Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Why I Don’t Watch the Oscars

I love movies. I really, really do.

I’m not sure exactly why - probably because my conservative Christian school punished kids who saw movies with suspension or (depending on the movie) expulsion from school.

That trend continued on into my college years at Moody where movie going was only allowed off-campus, on school breaks, and with parents’ permission (for those of us under 21).

There is just something inherently rebellious that swells up inside me every time I step into a movie theater. I feel like I’m being just a little bit bad, and I kind of like it.

It’s quite scintillating, really.

Growing up, there were a few times I skirted the movie rules, but always with my parents’ permission.

When I was in grade school, my (at the time) Aunt Bev took me to see my first “real” movie, My Little Pony, at a Chicago theater. I still remember the smell of the popcorn and my initial awe of the big screen.

When I was in elementary school, the Home Alone craze was sweeping the nation. I wanted to see that movie SO BAD, but I knew I would have to wait the year (back then) until the movie transitioned to VHS.

Then my dad surprised me with a trip to the mall and a clandestine foray into the Machesney Park Mall theater to see Home Alone. I was shocked speechless and delighted. I mean, parents are supposed to follow the rules, but here my dad was breaking them for me!

We had such a good time, and I found myself enjoying the taste of forbidden movie fruit.

When I was in high school, the three of us were on a family vacation to some low-budget po-dunk town (our typical venue). It rained the whole time we were there, and out of boredom and desperation, Mom, Dad, and I took to the local mall where we saw a showing of A League of Their Own.

I felt deliciously naughty under the glow of the projector as my parents and I munched on popcorn and guffawed at Tom Hanks’ antics.

In college, I was either at my house or Brett’s house every weekend, which meant the movie picking was ripe. Except for the fact that my 6’4” boyfriend couldn’t stand going to the movies. The seats were too uncomfortable for a man of his stature, and he lacked the driving sense of movie danger I craved.

I did go to quite a few movies with my future mother-in-law. I so badly needed to see movies that I was willing to stomach the tripe of romantic comedies and maudlin English countryside dramas that suited my sweet-as-could-be saint of a mother-in-law.

Our movie dates continued unabated until I suggested we take in a different kind of movie. I had heard of a good “mystery” movie coming out and hoped my mother-in-law would enjoy it - as much as I would the break from all the lovey-dovey-laugh-laugh-drama.

So, completely unaware, we went to see The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Within the first ten minutes, I had determined Tim Burton’s TLOSH was NOT a mystery as the posters proclaimed, but a horror film trying its darndest to earn its rating.

As I squirmed in the seat next to her, my mother-in-law covered her eyes and would occasionally drop a soft “Oh, dear!” or “Oh, my!” as heads were loped off, bloody appendages swung around, and Christopher Walken snacked on people with his filed-to-a-vicious-point, five-inch-long razor teeth.

I was too embarrassed to speak for the first five minutes after the movie. My mother-in-law filled the silence with a kind, “Well, that was interesting.” After that, she seemed to prefer shopping with me to movie watching with me. Not that I could blame her.

I’m not sure exactly when, but at some point I was complaining to a group of friends about my frustrated movie addiction.

My husband hadn’t changed his movie stance since college (nor had he shrunk, I might add). Only the greatest war movie – think Saving Private Ryan – could pry him from our comfy couch.

My mother would only go to chick-flicks with me (which I still vehemently detested), and she needed at least a week’s notice. Most of my other friends from church didn’t go to movies at all, still holding to the antiquated standards of our childhood legalism.

I just couldn’t stomach sitting in a movie theater by myself. Going to a theater with a friend is a treat. Going by myself is pathetic.

After my rambling discourse, Angie – a friend-of-a-friend I barely knew at the time – told me she loved movies, too. Like me, she had faced the prospect of too few friends and too many must-see movies. She told me to call her the next time I had a yen for a movie.

It felt weird calling up a woman I barely knew, but the movies’ siren song called to me like the Pied Piper’s insidious instrument. I had my doubts about Angie. I assumed, like others, she would brush me off and/or demand more notice.

Instead, her enthusiasm was a welcome response. Before the week was out, we’d watched multiple movies, eaten buckets of popcorn, and planted the seeds of friendship.

In the years since, Angie and I have been each other’s die hard (and Die Hard) movie buddies. We go to the movies to escape our ho-hum lives and immerse ourselves in Hollywood action. We chat before and after and often carpool to spend more time together.

I’ve been so very grateful for her friendship and her thrill for seeing movies which ranks right up against my own fanatical fandom.

My somewhat insane love of the movies would make you think I live and die for the Oscars.

When the truth is that I rarely watch them. I catch the highlights on Entertainment Tonight or Television Without Pity. But I just can’t bring myself to watch the actual telecast.

The reason I’m so hesitant to tune in lies in a flaw I’ve had since I was a small child.

I hate to see people lose.

I’m not, as I’ve stated before, a competitive person. When I was coerced into playing volleyball in 5th grade, I did it merely for the friendship and acceptance of the other girls.

That’s not to say I wasn’t good at it. I was darn good at it.

When most people see a 300 pound girl lunging at a volleyball net inches from their face, they naturally back off.

(Whereas, I usually think, “I could take her.”)

My intimidating size and my ability to put a serve wherever I wanted on my opponent’s side of the court made me a valuable asset to my team. And, while I enjoyed playing the game, I never cared if we won. It was never even a thought. Win or lose, I had a good time.

Over the years, I’ve found I have an inordinately hard time watching people fail, watching them lose. It’s the reason I can’t watch figure skating. I’m hyperventilating over what happens if they miss that triple axle. When all I want to do is scream, “Good for you! I could never do that!”

I can’t watch gymnastics during the Olympics or most of the eliminate-the-weakest-link TV shows like Survivor, The Amazing Race, or American Idol.

For some reason, I can watch Big Brother and America’s Next Top Model, simply because those people deserve to go home. Now, I can stand to see THEM lose, no problem.

Perhaps, what I should say, is that it’s hard to see deserving people lose out.

I remember tuning into the Oscars the year Joaquin Phoenix was nominated for his portrayal of Johnny Cash in Walk the Line.

Have you SEEN Walk the Line? It’s a great movie from top to bottom, and Joaquin IS Johnny Cash. He is so exquisitely Johnny Cash that most people agreed he was a shoo-in for the Oscar.

I watched excitedly as the winner’s name was read. The Oscar was given to another great actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman, who I also like, but for the craptacular movie, Capote.

Capote wasn’t even in the same stratospheric level of awesomeness which was Walk the Line. It was stupid little movie about a deranged little man (albeit, played by a good actor).

The look on Joaquin’s face was heartbreaking. You could tell he thought the Oscar would go to his performance. He clapped but didn’t smile which is actually considered a little rude in Hollywood. But the truth was, he obviously wasn’t happy to lose.

I felt the familiar pangs of sympathy, and I clicked to another station for the rest of the show.
I’m an encourager. I want to think everyone can win.

But the sad truth is that everyone can’t win. So, I just try to avoid confronting that truth whenever I can.

In my book, Joaquin won that Oscar, my volleyball serve record still stands intact, and everybody who tried out made the Olympic team.

So, I’m guessing they’re never going to make me to be an Olympic judge.

“10’s for everybody!”


October Dawn said...

Thanks for the fun post! I would enjoy many of those movies with your mom or MIL no doubt....but I like a comedy. Have you seen Just Like Heaven, or Stick It? Or Bend it Like Beckham? No they're not all comedy, but they are all good =) But then I like 7 Brides for 7 Brothers too....

Heidi said...

I'm more particular, but I would be game for another movie sometime.
I don't watch the oscars because I can't stand to hear the speeches and I think it is a waste of time.
The last time I watched it was when Lord of the Rings--Return of the King swept all of them. Oh that was sweet.

Cindy Swanson said...

I don't watch the Oscars anymore either, but not because I hate seeing people lose! To quote a Facebook friend of mine: "Dan refuses to watch the drivel that is Hollywood's self-congratulatory and vacuously vain and empty awards shows."

The "Academy" is so out of touch with the real world--so insular, wacko liberal and agenda-focused--that I can't watch it without the constant, dismaying realization that 99.9 per cent of these people embrace (and are trying to force on everyone) a worldview that is the polar opposite of mine.

I find the only possible reason I would have for watching the show would be to see what the beautiful people are wearing...and I can always see that online the next day! :)

That said, a few people have told me that "Slumdog Millionaire" is actually a good movie. And I do love it when the occasional rare gem of a movie beats out the one everyone thought was going to win.

Juliet said...

You certainly were a great volleyball player. Dad and I really enjoyed watching you play the game. You got a "10" from us.

I did watch some of the Oscars and Cindy is right about they are way out left when it comes to what we as Christians hold to be right according to the Bible. But then again, these are unsaved people. Sean Penn's speach made me real sick inside. And that whole crowd applauded him for what he had to say.

Ann-Marie said...

See, Mom? It was from you and Dad that I got that "be an encourager" spirit! It's your fault I want everbody to win! Just kidding! But you guys always cheered for everyone, even the other team!

Sean Penn makes both me and Brett sick, too! We don't like him, and generally don't watch anything he's in.