What MAKES Sammy Run? - I would like to Thank The Academy ... for INSPIRATION!
As I left my Oscar Party on Sunday night, after having just watched the 84th Academy Awards, I left inspired. That's not a new occurrence, however, as I always get inspired after each Oscar ceremony. Having been fortunate enough to go through that process a few years back when my Live-Action Short Film, THE MANDALA MAKER, qualified, I can tell you it's both a rewarding and exciting creative process.
But, even before that, I was a huge fan of Oscar Night. While others can complain, I embrace it. Having seen my cousin - actor Danny Aiello - get nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Spike Lee's DO THE RIGHT THING in 1990. Seeing my cousin's face on the screen was very exciting. But, there are so many tremendous Oscar memories for me:
* John Travolta's HUGE comeback in 1994, getting nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his portrayal of Vincent Vega in Quentin Tarantino's PULP FICTION.
* Cuba Gooding Jr. - who I had spent time with during Leigh Steinberg's Super Bowl party one year - accepting his Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his portrayal of Rod Tidwell in JERRY MAGUIRE. How excited he was jumping up-and-down on stage. I believe it was the very next year that Ben Affleck and Matt Damon emulated Gooding after winning for Best Original Screenplay.
* Perhaps the best for me, was seeing Martin Scorsese, one of my favorite directors, and a man I've had the pleasure of meeting and talking with, win his long-awaited Oscar just five years ago. It was a long-time coming, and you could see the relief on Scorsese's face, even opening his speech by saying "Thank You," 12 times (you can look it up on youtube ;) ), before asking, "Could you double-check the envelope?" That's what Oscar meant to Scorsese - what it means to all of us. It is the highest honor you can get in the industry. The most famous award.
If that kind of prestige doesn't inspire you, then what are you doing in this business? Some people I know they don't watch the telecast? Others criticize, but the work and pushing that goes into getting to that level commands respect. And, it should inspire you to be there yourself.
I still remember getting notification that THE MANDALA MAKER qualified. And, after seeing a lot of the recent Live-Action Shorts, and seeing some of my peers get nominated and even win, and seeing some of my friends who have acted in Oscar-Nominated Best Pictures such as Robert Pralgo in THE BLIND SIDE, I get more and more inspired. Being at that level just means you can reach a greater audience, touch so many more people with your stories. And, yes, it doesn't hurt to hear that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is giving you the "Thumbs Up," for all your hard work.
In fact, in one of the above photos, you can see one of my films representatives holding up THE MANDALA MAKER press kit outside the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, right after our Oscar screening, and right before we officially qualified. There is so much negativity in this business, but I am advising ALL of ForTalent's members NOT to buy into it. STAY POSITIVE. Embrace events such as The Academy Awards, the Tribeca Film Festival, the Golden Door International Film Festival of Jersey City, The Accolade Competition and The Golden Globes, not to mention the Independent Spirit Awards, as well. These are all very prestigious events that you can learn from. And that can inspire you.
Just listen to some of the highlights from Sunday night's Oscar telecast:
"We receive tonight the award that any filmmaker would dream to receive ...," said Thomas Langmann, Producer of THE ARTIST upon receiving the coveted Best Picture Oscar.
"When they called my name, I had this feeling I could hear half of America going, 'Oh no, oh, come on, why her ... again? You know?" Meryl Streep quipped after winning her third Oscar, the second time she has won in the Best Actress in a Leading Role category. (She also won a Best Actress in a Supporting Role for KRAMER VS KRAMER in 1980 in addition to her other Best Actress in a Leading Role for 1983's SOPHIE'S CHOICE.) "But ... whatever."
After hearing her complete the quip with a youthful giggle, it dawned on me we were watching Meryl Streep, the greatest actress of our generation win her third Oscar. That is history. If you are an actor and you have a pulse, you better be inspired!
In addition to her 3 Oscar wins, she has amassed an incredible 17 nominations. Do you the kind of hard work, and great choices, it takes to get that many nominations?
How about Michel Hazanavicius, who won Best Director for THE ARTIST? "Sometimes life is wonderful and today is one of these days," he said, sparking the dream to every filmmaker out there. It reminded me of Oscar-Winning Documentarian, Leon Gast, who congratulated me on NIGHT CLUB's five awards, including Best Director and Best Feature at this past Golden Door International Film Festival of Jersey City. At the party the night before the awards, he told me in regards to winning his Oscar, "I wish everyone the chance to experience a night like that. Everyone should get that chance." The next night he came up to me at the awards and said, "I was rooting for you! I said, 'I know this guy - I want him to win!" Meant so much to me, and I thought of that after hearing Hazanavicius speak.
And, then there was Jean Dujardin winning Best Actor in a Leading Role in his first widely-released movie in the United States. A top French actor, Dujardin struck Oscar gold by portraying silent film star on the way out, George Valentin. Not only that, but he got his Academy Award presented to him by Natalie Portman, last year's Best Actress winner.
"Thank You," Dujardin said before letting out a loud celebratory scream, followed by an underscored, "I love your country."
He concluded his speech with, "If George Valentin could speak he would say ..." before yelling some loud screams in French. Watching him leap around on stage, waving his Oscar and shouting in French with the joy of a child, I thought this is what it's all about.
And, if an underdog like Dujardin, primarily a French film actor, whose work is not as well known in this country, can win his Oscar in a year where he is up against so many great actors including Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Gary Oldman, than that shows the kind of hope each and every ForTalent member needs.
Dujardin got a great role and did his part, knocking it out of the park, and the Academy rewarded him for that. Just as each and every member on ForTalent hopes to be rewarded, not only with Oscars, but with steady, solid work in this industry. It shows that the cream rises to the top.
And, If that kind of hope doesn't inspire you, then what are you doing in this business?
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