On Feb. 24, millions of television sets across the globe tuned in to one of the most celebrated and glamorous celebrity spectacles of the modern era: The Oscars. Yet, within the aftermath of this 85th Oscar ceremony, it is important to note that all too often viewers are somehow missing the bigger picture. Within the Oscar experience, there is a plethora of trivial and somewhat meaningless aspects of the evening that many people choose to highlight. What designer clothing is Meryl Streep going to wear as she struts down the carpet? Did Robert Downey Jr. have something done to his nose? Did you hear about Jennifer Lawrence’s wardrobe malfunction? It is a melancholy truth that these topics are brought to the forefront of discussion.
The insignificance of the ornate nature of the Oscar’s was best illustrated by the actions of Best Actor in a Leading Role nominee Joaquin Phoenix, who rolled his eyes and shook his head rather than flash a smile when on camera. In Phoenix’s case, it is safe to assume that his actions were not due to the unwritten law that no male actors have a prayer’s chance at the award on a Daniel Day Lewis year. These were the actions of someone who genuinely did not want to be there.
Be that as it may, there are also great things that can and should be reflected on after an Oscar event. And no, the fact that show host Seth McFarlane made just about everyone uncomfortable is not one of them. Though McFarlane set off a strong vibe of a drunken family member who you just knew was constantly on the verge saying something crass, awkward, and embarrassing for everyone, this is neither here nor there.
What should be taken from the Oscars is the fact that it celebrates the most skilled storytellers on the planet. Story telling is a timeless and universal tradition that has been passed down from cave paintings, to Homer’s epics, to Shakespeare’s plays, and now to Hollywood’s films (excluding all works involving Michael Bay and Megan Fox). And within the 85th Oscars, there were a few storylines that have and will continue to shape the future of man’s most inherent art form.
Firstly, Jennifer Lawrence walked away with the Best Actress in a Leading Role for her performance in Silver Linings Playbook, claiming her first Oscar win in two nominations and all at the young age of 22. In beating Leading Actress favorite Emanuelle Riva (Amour), Lawrence has shown that she has absolutely won over the hearts of Hollywood. She is young, she is beautiful, and she is talented at her craft. But what sets Lawrence above the rest is that she is a free spirit. She makes jokes at her own expense, throws up middle fingers during photos, and is crudely blunt in front of cameras. In acting this way, she has obtained a sense of being untouchable to critics, and it will be interesting to see where the young star’s career takes her from here.
The Best Actor in a Leading role, of course, was presented to Daniel Day Lewis for his depiction of the Great Emancipator in Lincoln. By winning his third leading actor award, Lewis has now won more times than any male dead or alive. This feat has cemented him as the best actor of the modern era. To place the significance and sheer difficulty of three Best Actor awards in perspective, Yogi Berra won ten world series titles in a 19 year career, Michael Jordan was crowned an NBA champion six times in a 14 year career, and Joe Montana led his team to four Super Bowl victories in his 15 year career. Daniel Day Lewis, having more Best Actor awards than any man in history, has had the honor bestowed upon him three times in over 40 years as an actor.
Finally, the historical piece Argo was crowned with the much-coveted Best Picture award, and though it is noteworthy that the film was headed by an inexperienced screenwriter in Chris Terrio, it was Ben Affleck’s speech that brought the evening to an appropriate conclusion. Affleck explained that he had won an Oscar as a young 25 year old when he wrote Good Will Hunting, but he never expected to be awarded again. He eluded to times where he had fallen (most likely in 2003 when he starred in both Daredevil and Gigli), but that he had to learn to get up, dust himself off, and not hold any grudges toward anyone. With those words and credentials, it is clear that the torch has been passed, and that Ben Affleck is truly becoming the future of the silver giants of Hollywood.
Stories such as these are the ones that are worth our attention. They are far more important to our culture than glamour and gossip. These are the stories that will shape our traditions, and survive as genuine aspects of our narrative history.