March 3 WEEKENDER: Second Opinion – Of Oscars and cheeseballs

I always watch the Academy Awards or the Oscars. It's as close to Royal watching as we get in North America.

  • Mar. 3, 2012 8:00 a.m.

I always watch the Academy Awards (Oscars).

My wife and I joined two other couples for a night of ogling the great and near great while dining sumptuously on a variety of appetizers – it is as close to Royal watching as we get in North America.

We even dress up for the occasion, modelling the finest in Grand Forks chic.  I was nattily attired in my best blue jeans, black turtle neck and 20-year-old tweed sport coat (real English lambs’ wool).  My wife focused on bling, donning a pair of 10-cm, dangling, faux ruby and cubic zirconium earrings. Brad and Angelina looked downright dowdy in comparison.

The Oscars went according to the usual script: Billy Crystal told jokes, the winners cried or squealed sincerely, the losers looked happy for the winners and the various husbands, wives, girlfriends and relatives beamed proudly or looked annoyed.

The only variation from the script was the absence of Jack Nicholson, who was missing from the front row.

Actually there was another variation.

For the first time that I can recall, we were given a glimpse into an aspect of acting that we normally do not think about. Brad Pitt, Robert De Niro, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and the chunky kid from Moneyball, whose name I can never remember, all related how disquieting it is to put everything you have in a role, without having a clue whether the movie you are making will be a hit or a flop.

As the Oscar awards point out, the audio, cinematography, costuming, makeup, directing, editing, all are vital to the success of a film.

Of course, all the performing arts are collaborative but in all the others, the performers have an idea of the quality of the finished product because the performances are done live, as a complete unit.

Movie actors shoot scenes out of sequence, with multiple camera angles, often shot for each scene.

They don’t know what shots will be chosen or if the original script will even be followed; they certainly don’t know what the finished product will look like.

The movie won’t appear on the screen for months and sometimes never makes it to theatres at all. The finished product isn’t their job.  Their job is to play the role convincingly.

That is why some actors, like Johnny Depp, never watch their own movies.  Their work, the part that is of interest and importance to them, was over months ago and now they are involved in creating different characters in new projects.

After that part of the broadcast, I actually felt some sympathy for the over-paid, over-indulged actors, who all received Oscar goody bags worth an estimated $50,000.

Then Tom Cruise came on, reality returned, and as I turned back to the table of appetizers, I felt both foolish for having felt sympathy and at the same time delighted in the delightful aroma arising from the platter of chicken wings and the delicate flavour of my wife’s handcrafted cheese ball.

– Jim Holtz is WEEKENDER columnist and former reporter for the Grand Forks Gazette

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