Posted On March 3, 2014 By In Buzzworthy, Movies

The Academy Awards: Stop Judging and Pay Attention

 
 

When I was a kid, my mom always knew to save the newspaper the day after the Academy Awards. It was my prized possession; pieces of paper documenting all of the happenings of the night before—opinions on the dresses, the dates, the scandals, the letdowns, the surprises, the not-so-surprises. There was always a splash of judgment across the media, claiming what went wrong that year. But for me, it was the memory of who stood there on stage, in front of their peers expressing sheer gratitude of acknowledgement. Year after year awards shows like these are criticized on every merit of entertainment—was the host funny enough, who wore the right dress, who didn’t look so happy in that cutaway shot while Meryl accepted her award (not this year of course)—but at the end of the day these awards are for recognition. So it doesn’t matter if I was upset Ellen DeGeneres didn’t do a dance number or if all of her jokes didn’t land well or if I was ready to break the coffee table over Nebraska losing everything, because this ceremony is a moment to give back to the people who work so hard to entertain us while we, the audience, sit dipping our fourteenth tortilla chip into that $6 guacamole while sipping on a whiskey ginger, tweeting about the terrible rapport between Kim Novak and Matthew McConaughey.

When I collected those newspapers, it was to remember the winners and what they stood for, as artists (albeit I was and continue to be obsessed with film) and as people. Right now I’m thinking back to Julia Roberts for Erin Brokovich, or Sean Penn for Milk, or Martin Scorsese for The Departed, or the hundreds of speeches made in the Chinese Theater that impacted our lives, in even the smallest way. Witnessing human emotion like that, is unlike anything else. This year, in particular, I believe we saw a group of acceptance speeches that were empowering, forgiving, and unforgettably grateful.

If you were unable to watch tonight, here is my breakdown of the most memorable speeches of the ceremony.

The night began with a beautiful speech made by Jerod Leto for his role as the Supporting Actor in Dallas Buyers Club, the tale of a man diagnosed as HIV positive in the 1986 who begins to import experimental drug treatments into the states in the hopes of bettering the lives of fellow HIV/AIDS victims. Leto plays an HIV positive transvestite assisting main man Ron (McConaughey) with his business that is the Dallas Buyers Club. Leto was eloquent, steadfast and true; thanking his mother for ‘teaching him to dream’ and declaring his award as both an honor to the 36 million victims of HIV/AIDS  and the people in our world who struggle to make their dreams come true. His speech was unfairly labeled as a ‘doozy’ by Time’s Entertainment section, but you can formulate your own opinion by watching it here.

Leto’s counterpart, Matthew McConaughey accepted the award for Best Actor in Leading Role with a speech which many are calling a conundrum begging for explanation. Pish-posh, I say. How dare you criticize a man who has displayed a range of talent in the past year more wide and challenging than most people’s entire career? McConaughey explained he needed three things in his life, each day—someone to look up to, someone to look forward to, and someone to chase. He looks up to God, he looks forward to his family, and he chases after his hero—himself, always ten years down the line. My mom called me afterwards to gossip and chat, “What is he saying, that he’s his own hero?” “Well, shouldn’t he be?” I responded. If we’re not our own heros, what are we all working for? Matthew continued to say, “I’m never going to be my hero, but I’m fine with that, because that keeps me with somebody to chase.” And of course ended with his token phrase, “Alright, alright, alright.”

And I won’t go on forever because if you really care I believe you’ve either seen it  or googled it to some respect. I’ll only mention one more speech now; Cate Blanchett took home the award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her part in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, a film that depicts the fall of a high class New Yorker after her divorce from a Wall Street man, and her struggles with not only a common life on the West Coast, but a dilapidating mental state. Blanchett took precious time out of her speech to praise each of her fellow nominees, their astounding and continuing achievements, while still making space for a statement I can only hope every young girl was sitting at home tonight to hear—“perhaps those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences, they are not, audiences want to see them and in fact they earn money.” As a woman, yes in the industry, but also in the movie theater surrounded by male superheros, I thank you Cate for your courage, your work, and yes, your dress. The world is in fact, quite round.

 

These were certainly not the only speeches made tonight, but they are what will stay with me for as long as I live. I ask you to try to forget Tom Hanks accepting the Oscar for his performance in Philadelphia; you can’t, and you shouldn’t.

So to all those people who “don’t watch the Oscars,” I feel sad for you. Sure, you didn’t get to see the epic group selfie that shut down Twitter or Brad Pitt tip the Big Mama & Paper Pizza delivery man $60, but more importantly, you’re not feeling what I’m feeling right now, a reason to believe in myself; a reason to keep doing whatever the hell is that I’ve been dying to do since I started saving those Oscar clippings in 3rd grade; a reason to live. Steve McQueen closed the night exclaiming, “Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live.” Recognition from your peers, no matter where you reside, is something each and every one of us deserves and if you can’t appreciate watching this, maybe you will in 10 years. And if not then, wait another 10.

And as for me saving newspapers, I don’t live at home anymore and I can’t afford paper subscriptions, although that sounds really nice. Maybe my mom will send it to me.

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Hilary Fitzgerald is a writer for Writtalin. Hilary is a writer/filmmaker living in a brown box in Silver Lake. She tries to divide her time between her three loves--Diet Coke, Guacamole, and the Slamdance Film Festival, where they like to call her "crazy," but she is officially known as the Festival Coordinator. Ms. Fitzgerald once had a web series named Corilary, but now entertains herself with what her Uncle Jim calls "a great YouTube effort," otherwise known as Talkies with Hilary's Mom. If you like short 16mm black and white documentaries, she made This is Not the End, but you might not be into that sort of thing.

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