Could you imagine thousands of people glittering down at you, millions more ogling you through the dozen lenses pointed at you as you try and graciously accept one of the country’s most esteemed awards? Thousands of journalists and critics are ready to put pen to paper, to smear you if you’re even the slightest bit inelegant as you stand there before the world, trying to remember the right things to say. If you play it cool and are succinct and brief, they call you indifferent and unappreciative. Gushing and effusive, they say you’re neurotic or grandstanding. Remember James Cameron? Whether you like his films or not, the man accomplishes a great deal more before nine a.m. than some people do in their whole lives. So he got happy and spread his arms and declared he was king of the world. So what? Halle Berry cried for the historical oppression of African-American women, rejoicing that we are now able to celebrate just such a woman for portraying one of her ilk on screen, and we say she’s hamming it up with her tears. And if somebody came along and played it just the right way, accepting their award with equal parts coolheadedness and gratitude, we’re likely to say that they’re not a real person, but a robot in disguise. So when Melissa Leo “drops the f-bomb,” as endless reports of Oscar night inform us, I say, “So what?” If anything, it makes me dig her all the more. She’s human.
Leo also falls into another niche that came together last night. David Seidler, aged 73, writer of The King’s Speech described of his youth that his father said he always knew David would be a “late bloomer.” Oscar night showed us the faces of those who have been earning their keep (and then some) for years, yet still flying under the radar of the big press. I find this refreshing. In a world of popularity driven by market share, when celebrities who have yet to enter puberty tend to eclipse in the public’s eyes the existence of over-25 contributors and reinforce the myth that if you don’t get it young, you ain’t ever gonna get it, it’s nice to know there’s another kind of celebrity out there. Since All My Children, Melissa Leo has been working hard. She’s the example of hard work paying off. She represents the often unseen work we all do in our lives – raise the child alone, take care of the ailing parent, work with the less fortunate, give a pep talk to a friend, pull a relative out of the doldrums – it’s this gritty, everyday kind of work that merits the most respect, but, inversely, gets it the least. We tend to reward what’s biggest, loudest, and fastest. We tend to reward – with our attention, time, and money – that which simply conspires to attract and secure those very three things, attention, time, and money – with content a secondary, or even tertiary concern.
Consider the latest attempt at enfranchising yet another story – I Am Number 4. After a recent, compulsory viewing, friends and I determined that it was an unveiled combination of Harry Potter, Twilight, and Avatar. (Feel free to come up with your own fun, apt re-title – “Harry Twilight,” “Twavatar,” and so forth.) So in a time and town when repackaging, sequelizing and enfranchising – in other words, the cash cows – are more unabashedly there for you to sell your soul, it’s nice to know there’s still some of that soul left in the business with actresses such as Melissa Leo and writers like David Seidler. I don’t care what they say when they accept their award. I’m just glad, because I love movies, that they exist, late bloomers and f-bomb-droppers alike.
Of further note:
Melissa Leo appeared at the Lake Placid Film Forum in 2008 along side Courtney Hunt, writer-director of Frozen River, the feature film depicting strained border relations between the US and Canada in Upstate, New York. Leo starred in the film.