Once you’re nominated for an Oscar, you and your film have a firm place in cinema history; it may be a small corner of the universe, but as we learned in BIRDMAN or (The Unexpected Virtue of Whatever), it’s about fully inhabiting the corners of the universe you find yourself in, and we’re all still trying to find ourselves.
At The Heart of Culture
Earlier today, I tried to speak about why the Oscars are so singular, so significant, how the Oscars stand out in a crowded field of entertainment award shows. Movies have been at the center of American culture for a full century now; the awards themselves are closer to their centennial than anyone born before the turn of the century is to theirs. I was thinking that not seeing the actual ceremony is secondary, because my primary interest has always been, not even who’s going to win, but who’s going to have that place in history, who’s going to be able to get up and go to work every day with the name-tag “Academy Award Winner”.
I’ve been stumbling into a project databasing the Academy Award nominees and winners; everybody knows how many acting awards anybody has, but I wonder who are the people in Hollywood who have been associated with the most Oscar-winning movies and Oscar-nominated films. How many nominees who don’t make it have an Oscar-winning film in their portfolio? Disney WON the most awards, but I wonder if there’s a tally for who is associated with the most award-winning films?
And once you’re in that league, once you’re in that catalog, over the long-term, it’s as close to immortal as we’ve learned to become. Writing is nice, but motion pictures preserve and present so much more. In the short-term, being awarded an Oscar can mean very little, or can even be a detriment; it gets hard to success after success sometimes. But in the long run, it’s all about the company you keep, and in the film world, being an Academy Award winner is like ascending among the angels, being touched by immortality, even sometimes divinity (think Elizabeth Taylor, or Meryl Streep). Being a nominee, then, while not quite angelic is certainly a seraphic experience; you still partake of the immortality, if only to a more limited degree. You’ve made the list, and that, to me, would be the point.
Late in the ‘90s, I was living in New York and hanging with a theatrical crowd, taking classes, doing showcases and occasional productions in the basement of the same building as the Actors Studio, called The Raw Space. We gave ourselves/each other awards for good work, for a couple of years. The second year the Frankies were given out, I was nominated as co-producer of a one-man performance piece, and as actor. The most exciting moment for me was seeing myself on the list of possible nominees; that meant more to me than any of what was to come. I was totally jazzed. The fact that I went from consideration to nomination hardly registered, and being winning co-producer with my teacher and director, Steven Thornberg was almost an afterthought.
I’d mad the list. Somewhere. Not a very wide-ranging list, but I made the list anyway. And when you’ve gone so far as to be eligible for consideration for an Oscar, to a nomination, you’re on that list for good. And that’s excitement enough for any person, man, woman or child (well, maybe not “enough” for “everyone”, but tell me – would you rather see your name on list of Names Under Consideration for an Oscar, or would you prefer to go bungee-jumping? For me, it’s no contest.