It's 2022, and like every year, the Academy Awards sneak up on my calendar. "Of course, it's March!!"
I enjoy and look forward to them but not like the many millions that tune in five hours before to watch the fashion critique. ------Okay, I said it, but that's just me. I have my own thing about the Oscars.
One of my most cherished Academy Awards nights was in Chicago in 1986. I was visiting my sister and dear friend John who were both there on business. My first trip to the Windy City did not disappoint me. Aside from being in an exciting new place, it was the Oscars. Memories of eating a deep-dish pizza for the first time and remembering Marlee Matlin's speech in American sign language are there, but I can't forget my unsuccessful attempts to get into the offices of both Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert that day. Yes, a pathetic epic failure only to be, turned away twice. The more memorable rejection was after I lied and said I had an appointment with Roger to get past the assistant outside his office. Looking down her nose at me, she let me know he was not there; he was at the Oscars in Hollywood. Oh well.----
I'm sure, like many others, I only see a few of the nominated pictures by award night, while it usually takes me a year to get caught up, and that's if I to get to them all.
I only go to the movie theater for certain movies. Some you should only watch on the big screen; otherwise, you're depriving yourself. I've come to appreciate things besides those fabulous dresses and memorable opening performances. Like the category cinematography, there was a time I would walk away during their award presentation to make a sandwich.------ I know better now.
When a movie can create an image in your brain that lingers over time---- it becomes a still photograph so powerful now a visual narrative of the story, never leaving you. That is great cinematography!
To give an example is a scene from Sophie's Choice.
Nathan, Sophie, and Stingo walk in darkness along the Brooklyn Bridge with arms embracing; they toast in celebrating their young friend, the writer now among the greats. It is Nathan's words that are so eloquent; you see it on their faces. Climbing up the pylon structure and holding a glass of champagne, you can hear him.----- "To Stingo." And as the camera pulls back perfectly, that magnificent view of the bridge expands in splendor while they fade away in the background.
That's the picture in my brain; that's the story. Thank you Néstor Almendros Cuyás, cinematographer. (Clik on link at end of page for video)
I watch the Oscars and not for the: glitz, or the unexpected, like the streaker in 1974 who ran across the stage naked, and definitely not for the speeches.
I also understand the struggle not to embrace award shows and the idea that--- "This is the best." Whether it's a picture or an actor, it's not unlike announcing which of your children is your favorite. -----Would you do that?
I watch to capture moments of splendor when art comes alive on the screen. Whether it's drama, comedy, or fantasy, you'll know if it's good; it will shine.
And let us not leave out my favorite, the musical.
So far, I have only seen three of the eleven nominated pictures. Hoping to see a few more by the award show this Sunday night, I don't think I'm a real contender to predict the winner. Out of the three, one was a great tribute to the life of an amazing dad. He defied all odds. His tenacity and vision brought us two of the greatest athletes of our time.
Another one I have nothing to say other than I didn't care much for it, and I don't get its overwhelming popularity. So that's all I'll say about that one. That leaves the last one. Can you guess which one?
So, now the envelope, please. ------
I will be rooting for West Side Story. I can't say other than this reboot of one of the best movies of all time did it for me. I watched the original again and the new version. Both versions captured moments of splendor, art coming alive on the screen. It's almost impossible to separate the two versions.
So for this year's Oscars, I will wear my most fashionable pair of jammies, have a sandwich already prepared when they announce best cinematography and if I make it to the end with fingers crossed, I will hear West Side Story.
So, I will picture George Chakiris, a tenement building as a backdrop behind him, dancing in air; -------just like poetry.
-------That's the picture in my brain; ------that's the story.
I wish to dedicate this piece to Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert who I miss very much. Both cinematographers for West Side Story, Daniel L. Fapp- 1961 and Janusz Kamiński 2021 and lastly my sister who makes the Oscars always a tradition and John Clobridge who we miss and always include him in our hearts and thoughts especially on award night.
Clik onto for scene in Sophie's Choice