Feb 23, 2009

two and two about last night's oscars

Okay, I admit it... I watched the Oscars.

Most of it, that is. I prerecorded it so I could fast-fwd during the boring parts. I mean, Hugh Jackman does do well at pulling off show tunes... but I really need to not see that if I'm going to appreciate him being Wolverine again this year.

There were two things I liked about the Oscars this year, and two things I didn't.

Two things I liked:
  • Bringing Out The Best In Others: For the best actor/actress and best supporting actor/actress categories, previous winners came out and individually spoke words of affirmation and encouragement into their acting peers who had been nominated. Instead of the usual approach to just hear the nominees' names and see their faces in a little box among many others, we got to hear things that make this person standout... for who they are to what they bring to the acting table.

    And I started thinking, "How often do we do that in life?" I think if we truly considered God's concept of "love your neighbor," we would be more inclined to speak highly of our colleagues, family members, friends, neighbors... anyone who we may be inclined to compare ourselves to or try to "keep up with." What if instead of labeling people with small comments, we decided to not let any unproductive word come out of our mouths, but only that which was helpful for building others up? So that it could benefit those who listen?

  • The Heath Ledger Moment: While I am happy that Heath Ledger's performance as the chaotic Joker won, that's not what I mean here. There was a moment when Ledger's family walked up to accept the award that everyone in the room became quite sober with emotion. As they spoke words about an "to" Heath, the camera panned around the room and captured welled up eyes among people you might expect as well as those whom you wouldn't.

    This was a moment different than the "in memoriam" media they make to honor people in the industry who passed away over the year... that usual moment where someone sings or plays a sad song while you hear the people in the room clap and cheer for their favorite fallen comrade. This was instead a moment of mortality - where someone at the "top of their game" had to face the hardest consequence of sin being brought into this world - death. It's ironic, for while many of us run to Hollywood to escape our lives and the pain it can sometimes bring, Hollywood realized in the Heath Ledger Moment that it cannot run to itself... and I pray that God spoke to their hearts in such a way that they allowed Him to in those few seconds.

Two things I didn't like:
  • The Nominations: Yet again, I'm confused by the movies that are nominated for best picture and how they're nominated. I hear it has something to do with films that bring merit to the silver screen, which makes me wonder who decides what "merit" is and isn't. I know that Fireproof, a great movie that came out this past year, isn't full of "Oscar caliber performances," but the merit it brings to marriage alone (not to mention God, but I'll suspend that for a moment) should be honored.

    Which again makes me wonder just what qualifies for merit. Since in years past you will often see a previously overlooked "classic Hollywood beauty" get nominated if she does a topless scene in a movie (Halle Berry, Charlize Theron, Holly Hunter), maybe the Oscars are not our best gauge at quality movies.

  • Things That Sneak In That Are Attempting To Stick Around: It's a classic move for actors to push a quick agenda in an acceptance speech, which perhaps any of us might do in such a moment. But it's odd to hear what passes by... and what is accepted and unaccepted by the group at large. For instance, in his Oscar acceptance speech Sean Penn took a moment to chastise those those who voted for California's Proposition 8 (the maneuver to try to redefine marriage). Penn added, "I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grand children's eyes if they continue that way of support. We've got to have equal rights for everyone."

    I know Penn won for his role in portraying a gay activist, so perhaps this is to be expected. Again, if I was in his position behind such a powerful microphone, I'd promote something a bit more compassionate - there shouldn't be hatred toward people on any level, whether they participate in the kind of sexuality you'll find in the gay community or the kind among heterosexuals who say that marriage should only be between a man and a woman. What I find interesting in that those few moments, plus another few from someone else, plus another few... will reshape this world according to whomever is handed a microphone.

    Think about that a moment, and think about who keeps getting handed the microphones.

    Case in point, commercials for Absolut Vodka ran in 15 cities during the Grammy Awards this year, the first time hard liquor ads have been featured on prime time network television in years. And then there are the other "adult-oriented product" being advertised in unusual places these days - commercials touting sex products, once relegated to the wee hours of the morning, are working their way into earlier viewing times.

    The reason? Experts point to the economic downturn. Many traditional advertisers (i.e. domestic car manufacturers) are cutting back on advertising, causing television stations to scramble and fill commercial slots. The evaporation of advertising revenue is making many standards lapse "for the moment," but perhaps they will last a bit longer than they think.

    The microphone is truly a powerful thing, for however many seconds you get it.

    May we be people who use it for truth and love that builds up instead of opinion and jabs that tear down... a difficult juggle, to be sure.

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