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03/02/2002 - Oscar Hell

The Oscars are coming, which admittedly are a painful night, one of awkward pauses, missed cues, and unfortunate gowns that "she designed herself!" Nevertheless, the night is special, not just because the results affect box office rank, but because it boils Hollywood down to its essence: the promise of enchantment.

No matter how many times I swear I'll never watch the show again, I'm always there, sitting in someone's living room, hoping fervently that this time the jokes won't be flat, nobody will act like an idiot at the podium, and no inflammatory social issue will float around the ceremony like a turd in a punchbowl.

The show can be such a train wreck, except for the few thrilling moments when either a montage of classics or a soul-baring acceptance speech allows the passion of the industry to shine through. In those glimmers lie the deep longing to experience again the moment that a movie made you want to crawl up on the screen, enter that world, and stay there.

Those moments are why we watch, why we care, and why we want to create great films. To make someone else feel the way we felt in a movie theater one time, long ago. I came out of that theater when I was nine years old, in awe and changed forever by a film that made the disagreeable "real" world look like a forth-generation copy. It doesn't matter what the film was (Star Wars), what mattered was the longing that it created.

Mocking the downward evolution of film and its flunkies has become a cottage industry, but scorn is only one side of the coin. Scratch the paint on the average cynic and you'll find a softie who still believes in sissy dream-come-true land. For this reason the Oscars continue to conjure a willing audience of "What?-And-leave-Show-Business!?" types who boo, laugh and roll our eyes at the gaudy parade - before sneaking off to practice acceptance speeches in the bathroom mirror.


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