Saturday, February 23, 2008

Oscar-watch

When I was young, I wanted to do two things: read books and go to the movies.

In high school, I wanted to read, write, drive a car, and go to the movies.

In my twenties, I wanted to read, write, teach, get laid, and go to the movies.

In my thirties, I wanted to read, write, jog, get laid, watch baseball, play softball, play golf and go to the movies.

Now, in my forties, I want to read, write, jog, play golf, teach, watch baseball ands go to the movies. (Out of deference to Astro-Girl, matters of intimacy are omitted.)

Sense a pattern?

The idea of going to the movies has never waned; the idea of watching the Oscars, however, has gone up or down with the quality of the movies.

A few years ago, home alone one Sunday night after after softball, exhausted and bored, I could not bring myself to watch any Oscar show that would award Best Picture to such a pile of crap as American Beauty, a film that tweaked the genre of Release Your Inner Jew films (Ordinary People, Interiors) and replaced it with Release Your Inner Gay. I had grown up with the Oscars, had reveled in the Best Picture victory of Rocky and mourned the loss of Apocalypse Now (to Kramer vs. Kramer, no less!). There were years, boys and girls, when the Final Four championship would actually be scheduled against the Oscars, and I felt genuine torment over which one to give my attention. (The best solution I remember was in 1987, when I was home for Spring Break, and my family and I dragged my parents color TV from the bedroom to the living room and placed it side-by-side with our living room console, thus allowing me to watch Keith Smart's jump shot to lead Indiana over Syracuse just as Dianne Wiest was accepting her Oscar for Hannah and Her Sisters.)

However, in the late nineties and early aughts, my attention dwindled to nothing, then reached its apotheosis (never mind waiting for them, I out-and-out avoided them) with American Beauty.

What brought me back? I can remember a certain trio of films released in December, 2005, essentially two winters ago: Capote, The Squid and the Whale, and Good Night and Good Luck. Of those films, only Squid I would describe as great(I caught the tail end of the film last night and had to watch it to the end, so transfixed was I with Jeff Daniels' boorish self-pity in easily the best performance of his career), but all three films struck me, in a way that almost defies explanation, as the sort of films we go to the movies for. All three were bound up with the Oscars, and so I was eager, two months later, to watch. The same feeling strikes me this year, as--for the very first time--I will have seen all five nominated-for-Best-Picture films by the time of the broadcast, and will have accumulated my own rooting interests (especially Ellen Page for Best Actress and Saoirse Ronan for Best Supporting Actress, dark horses both).

In recent months, as the number of art film houses in Houston has reduced to one (The River Oaks 3, with the nabobs of Weingarten Realty eyeing the choice location near West Gray and Shepherd), I've decided to appreciate what remains, and have spent a few afternoons availing myself of the ancient old palace. To be sure, my selection has been limited; DesertRose recommended a movie a month or so ago--Starting Out in the Evening, or something--but with Houston's art films limited to a total of three screens, said film was here and gone in what felt like a week. But I have seen enough.

Inspired by Prof Jimmy's nice words, I'm going to forget all about politics for a weekend and think about that far more satisfying element of the world, movies.

To start, some earlier thoughts about Atonement here.

1 comment:

DesertRose said...

In the Phoenix/Scottsdale area, we are lucky to have the Harkins
Family movie chain. The only reason we get to see a movie like "Starting Out in the Evening", is due to the fact that the Harkins Camelview is solely dedicated to the small independent movies. Go to Ebert's review of this movie and you will love the first sentence. Also, your friend Rosellen Brown is affectionately mentioned in the movie. As to the Oscars, the only nominees I saw and can recommend are "Juno" and "Away From Her". As did my mother, I still get a thrill sitting in a dark movie theatre seeing a wonderful movie.