- Kate Winslet, Academy Awards 2009
A few weeks ago my friend Daryl hosted a Saturday evening poker game and as several of us sat around, indulging in the NFL playoffs and waiting for everyone to arrive, our friend Matt burst through the door stone cold stylin’ in the custom made suit he wore to his wedding. He was subjected to a bit of mockery, because we’re all idiot guys, but I must confess I adored what I secretly considered to be his primary reason for getting all decked up just to deal cards and drink beer in someone’s apartment. Matt is not only married he has a year-and-a-half old son who, as year-and-a-half old sons will, takes up the vast majority of his time. Gone are those carefree days when he could get all dressed up and do the town and stay out until the paperboy dropped off the next morning’s Chicago Tribune. (Do paperboys still drop off morning newspapers? Never mind.)
A few months ago I went out on a date with this girl and at some point during our conversation she confessed to me that she often pretended to give Oscar acceptance speeches (sometimes for directing but usually for acting). Needless to say, I swooned hard, and immediately confessed that I too often pretend to give Oscar acceptance speeches (for Best Original Screenplay because I’m fairly certain I couldn’t pull of an award-winning adaptation). And that, of course, goes back to Kate The Great’s acceptance quote and her shampoo bottle subbing for the real statue and the quaint myth that the Oscars aren’t as much about ad campaigns and backlash and Harvey The Destroyer as they are about – to quote Bruce Springsteen quoting Elvis – Follow(ing) That Dream.
Look, the Oscars don’t always get things right. And even when you think they get things right, well, fifty-dozen other people think they got things wrong. I wanted Natalie Portman to win so much last year I was ready to wage (verbal) warfare against anyone who said otherwise. My friend Castor, on the other hand, did not want Natalie Portman to win. Kate Winslet winning in 2009 was probably my single favorite Oscar moment ‘ever’. My friend Rory, however, supported Melissa Leo in Frozen River as strongly as I supported Natalie last year. Essentially everyone wanted Heath Ledger to win for The Dark Knight. I was rooting for Josh Brolin in Milk. Who was right? Who was wrong? Who knows, and the more time that passes the more I realize the Oscars aren’t as much about “getting things right” as they are getting to watch a bunch of movie stars we pay far too much attention to get together to celebrate the cinema in general.
I reckon a lot of people who indulge in reading Anomalous Material at one time or another harbored a dream to get into the filmmaking business (and perhaps still do or actually are in it). At the risk of getting too personal (which I’ve likely already done anyway), I once harbored that dream. I wrote dozens and dozens of screenplays in my day and my aforementioned friends Daryl and Matt and I for a period of a few years turned ourselves into a makeshift and extravagantly independent movie company – Daryl directed and produced, Matt acted as cinematographer and I served as screenwriter. Whether our attempts were A.) Successful or B.) Spectacularly Unsuccessful (the correct answer is B) isn’t necessarily the point – the point is that I adore the movies so much that for a significant period of my life I wanted more than anything to be part of them.
But, you know, that blasted thing called reality interferes and you eventually learn that unless you want to move to L.A. and dedicate yourself to the business entirely and take crappy underpaying jobs where you are nothing beyond a non-glorified gopher (I remember watching The Break Up being filmed down on Michigan Avenue many years ago and what always stuck with me wasn’t the people going batshit when Jennifer Aniston appeared but the poor dude who kept shuttling back and forth with lattes) and probably still not make it unless you know someone (and I don’t) that’s it a pipe dream – albeit, the most fantastical pipe dream I could ever hope to conjure. And that’s fine. Truly, it is. In the last few years I’ve come to learn I enjoy writing about movies a whole lot more than I enjoyed writing them.
Of course, just because I’ve chosen to move on and retire that dream doesn’t mean I’ve retired dreaming about it. Every once in awhile you still want to get out the shampoo bottle and stand in front of the bathroom mirror and give that acceptance speech, don’t you? And watching the Oscars every year, no matter how stuffy and elitist and idiotic (No Shailene Woodley? Motherfucker, please) they may be, lets me relive that dream for just a few precious hours. That isn’t so bad.
In fact, this year I might just wear on my own custom made suit to watch them.