Friday, February 25, 2011

Oscar 2011. We're Invited.

It’s that time again, Hollywood’s self-congratulating, door-prizes weekend. ABC’s take on the festivities is “Oscar. You’re Invited,” emphasizing the award (singular) above the show (the Oscars, plural), which will surely cause confusion on Twitter.

I don’t see that many new films a year. I caught The Social Network on the flight to Sydney, and saw The King’s Speech on Long Island. Both great stories about important points in the timeline of media.

In many ways, all we have are stories. The ones we tell ourselves resonant with the ones we see on the big screen. And I don’t mean “stories” as in “denial.” I mean on a physiological, cellular level of how the brain functions.

That’s the subject of Lance Mannion’s interaction with the documentary Marwencol, which itself is a story about Mark Hogancamp who spins out a story when his own life is literally shattered by thugs who break his skull. Which is his reality: the tatters of memories he has, or the complex World War II story he’s telling through Ken & Barbie–like dolls?

It was also the idea of the 5th season ender of the TV show House, when he hallucinates a night with Cuddy. On the simplest level, the story that his brain was spinning from the facts stored in his left brain simply wasn’t true.

So there is the importance of storytelling, for our very identity, and as a source of beauty (cf the iconic scene from The Bicycle Thief.) And then there’s Hollywood. It certainly knows how to capitalize on this important element of the human condition. (And the gowns are an art form unto themselves.)

Ian Falconer's New Yorker cover puts it all beautifully in perspective in light of the world stage. It's nice to award an idea of excellence, but real triumphs happen off screen. They often involve the human heart wanting to be free from tyranny, free to tell stories of ALL kinds. Hmm. Maybe there is some relevance to Hollywood's shiny night after all.

I’ll be tweeting from The Paley Center for Media’s Oscar Viewing Party. Use #PaleyLiveNY if you want to participate with the action in the room. #Oscars as well.

(I’m still a sucker for the classics. I just saw The Bicycle Thief (or Bicycle Thieves, for you purists) last summer, in Italy while visiting Alaric and Mauritzio. It was very poignant to see it in Rome where it is set, with an Italian who had some understanding from family stories of just how hard it was there after the war.)