Anyone who knows me knows that Oscar Sunday is my favorite day of the year, above my birthday, above Christmas, above Halloween (which I really love), and above Thanksgiving. I haven't missed an Oscar ceremony since I was thirteen years old. I love everything about the show. Everything. The dresses, the opening monologues, the acclaim, the love everyone has for Meryl Streep, the categories full of short films I've never seen or heard of, and -- most of all -- those beautiful golden men. Once, I was in Los Angeles and I did a tour of the Warner Bros. backlot, and I saw where they make the Oscar statues. It took everything in me not to jump off my cart and go steal one.
The 88th Academy Awards this year was the one show I think I'll always remember, not because I had seen every single film, which I hadn't, and not because I had a genuine, invested interest in who won or who lost. I still haven't seen all of the films. In all honesty, I haven't seen a single one of this years nominees because I am a broke college student on a budget who can't afford fifteen dollar movie tickets. So, I'm not here to complain about who won when they shouldn't have or to praise the deserving awardees. I am going to give you a recap of who won and a rundown of what happened -- that Best Picture fiasco? Heart attack material -- but I'm mostly going to explain what the Oscars mean to an aspiring filmmaker.
So, here's the rundown of all the major awards:
Best Cinematography: La La Land
Best Original Screenplay: Manchester By The Sea
Best Original Song: "City of Stars," La La Land
Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, Fences
Best Directer: Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Best Animated Feature: Zootopia
Best Actress: Emma Stone, La La Land
Best Actor: Casey Affleck, Manchester By The Sea
Best Picture: Moonlight
And here's the elephant in the room: the Best Picture ordeal. I wasn't partial to any of the nominees, you know, because I knew nothing about them. However, I was excited for Emma Stone when she won Best Actress because she's precious and an American treasure; I was a little sad when Ryan Gosling lost Best Actor because he's precious and a Canadian treasure; I was so pumped for Viola Davis because that award has been a long time coming; and "City of Stars" is a beautiful song, so I liked that it won Best Original Song. When it came to Best Picture, though, I had no opinion.
Still, when I saw the stage manager on stage in the middle of La La Land's acceptance speech, I knew something was wrong. The Oscars are all about keeping up an appearance, an image, and seeing someone on stage in a headset instead of a tux screams "wrong." I panicked, just like everyone in the live audience did. That picture, the one with everyone's jaws on the floor -- I looked exactly like that. I literally cannotimagine being handed an Oscar, then having to give it away less than two minutes later. Never in the Academy's 88-year-long history has a mistake like that one been made.
Even still, that wasn't the biggest moment of the night for me. The biggest moment for me was during Viola Davis' acceptance speech. I was watching with a friend and she had the most uncomfortable look on her face through Viola's entire speech. I asked her why and she said, "She's crying too much. It's award." So, I asked her why she thought that and she said, "Well, she's an actress. Maybe she's just acting the tears."
That is entirely possible, but I seriously doubt it. I've imagined winning an Oscar for almost my whole life. I've practiced future speeches and making sure I thank whoever I'm supposed to. I've practiced with hairbrushes or bottles so I know what it feels like to hold the statue and talk at the same time. I totally get why this might sound crazy. My entire life I've wanted to make movies, to be a storyteller -- write, act, direct, produce, whatever. It's the only thing I've ever wanted to do. And winning an Oscar, aside from being given the Kennedy Center Honors, is the highest esteem you can get. The award, unlike most others, comes from the people you work with and look up to. Actors vote on actors; directors vote on directors; writers vote on writers and so on. Every time I've practiced an award speech that probably wont ever happen, I've cried. Not on purpose, but because it legitimately is that emotional just to think about.
So, I started explaining this to my friend, we'll call her Rachel, who just "really didn't get it," and I teared up a little. "Imagine it," I said, "Standing in front of every person you've ever admired or wanted to be like, and thanking them for an award they gave to you." I feel like, for me, there would never be a moment that could beat that one, at least in terms of filmmaking. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be nominated for Best Actress in the same group as Meryl Streep and to win. Or to be nominated for Best Director against Steven Spielberg and to win.
For me, the Oscars are a chance for me to see what it is like for someone to win for the first time. Those are my favorite moments. I love seeing that immediate rush of emotion and shock when they hear their name called. I love to see them be completely and totally overwhelmed by the one moment they've dreamed about for their entire lives, to see them fumble beautifully through a tearful speech knowing that they won't remember what they said, only how they felt.
I don't want to be a filmmaker just so I can win an Oscar. I want to win an Oscar because I am a filmmaker, because I am a servant to the story, because I am true to -- and honest with -- the craft. I want to be recognized, not because I want to flaunt it or boost my ego, but because I want someone to be so moved by something I help to create that they can't forget it, that they can't shake it from their bones.
I want to be a storyteller. I want to tell stories that matter; stories that haunt you, or move you, or break you, or build you. I want to give voices to things and people that we've never heard speak. I want to make a film that you can't pull your eyes from, even for a moment. I want to make things that literally stop you in your tracks, things that make you question the world we live in and the universe around us.
Oh, and also it would be pretty rad to beat Meryl Streep.
(P.S. Yes, I cried a little bit writing this. Don't judge.)