The motion picture industry is in the spotlight Sunday evening when the annual Academy Awards are celebrated in south California. We will find out what the academy deems as the best picture, best actresses and actor, and all the other categories.
Perhaps, though, there is something bigger to be embraced, which, in so many countless ways, touches us each individually. Because that’s what movies do: they make us laugh, cry, think and very often, make us look inside out own lives and – gently – challenge ourselves.
They also transport us from our worries and concerns for a couple of hours. They help us walk out of the movies theatres with a breath of fresh air, something to guide us through our next scenes of our own lives.
As a kid, I had a backyard seat for the movies. Our house, in Lynwood, was on the south side of 87 Ave., and was just six blocks east of the Star-Lite Drive In Theatre on 156 Street. When it got dark enough, my parents unfolded lawn chairs from the garage and we sat, peering through the spruce trees bordering the backyayd, and watched the huge movie screen. We couldn’t hear anything, of course. But it challenged our imaginations to figure out the storyline.
A treat came in the summer of 1968. Mom and Dad loaded us up in the red and white Plymouth Valiant and took my brother and sister and I to see our first movie.
Dad jockeyed the car back and forth on the dirt mounds to get the precise trajectory so everyone had a good view. Dad then rolled his car window down and slowly brought the audio speaker and its wire from the post it was hanging from into the car.
After that, it was a walk to the building on the far east end of the driving lot for – you guessed it – popcorn, pop and red licorice. When the sun tucked itself behind the clouds for the final time that day, the mammoth white screen came alive.
Blackbeard’s Ghost. That was the movie we saw that night, a fun film with notable actors including Dean Jones, Peter Ustinov and Suzanne Pleshette.
Over the decades, I have laughed out loud at One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Weekend at Bernie’s, Beverly Hills Cop and the Wedding Crashers.
I’ve cried, too, watching Ordinary People, Philadelphia and The Lion King.
I’ve been taught about conditions people live with through movies like Rain Man, My Left Foot and The Elephant Man.
My favourite film won an Oscar in 1994 – Shindler’s List, the extraordinary story of a man who saved hundreds of people from Poland of the Jewish faith from the Holocaust by employing them in a factory. The film was shot in black and white to give it a documentary look. One scene remains with me today when Schindler is standing on the steps of a steam train, realizing what he had done.
“I could have done more,” he said.
Movies. Not only do the entertain, they celebrate the human spirit.