When I was studying in Chennai, I could barely watch all of the opening Oscar monologue by the time I had to leave for school. I remember eating breakfast in front of the TV, watching the celebrities walk the red carpet talking down their chances of winning while congratulating their fellow nominees on their “tremendous” performances. Anything to help cushion the blow.
One of the best parts of the show for me is the opening monologue, Billy Crystal being my favorite host - “I first hosted the show 13 years ago (1991). You know how different it was? Bush was president, the economy was tanking and we had just finished a war with Iraq.” Steve Martin wasn’t too shabby either in 2001 – “Hosting the Oscars is like making love to a beautiful woman. It's something I only get to do when Billy Crystal is out of town.”
Roberto Benigni’s much deserved win for Life is Beautiful and his climb-march-leap towards the stage to collect an award that clearly meant the world to him, foreigners emphasizing the importance of their native tongue by adding to their speeches a dash of the language they are most comfortable in (Penelope Cruz for Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona and AR Rahman for Slumdog Millionaire come to mind), actors understanding how relevant their craft is in times of pain (Tom Cruise’s post 9/11 opening monologue: “Should we celebrate the joy and magic that movies bring? Well, dare I say it, more than ever.”) – all standout Oscar moments for me.
Acting is a profession that many aspire to be acquainted with. It takes considerable skill, sacrifice, luck and hard work for an actor to even get a chance to play a role that interests and challenges him/her. But to get that opportunity to have your name called out, to pick up that envelope and statue and thank the people who got you there in front of your heroes – that’s the magic of the Oscars.
Russell Crowe captured the essence of the Oscars best when he said, “For anybody who is on the downside of advantage and relying purely on courage, it's possible.”