O is for Oscar

I have been fascinated by the Academy Awards, a/k/a the Oscars, for a very long time. As a kid, I’d watch the stars that I’d heard about for years, even though I had not seen much of, or ANY of their work. It was a great thrill.

But the person in those days I was most fascinated with in the 1960s was Edith Head, the costume designer, who won eight awards. I liked her name and I especially loved the glasses. Though The Incredibles director Brad Bird has not confirmed it, it seemed immediately obvious that Edna E. Mode, the supergroup’s costumer, was a parody of Ms. Head. (And that the new CBS-TV show NCIS: Los Angeles’ Henrietta ‘Hetty’ Lange, played by Linda Hunt, is doing Edna Mode.)

Eventually, I got to see more of the movies. There was a time when I became a film affectionado. I would particularly make an effort to see the movies that had been nominated in the major categories: Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Director, Original Screenplay and Adapted Screenplay. This meant going to the cinema a lot in December, January and February. Since I’ve never been a cold-weather fan, this suited me quite well. The Presidents Day/Washington’s Birthday weekend of 1998, I saw five films in three days; four of them had been nominated for the 1997 awards: L.A. Confidential (Kim Basinger won for supporting actress; Curtis Hanson, with Brian Helgeland, won for adapted screenplay, lost for director; also lost for picture) and Mrs. Brown (Judi Dench lost for lead actress) on Saturday; Afterglow (Julie Christie lost for lead actress) plus some whimsical French film on Sunday, and The Apostle (Robert Duvall lost for leads actor) on Monday. In fact, the only performance in the major categories I DIDN’T see was Peter Fonda, who lost for best actor in Ulee’s Gold; in fact, I STILL haven’t seen it.

In the pre-Internet days, on the day of the announcement of the nominees, the great challenge was trying to find a radio station with good reception that was broadcasting the information live at 8:37 a.m. Eastern Time, 5:37 a.m. Pacific Time, write down all the information and kibbitz about the choices and the omissions. Now, of course, I can just go online, but a bit of the magic is lost.

This century, I watch far fewer movies. Seeing films on DVD, in my opinion, is a lesser experience which I do only as a last resort, such as when a film is no longer in theaters and I REALLY MUST see it before Oscar night. And these days, I don’t even stay up for the awards but rather record them to watch over the next evening or three. Yet I still watch, because some part of the young boy who was dazzled by the magic of Hollywood still exists.

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