I do. Because I grew up with nine brothers, in a ramshackle house, with the smell of urine and sound of saws and fighting and balls being thrown, and hit, beyond the low fence of our back yard. Because when I was little ‘fashion’ was getting a pair of yellow velvet bell bottoms from a neighbour and crying. So soft, so yellow, so not my brother’s! Because nothing was frivolous, everything was used, recycled, and ‘good enough’. Because, in my household, emotions were extraneous, like the chocolate dip at Dairy Queen–for rich kids and flakes.
I hid behind my dad’s big chair in the den and watched television and so I knew there was a life beyond the hard-hitting halls of my house. We weren’t allowed to loll around and watch TV but my dad had a bad heart and put his feet up now and then to watch Wild Kingdom with his beer, slice of cheese, and tomato juice. But between the staged lion hunting, I saw the ads. And I was in love.
Barbara Streisand in Arnold Scaasie. Jane Fonda with her defiant, brown shag for ‘Klute’, Richard Nopal in nothing as he streaked across the stage upsetting poor Mr. Niven in 1974. Movies like the Godfather, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Chinatown, and Network were cleaning up awards and I was forbidden to watch a single news reel about any of it. I craftily hid in the toy cupboard behind my father’s chair and soaked up any images, sound bites, and coverage that I could, knowing full – well if I were caught mopping all this up my dad would kill me.
As things were welded, hammered, drilled, saudered, glued and erected downstairs in our basement, I dreamed of flowing chiffon, screaming Elizabeth Taylor size tears, dramatic exits, and fat, sparkling diamonds. To my seven year old self, The Oscars symbolized possiblity, where the answer was yes, and how far do you want do you want to go? versus no, don’t be so bloody dramatic.
While it may seem like a big branding exercise to most, the Academy Awards will always be for me a lovely moment in time when film artists’ get to hold the world’s attention for a few moments, and everyone is a child again, hoping they do something dramatic. Something shocking. Something memorable. Because we’ve been with them all in the dark hoping for some kind of transformation that will transport us away from our world into the world of their film. Good art, good film always does just that. And I can’t wait till tomorrow night to find out who did it best this year.