Pauline Kael may have lost it at the movies but I found it there.
Tonight I’ll watch the Academy Awards as I have done for years even though we now are more likely to watch the movies on DVD than at the theater.
But once upon a time… When I was a little transkid the movies were a place for me to go, a place for me to escape to and feed my imagination, a place for me to go and learn about a world beyond the mean poverty of the mining and mill towns where I grew up.
My mother and father were separated for years. We lived with her mother and out small 1950s TV received two channels so my mother went to the movie a lot. She took me and in the days before all the letter ratings, films weren’t divided into specific categories according to age, although they were subject to a morals code that kept forbidden topics in the shadows of subtexts.
Although there was censorship, McCarthyism and the blacklist there were films like Black Board Jungle, The Wild Ones and Rebel Without a Cause. Not to mention all the films based on Tennessee Williams plays and the idea of social realism.
I learned sex roles from films like Gidget as well as from some of the really powerful actresses of the era. there were more women in film then and they had many more major parts, even in the world of pre Feminine Mystique consciousness.
Last night we watched 2012, a pathetic waste of time. Cliche driven to the max, a disaster of a disaster film that looks positively stupid when compared to even the bloated excesses of 1970s films like the Towering Inferno and Earthquake. At least there were a couple of women in it even if in the tertiary roles of former wife and villain’s girl friend. So many films of today are movies about a fictional world where women are at most 5% of the population and where mayhem of such proportion occurs everyone would be clamoring for martial law were it really like that.
This year I’ve only seen a few of the films. We loved Avatar and Inglorious Basterds, both Tarantino and Cameron often have roles for women that grant them importance. Meryl Streep is always a favorite as is Sandra Bullock.
And while we often watch them on our TV there will always be a place in my heart filled with the fond memories of the darkened auditoriums of the many theaters and the many films took me to other places as a child and later as a young adult.
There was a time when film mattered more to me and the best became subjects to be studied and watched repeatedly.
Happy Oscar viewing. Y’all just know there will be some fabulous dresses and jewels worn on the red carpet tonight.