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PARKER: Bearing witness to the art (and emotion) of Oscar movies

Image Credit: Compilation/Jennifer Stahn
February 23, 2015 - 8:11 AM

I stopped watching the Oscars when the Academy decided to keep stiffing Leonardo DiCaprio.

Titanic I understand, but Gangs of New York? Blood Diamond? Wolf of Wall Street? The Beach? Like, there is a conspiracy in there somewhere.

Several years ago, in lieu of watching the actual event, I tried to start a new tradition whereby in the weeks leading up to the event, I would watch all the best picture nominees. I would then have an opinion, pick my personal favourite and go back to spending the night watching my normal television programing: Hart of Dixie, Real Housewives, Candidly Nicole, you know.

This tradition was short lived, thanks to the fact that the Academy seems only to nominate films that make me nauseated or depressed. By the time I got through the first two nominees in 2014 I was ready to never watch another movie again.

When it comes to film, I’m weak. I cried so hard after watching the trailer for Theory of Everything that I had to cancel my Saturday night plans. I watch movies to be entertained. To be coddled. To be sprinkled with the dust of pixies and Unicorns. I like magic and magnificence — I find my heartache elsewhere.

My favourite authors when I was studying American Literature in University were of the southern gothic variety — Flannery O’Connor, John Updike, Raymond Carver. Novelists and storytellers that didn’t know pixie dust and unicorns could be included in narrative works of fiction. I never once felt good when putting their books down — not full, not satisfied, not content with the ending. More often than not I felt disgusted, entitled, sorry, distraught.

My professor of that specific genre was a real firecracker. A woman who didn't sit on any fences or did anything in the middle of the road. “Why do we read,” she posed one afternoon, “if the stories aren’t entertaining?”

The class had been struggling with the ending of A Good Man Is Hard to Find — we were annoyed and emotionally emptied by the story. We weren’t entertained— blame our chic lit and Harry Potter.

But, we had answers. Some of us read to be challenged, to learn, to live a life inaccessible to us, while others read as a way to the truth, as a way to escape, as a way to bleed. I bought it — I didn’t and do not read to be entertained and I have been OK with that. It’s how I managed to read all of Crime and Punishment.

Not with film, though. I feel cheated if I cry and they are anything other than heart-warming Disney tears. If the ends don’t tie up, I feel lost. If the credits roll before the happily ever after, I sit in stunned silence, offended.

So I don’t watch the nominees any more. This year, I waited until the winner was announced.

Birdman took the cake, and I took the plunge. After all of the dresses were lying on the floors of wardrobes around the Hollywood hills, I sat on my couch with two boxes of Kleenex (just in case), a bowl of popcorn, and lavender essential oil (again, just in case).

It wasn’t my usual froufrou-y entertainment of choice. It was heavier —dreadfully unhappy and slow-paced — but I didn’t need my Kleenex or my anti-stress oil. Twenty minutes into the movie I learned the play within the movie was based on a Raymond Carver story and my American Lit class came flashing back to me.

When the movie ended I didn’t feel satisfied. I felt frustrated and a bit rattled — but I knew where to take it.

I read to be challenged, to learn and to experience a life I have not been given.

And so I watch the best picture of the year because art is allowed to be difficult, and the least I can do as a supporter of that is bear witness to it.

— Andria Parker is a 20-something blogger from Kamloops

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