In Other Words
Growing up in Los Angeles, Academy Award night was a citywide celebration. By the time my brother and I would tumble inside, ready for our afternoon snack, the glamorous stars were already pulling up in their shiny limousines to strut down the red carpet. My mom would prepare special dishes and drinks, and family and friends would crowd around the TV together. Mostly we would gossip about the stars’ choice of wardrobe, but we would also root for our favorite movies and argue the merits of each one.
Going to the movies has always been something I enjoy. Seeing any movie is like a stolen chunk of time where we get to travel to other worlds and experience others’ lives, leaving our own lives and worries behind, if only for a couple of hours.
As I’ve grown, my mother and I still make the effort to watch the award show together. As silly as it may seem to some, one of us will travel to the other and make a special night out of it, eating and drinking and enjoying the display before us.
At times I have agreed that Oscar night is far out of touch with the rest of America. Especially in times of hardship or tragedy, a night devoted to glitz and glamour seems unnecessarily excessive. But instead of looking at it as a night where the rich and famous pat each other on the back, I think of it as a night to celebrate a classic American art form.
Technically speaking, the only true American art forms are jazz, comic books, musical theater and modern dance. And while the history of motion pictures is long and complicated, the United States, along with Britain and France, were early pioneers.
But with the advent of World War I, European countries couldn’t devote time, men, technology, or imagination to the movies. And by the time the war was over, American technology and innovation had catapulted us far beyond any other country. When movie houses finally reopened in Europe, they ended up showing primarily imported American films. Ever since, for better or worse, American movies are known throughout the world.
One constant throughout the history of the movies is the challenge to overcome obstacles. In an industry founded and maintained on technological advances, the introduction of the next best thing is immediately seen as a threat to the way things are. I’m sure if you work in the industry this is frustrating. But as a fan, I find the push to be ever better to be to our benefit. Feature length films threatened the original short film. Talkies threatened, and eventually eradicated, silent films.
Television shut down a fair share of movie houses across the world. Computer-generated animation threatened traditional animated movies. And now, the industry is challenged by the availability of free digital media.
It should be no surprise that in the past decade domestic movie theater admissions are down almost 20 percent. Why pay to go to the movies when you can stream it online for a fraction of the price?
As a fan, the details behind the movies are interesting, but not essential to know. I loved Toy Story without knowing the monumental effort it took to make a feature length computer animated film. I was awed by Avatar without getting caught up in the technology that got it to that point. Knowing it is, at its core, a business that is subject to bottom lines doesn’t concern me as much as being transported into a different world for a couple of hours after a long day.
So when Oscar night arrives next weekend, I will gossip about the stars’ fashion choices and applaud those amazing new technological advances that make my movie-going experience that much better. But mostly, I will be cheering for an iconic American art form and tradition. I will celebrate the passion it took to get an idea from a piece of paper to the big screen so it can transport me into another world. If only for a few short hours.