The Academy Awards and Loving our Neighbors
ROAD TO THE RED CARPET
It’s nearly that time when the glitz and glamor of the film industry gets even more shining recognition as golden figurines are handed out for over three hours with countless commercial breaks in between. Yes, I’m talking about the Academy Awards. Just at the mention, some of you may feel a knee-jerk reaction; some might start to feel all giddy and excited about what the awards show has in store this year while for others, the very thought of the ceremony makes their skin crawl. Me, I’m firmly in the former camp. It’s no secret to those who know me that I love film and if you’ve read many of our articles here on Resources, you probably know that, too. So as we edge towards the end of February, it starts to feel like a second Christmas but for others, it’s nothing more than a contrived and desperate political melodrama.
Almost like the Road to the Kentucky Derby or the Super Bowl of film, the weeks (and even months) leading up to the big event are buzzing with speculation and predictions as fans (like yours truly) draw up their fantasy rosters of favorite films and praiseworthy performances. When the nominations ring out from the PA system on Awards night with a few precious seconds of footage, film freaks everywhere cheer from their armchair stadiums and bedroom auditoriums.
I understand if that’s not you, though. If you’re not particularly interested in what film snobs have to say and you don’t keep up with each week’s iffy showings at Cinemark, I get it. I’ve been in those same apathetic shoes for every major sporting event and election rally of the past decade. They aren’t my scene. So should you even bother with the Academy Awards? If it’s not the Super Bowl to you, does it have anything to offer? Well, I would submit that it does. It simply depends on the type of person you are.
TAKING A PULSE
The Oscars are one of the very few times of the year where we all sit down and and honor the practice of storytelling. Narrative. From a time before recorded history to the decades that will surely follow our death, narrative shapes us on a near-cosmic level. In light of that grandeur and importance, an annual awards ceremony could begin to feel dwarfed in significance but I think it’s really more akin to some final bastion - a loud and clear commemoration of the staying power found in narrative. Throughout the night, we are reminded of the things that capture our imagination and we get the chance to see just what kinds of stories are elevated above the rest. We see raw, scathing tragedies alongside the heights of hard-won epics. The cream of the crop - the best of the best - are on display and served up to anyone with a basic cable package so that we may broaden our cultural understanding and deepen our love for the arts.
But… (and there’s always a ‘but’ isn’t there), just like every major sporting event or election rally, there are people with something to say, more than a few questionable judges, some political jabs, and far, far too many commercials. It goes without saying that three out of four of those stand a fair chance to offend. *Gasp* I know! But this is also why I said that that your benefit depends largely on you. Our world’s favorite pastime is Outrage and we’re all so susceptible to its souring allure.
With that said, we are herein offered yet another level of free cultural analysis. For a handful of hours, the entertainment elite are going to sit in the same room as a hand-picked few take the stage. It’s in these moments, when we hear the semi-rehearsed and cumbersome speeches on the hearts of these men and women, that we learn the most. Don’t let me pull the wool over your eyes, there will most assuredly be some who forego a gracious “thank you” in favor of an awkward and socially-charged battlecry. So here’s a fair warning: if every hot button topic is a very personal holy war for you, then consider sitting this one out. Your blood pressure and facebook friends will thank you. But if you are indeed secure in your worldview and comfortable with a difference of opinion then you have the opportunity to take a pulse on what people find important, the causes they want to champion, and the ideas they keep at arm’s length. Or perhaps more accurately, the social virtues they want to be seen as championing. All the world’s a stage, am I right? Yet for all the fluff, this still forges a path of dialogue with our neighbors, giving us means and a lexicon to engage graciously where others flagrantly lack that same grace (e.g. Acts 17:16-34).
Certainly, I am no exception to this whole trap. I’m just like any sports fan when it comes to the winner’s circle, pulling for my favorite flicks and narrative truths. Do I need everyone to agree with my idea of cinematic worthiness? Should I feel any “less than” or invalidated if some respected opinion conflicts with my own? Certainly not! That is the beauty of appreciating art and acting like an adult and I think it’s a principle that reaches much further than the debate over your favorite blockbuster of the year.
Don’t take my near-reverent, awestruck excitement the wrong way - even I don’t treat these results as gospel truth. There’s a whole litany of inane requirements for a film to even be eligible and if that wasn’t enough, you’re still entrusting a vast panel of strangers to make objective decisions about art. While they have the ordained power to steer the night’s esteem, the results of this ceremony do not cosmically make one movie or message better than another; some of my most cherished films of all time never secured a single nomination but no opinion, informed or otherwise, could ever spoil the value I find in the richness of those narratives.
Beyond the familiar, this night showcases a veritable cornucopia of high end cinema that likely slipped through the cracks of the West Virginia theater circuit. For three plus hours, I’ll come to cheer on my fantasy roster of predictions and leave with a host of movie recommendations and plenty to think about beyond the screen. Shared with friends, there’s little more that I can ask for.
For all the good and bad wrapped up within it, the Academy Awards offers us a place to celebrate story and learn more about the neighbors God has called us to love.