There was a time period in my younger life when I gave close attention to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Oscar Awards ceremony and winners. I never specifically aspired to appear in the movies, but I did entertain a desire to stage act. Then, as television became more prominent and I had an opportunity to perform in a one-act play TV production, I thought that new medium might also be an attractive acting venue.
I perceived that whatever talents I might have, they were most suited for my being a character actress much like Maureen Stapleton. The question for me became whether to apply for admission to the West Coast's prominent Pasadena Play House, or go to New York City with a goal of seeking admittance to the preeminent National Academy of Dramatic Arts and Sciences. (How many of us have entertained such aspirations or other dreams that never reached fruition?) I still have my Pasadena Play House uncompleted, much less not submitted, application form. Life happened, causing my plans to be what I thought of as temporarily delayed, when I necessarily returned to my home state.
The next several years I still was able to continue enjoying pursuing all aspects of drama productions in a small communities little theatre group called Footlight Players -- a group whose website I just discovered tonight. They have re-located, apparently to a much more professional theatre setting, expanded their production undertakings, and evidence an ever-increasing popular patronage today.
I eventually did leave that town for a larger city and off-camera employment at, by then, popular commercial television about which I've written here before. I was still single during these latter years when the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences that awards the Emmy was being created. Their annual national ceremony gained increased recognition, also becoming more pertinent to me when I received voting membership in a newly authorized local area Television Academy Emmy branch. The Emmy Awards and the Oscar Awards ceremonies were now all highly viewed popular televised programs I occasionally enjoyed, too.
Living in Southern California as I now do -- near the Oscar awards show flashpoint -- having a friendship with some who've actually attended the affair and after parties -- knowing others who the media has recognized as having a record-setting number of years ritualistically observing the movie stars from the bleachers at the red carpet entry to the formerly known Kodak Theatre site (now known as Hollywood and Highland Center since Kodak is filing for bankruptcy) -- has exposed me to frequent conversation about movies, their stars and the entertainment business, thus renewing my interest in the event -- especially now that I'm partially retired with a little more free time.
I take advantage of the special senior early movie rates, since a few years ago my town once again acquired our own independent theater featuring more selective film fare. I've seen a few of this year's Oscar nominee films, so thought I might as well share some of my reactions here. I'm interested in others views, whether or not they agree with mine, and any thoughts about the movies I haven't seen.
For starters......I look forward to Billy Crystal as this year's Oscar show host.
"The Artist" became my favorite movie, compared with those few I had seen, long before the film won any other awards. I'll be quite pleased if it wins the 2012 Academy Awards Oscar for Best Movie. Movies with sound, known as "talkies," were prevalent when I was young, but before that movies were silent. The silent pictures had written captioned dialogue for viewers to read as they watched the film's action with theater music accentuating and propelling the storyline plot. "The Artist" is a refreshing modern classic black and white silent film presentation. Delightful dancing scenes augment a twist of romance and humorous antics to which an unforgettable lovable perky dog lends his talents making this movie most enjoyable for me.
I, especially, appreciated the nonverbal language expressed by the actors through facial expression, gesture, and overall body movement that is so instrumental in carrying the message in this movie and in real life. This key feature to effective communication is missing in present day digital social sites. Fortunately, some programs with video, too, are available including one of my favorites, Skype. Email alone often lacks personality, can be sharp and brittle, utilitarian sounding, lacking in warmth and a human feel. I'm not the first to recognize some slight, maybe even subtle variations of meaning, or more serious misunderstandings that can be conveyed between email correspondents whose messages often lend themselves to misinterpretation by both parties.
"The Iron Lady" is a movie I enjoyed primarily because of Merle Streep's performance. She's long overdue for an Oscar as Best Actress, but not my first choice this year. I'm still haunted by the story line and her portrayal in her "Sophie's Choice" role years ago. She typically inhabits her characters, or they her, resulting in my generally forgetting her real life persona as I've seen it in her personal interviews. Certainly in this film the makeup department did a phenomonal job to aid in creating her character's appearance. The movie overall did not hold my interest as much as I had expected and hoped it would.
Streep portrays former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in later life -- a woman who had been Great Britain's formidable leader when in her prime. Her mental faculties declined as she aged in the years after leaving office. Interestingly, so did those of her American counterpart, our President Ronald Reagan who ultimately disclosed he had Alzheimer's Disease, a dementia. Current research has show the diseases can begin to effect the brain long before symptoms are recognized.
I also saw the current outstanding Oscar nominee movie "The Help." I thought Viola Davis was superb in her role and well-deserving of the Oscar as Best Actress. This movie characterizes a south to which my family and I moved when I was a young girl. There I experienced culture-shock with blatant race dividing scenes like those shown in this movie at bus stations, rest rooms, drinking fountains, restaurants. I do think the movie's revenge pie ingredient was strictly for unnecessary over-the-top shock and the desired effect could have been equally and more palatably accomplished with some other easily selected item. Otherwise, the movie is a well-acted and presented book adaptation.
I'm reminded that many years later in mid-life after moving to California, that a former southern Junior League (group prominent in the film's story) woman member became a close friend. She confided to me the feelings and adaptive challenges she experienced in her subsequent adult years. Intellectually she rejected the discriminatory views with which she had been raised, such as portrayed by some in this film. Yet emotionally, my friend revealed her adjustment to accepting racial equality was more difficult.
I also thoroughly enjoyed "Descendents" which addresses several significant issues in addition to realistically presenting certain family problems. A father, played by George Clooney, begins learning to actually relate to his teenage daughters as a result of tragic circumstances involving their mother , also his wife. The unfortunate parental relationship illuminates how families, especially the children, can be impacted when all members become somewhat estranged while continuing to share the same household. The mother's medical complications present the necessity of decision-making that too many people are often faced with making.
The Hawaiian ocean scenery was spectacular with select views I recalled having seen in years past. Also familiar were some other sights such as Oahu's Punchbowl Memorial Cemetery where one of my beloved female family members has rested since being victimized by ovarian cancer in the sixties.
George Clooney created his character well in this movie, as he has generally done in most of the other recent years movies in which I've seen him act. I do think, basically, George Clooney is George Clooney in all these movies -- perhaps some aspect of himself in each character that he can never quite fully bring out to completely subjugate his own person. Maybe the problem is mine in not being able to forget his character is George Clooney because his presence is so large. This is not necessarily a negative. Throughout my lifetime quite a few popular actors have seemed to overwhelm their roles in a variety of stories and acting parts, but I've derived great pleasure viewing their movies as I do his.
I'm reminded that a friend told me of meeting Clooney as a young boy at his home. Young George strongly emphasized with certainty, words to the effect that one day he'd be quite important in the entertainment business. But his Dad, Nick, was quite important then, too. Nick was well-known and popular in the Midwest as a singer and in that particular setting at that time. Many years later Nick Clooney became a Los Angeles news anchor for a short time. His sister and George's aunt Rosemary Clooney, vocalist, was quite a music industry and movie star. So, George had excellent role models and probably encouragement he could be a star, too. Perhaps he has become a much brighter star than he ever imagined. Too bad his Aunt Rosemary isn't still living to share his pleasure.
"Midnight In Paris" swept me away to the romantic Paris world about which I once fantasized. The sights and sounds, imagined smells -- but, alas, no smellivision -- along with some of the artists, writers and personalities I might like to have encountered, rekindled long ago memories. I like Woody Allen films despite Woody Allens personal behavior. Same with film director Roman Polanski. That's how some felt about actress Ingrid Bergman, for different reasons, years ago.
I missed seeing "Tree of Life," "War Horse" when they were on the marque, along with some other films that have received various types of Oscar nominations. I wasn't in the mood for "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," but may be in the future, partially because I'm intrigued by the Max Von Sydow role. Also, I want to eventually see "Hugo" which may be considered a classic in years to come; "Moneyball" because I like Brad Pitt's acting and baseball; also "The Beginners" because of Christopher Plummer's typically exceptional acting skills.
I prefer seeing most movies on a large theater screen in preference to DVD's on my TV, or streaming on the computer. I don't have a large TV screen at home by choice, but may one day succumb to the temptation.
A couple more movies I saw at our local theater include "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" which I think is probably a movie with suspense and complexity that many will enjoy. Gary Oldman inhabited Smiley. I was so enthralled with the initial presentation and acting on the PBS series many years ago I couldn't expunge that memory. Perhaps there was more time to tell the story on PBS than this accordion compressed movie version, though John Le Carre, who authored the book from which the adaptations came, has said he's very pleased with this new movie version.
"A Dangerous Method" which chronicles some of the pioneers of psychoanalysis with an account of complicated relationships between Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Sabina Spielreim, once a patient, then in a romantic involvement. I think interest in the dynamics of psychoanalysis would enhance a viewers enjoyment and appreciation of this movie.
I really want to see the fascinating dance movie "Pina" on a big screen; may have an opportunity to see a purportedly unusual "Shame" dealing with sexual addiction; and "Albert Nobbs" in which Glenn Close portrays the lengths to which a woman of another generation would go to avoid the limiting traditional life styles imposed on females by society then.
I have mixed feelings about seeing "My Week With Marilyn," since I never cared for the real life Monroe character that she is said to have created as her alter persona, making her a movie star for many fans. The young actress, Michelle Williams, portraying Marilyn in the movie may well have created an interesting character worth seeing.
My tastes often are contrary to popular culture, since in addition to Marilyn Monroe, I never cared for Elvis Presley either, but that's another story. I liked the old movie "Some Like It Hot," but primarily because of the other actors -- such a farce -- certainly Monroe's character lent itself well to the part. I thought the movie "The Misfits" was extremely disappointing largely because of her. I think the movie would have been much better had any number of other more appropriate actresses played her role. I never appreciated her sex appeal. We had formed our opinions independently before we met, but she did not appeal to my husband and his friends either, other than as a big acting joke. Maybe her insecurity was valid.
This is probably not a good note on which to end this piece. Likewise, I may have injected too many personal memories, related topics and opinions.
I think there are some entertaining movies to be seen and hope everyone has an opportunity to view the ones that most appeal to you. Betcha Billy Crystal makes us laugh! Enjoy the Oscars!