Just five days before we as a nation might get stuck with $85 billion in spending cuts, all attention seemed focused on the Dolby Theater at Hollywood and Highland. Despite the looming sequester's consequences – you know, things like thousands of teachers losing their jobs, thousands of federal workers getting laid off, or thousands of children going without vaccinations, to name a few – televisions everywhere were tuned in to the Oscar show.
While this year's host Seth MacFarlane was hitting a few sour notes, I couldn't help but think about former host Billy Crystal's classic Oscar-night quip: "Nothing takes the sting out of these tough economic times like watching a bunch of millionaires giving gold statues to each other."
I know. I know. Don't be cynical. Movies can take us away from our tough times. We can enter a theater and forget about our troubles and woes, as we become lost in a motion-picture fairytale or enthralled in two hours of action-packed thrills or entranced by a tale of love and mystery and suspense.
I grew up a block from our movie theater. Friday-night features and weekend matinees
were wonderful, magical escapes into other lives in other worlds.
Even the moments leading up to a movie were spectacular – buying that ticket, ordering popcorn and a Coca-Cola, finding a good seat. Then the house lights would dim until complete darkness enveloped me. Slowly, the giant, dark, maroon, velvet-looking curtains parted and opened, and that huge screen was uncovered in all its glory. A feeling of awe and excitement washed over me. Movie time! Well, maybe I had to wait for some previews of coming attractions, followed by a cartoon, and somewhere in there was a stupid ad urging me to go to the lobby and buy some snacks, even though I already had some.
But then the movie started. First came the MGM lion or the Columbia lady with the torch or maybe that 20th Century Fox logo accompanied by that unmistakable music. Now it was movie time!
Some films I still remember watching as if I watched them just yesterday. I was a little guy when Paramount Pictures released "Shane." It was one of those rancher-settler conflicts, and I thought Alan Ladd would never start kicking some bad-guy butts. I still experience that anxious anticipation when I watch that old favorite today.
I saw a similar premise in another western, when my parents took me to the Fox Theater in St. Louis to see Glenn Ford in "The Fasted Gun Alive." I clearly remember eating at a nearby cafeteria – the chocolate-cream pie I ate for dessert was outstanding – before
walking up the block to the theater to watch Ford play George Temple, whom I thought would never start kicking some bad-guy butts. Man, the anxious anticipation! Umm, that chocolate-cream pie. What memories.
The feature film that I most recall from my childhood is "House of Wax," starring Vincent Price. I was a little squirt, and that movie scared the bejesus out of me. I saw the horror film with my older cousin, who found humor in my harrowing fright. Humor? I had nightmares for weeks. I probably suffered post-traumatic stress disorder!
Such is the power of film. So, I guess I can see how so many people get so worked up when it's Oscar time. It's entertaining. It's fun. It's an exciting and colorful component of our culture. I guess.
However, I want Billy Crystal to come back and host next year.