Okay the #Oscars So White is a big deal to a lot of people. Claiming it is a symptom of a larger problem, maybe it is but I think the overall question is why do the Oscars really matter at all. It is a bunch of industry insiders, an business that is oversexualized and hung up on the outward trappings of wealth and power.
Movies can be magical, movies can elevate you to heights you never knew existed. Films can introduce you to new people, places and ideas that you never cared about and invite you care. The silver screen can act as transportation to magical and incredible places or sometimes just let you take a few steps in another person’s shoes.
The big screen has the ability to change you both in good and bad ways. Horror flicks can make you insensitive to others pain and suffering. Watching westerns sometimes creates an idealistic and/or naive view of American history. Romantic comedies fabricate an unrealistic view of relationships and sex. Too many science fiction movies can make you unattractive to the opposite sex . (Kidding of course, it usually comes from a combination of poor hygiene, lack of confidence and the inability to have intelligent conversations without making an obscure pop culture reference which the opposite sex doesn’t get.)
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognizes on a yearly basis performances by actors, the direction given to those actors, the technical and artistic aspects expended to realize those performances into a coherent product and the writers who dreamed up the entire story. But the Academy Awards do not truly recognize what a movie means to a person.
One of my favorite movies The Karate Kid, was not anywhere near a nomination for an Academy Award the year it came out. (Terms of Endearment won in 1984, with the other films nominated being The Big Chill, The Dresser, The Right Stuff and Tender Mercies.) The Karate Kid story touches me on so many levels mainly because where I was in my life I was clueless about life and girls (basically the same thing to a teenage boy), I had studied karate at the time so I could see myself in the movie, and everyone at that age feels like they don’t fit in.
Now the training stuff in that movie was outright crap, you do not learn to block a kick or punch by waxing a car or painting a fence. Those chores may increase your muscular strength and endurance but they do not teach you to place you hand in the right place at the right time to stop a blow from landing. But the heart of good martial arts is there; only use martial arts for defense, balance, focus, concentration and learning to walk before you fly. The Karate Kid taught me that you can learn something from anyone, whether it is a skill, history or what is important in life. That friendship has nothing to do with age, background or race but about who stood by your side when you are going thru crap. That skill and knowledge have nothing to do with the clothes (or belt) you are wearing. Later on in life I have looked at the same movie and realized that everyone has a backstory: Mr. Miyagi with the loss of a wife, Aliee not wanting to live up to her parents expectations at their country club, even Johnny trying to change is life by turning down a joint when you first see him then rolling one in the bathroom later on. Any movie that lasts with you for thirty some years is truly a masterpiece, even if it only means that much to one person.
Another filmmaker that will probably never get an Academy Award is Kevin Smith, his movies are full of juvenile jokes, childish sight gags and way too much trivia, but at the heart of his movies is a celebration of friendship, love and life.
The black and white film Clerks may be about working a minimum wage job but it is also about finding and knowing what is important in life and that there are lot of beautiful girls in the world but not all of them will bring you lasagna. Dogma may have a crap monster, a sanctified golf club, and the late great Alan Rickman, sans genitilia, but it is also about believing in yourself and raising questioning about faith, god and religion in irreverent but smart fashion.
My favorite filmmaker will probably not be recognized by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. I love Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Chasing Army, Red State and even Jersey Girl. I enjoy his movies, I have laughed and seen things a little bit differently, and in seeing things differently I have changed as a person. Isn’t that what the movies, and art in general, are truly about? Art is about the important things in life, not how many awards you do on do not win. We need more art in this world, art that brings us closer together, art that helps us rage against injustices, art that keeps our sense of wonder alive and movies that display love in all its different shapes and forms.