Being any kind of fan—sports and the arts are the biggies that come to mind—can be both terrible and resplendent. Terrible because you will inevitably be faced with some kind of faith-losing blow that you will feel deeply, take personally, and forced to reevaluate everything you ever loved about it. Resplendent because when the art and the integrity of the its maker aligns perfectly with your own artistic sensibility and fleeting place in time, it can be transformative.
Maybe that was a little dramatic. (Which doesn’t make it less true.)
So, I’m talking about films in general (with its tumultuous industry year(s)) and Oscar in general. After a five-year partial break from the festivities, I am compelled to announce my re-engagement.
For those who don’t know me well, my family has a rich and deep history with Oscar. Beginning some time in the mid 1970s, my dad carried our 19-inch Sylvania Superset up from the rec room into the living room to watch the Oscars broadcast. I don’t know if it was a an official thing or an organic occurrence, but my older brother Kip and I were allowed to stay up to watch the whole thing if we were able. Those years are a blur of Bob Hope and Johnny Carson and magnificent mustaches and pastel-colored formal wear.
I came into my own in the 80s when the show began to coincide with our annual spring break trip to the Gulf Shores to visit relatives. I armed myself for the 18+hour car ride with an Oscar-themed magazine that I religiously read from cover to cover. It was there, in the deep south among older cousins who found our part of the family’s “preoccupation” odd, that I realized that we were different, more invested in this thing.
I have sometimes turned down opportunities to be among “my peers” in order to experience the telecast with my family (I once turned down what was surely "the Oscar party of the century" in favor of sitting alone in my upstate NY studio apartment and communicating with my family via phone during commercial breaks). This might not seem like a big deal on the surface, but considering my history, it’s kind of a big deal. Let me be clear, I come from a loving, attentive family. However, I was never sentimental about specifically choosing time with them over, you know, being out in the world. I was eager to go off to school (kindergarten and college equally). I was never homesick, whether it be summer camp or on a long trip, any sort of "better offer."
I know now, deep in my heart, that there is no place on earth that I would rather be than sitting with my family watching the Oscars. I mean this sincerely, with the least amount of sentimentality about it that I can muster. What I mean by that is that sitting in room with those three other people - my parents and my brother - is as free of stress, animosity, and general pre-occupation as I’ve consistently ever gotten in my whole life. The fact that my brother is gone, my father is in a nursing facility, and my mother, who cares but whose invitation to come over is tempered with the disclaimer that she will probably go to bed early, makes this ritual one that is destined to fade into a new era. Perhaps it will lead to a killer Oscar party of my very own.
Right now, I can’t even bring myself to think of that.
As we approach the final hours before the most recent telecast, I wish only to say that, after a solid decade of being adrift in the ambiguities that come with loving an industry that comes with its own considerable baggage, I am ready to reengage.
My twelve-year-old self would be so pleased.