I remember the first time I watched the Academy Awards on television.
We were living in Herndon, VA, and Billy Crystal was hosting that year. I remember his opening monologue, which included a hilarious version of the “Gilligan’s Island” theme. I remember Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, who were young faces then, accepting a screenwriting award for a little movie they’d written and directed and acted in themselves. That was the year Celine Dion sang “My Heart Will Go On.” That was the year Titanic won everything. It was 1998.
And that – those precious hours, right then – that was when I fell madly in love with Oscar.
And I hadn’t even seen Titanic.
First off, though, let’s get this much on the record: I don’t necessarily place an absolute faith in the value of the Academy Awards. I know that sometimes the winners don’t deserve it – not as much as some of the other nominees and not as much, even, as some people who didn’t get nominated. I know that Oscars are political symbols, politically given. So I’m not naïve about that.
And I don’t always like the “celebrity” aspect of the awards either. I almost never watch all that red carpet stuff beforehand, when everybody analyzes each other’s clothes and jewelry and hairstyles.
But what I love, LOVE, is the heart of the matter.
What I love is that whenever I watch the Oscars, I feel like I’m hanging out with a bunch of my old friends. Because these people love movies. And I LOVE MOVIES, TOO! It’s like I finally get see the faces of people – just like me – who want to devote their lives to the silver screen. I know why they do what they do. I know that, deep down, we all know how beautiful and poignant movies have made our lives. And every year that there are more, that there is new beauty and poignancy brought into the world, that year is a year worth celebrating. CELEBRATE CREATION!
So I have now spent over a decade watching the Academy Awards on TV. I have seen Roberto Benigni climb exultantly across the tops of the chairs at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and I have seen Adrien Brody passionately kiss Halle Berry right on the lips. I’ve seen the creation of an award for animation, watched the Awards move permanently into the Kodak Theater, and nervously hung onto my precious Oscars as they barely survived the WGA strike. I’ve even spotted a member of the Secret Society of Seat Sitters!
And last year I got to stand on the stage and look out across that sea of empty chairs and imagine what the theater would look like if they were full.
And tonight I get to watch the whole production for the twelfth amazing year. So Happy Anniversary, Oscar! I hope we stay together for twelve more years.
Heck. I hope we stay together forever.