Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

March 1, 2013

Lessons learned from the Oscars

We should all be as graceful as Jennifer Lawrence. Yes, she took a big embarrassing tumble Sunday night at the 85th annual Academy Awards as she and her dress — which weighed-in at around 375 pounds —  tried to climb the stairs to receive the Best Actress award.

It looked like her Dior haute couture gown, made with about 4,000 yards of fabric, “tried to eat her,” said one online TV critic. But Lawrence handled it with applaudable grace.

“You guys are just standing up ’cause you feel bad that I fell and that’s really embarrassing but thank you,” she said when she reached the microphone and faced a standing ovation. Despite the shock of winning, the awkwardness of falling, and the fact that a billion people were watching, Lawrence then proceeded to gracefully thank the Academy and her fellow nominees, who she described as magnificent and inspiring. And not just those of you in my category, she added. That wasn’t false humility. This year was one of those years where it was an honor to simply be nominated because all the actresses submitted stunning performances.

Oh, and Lawrence even remembered to offer birthday greetings to fellow nominee, “Amour” star Emmanuelle Riva who turned 86 Sunday.

Shortly after her acceptance speech, the “Silver Linings Playbook” star had the backstage press corps tittering with her one-liner answers to their often inane questions. One reporter asked if she was worried that being nominated for Best Actress twice and already winning at the age of 22 might mean she has peaked at a young age. “Well, I am now!” she answered the Eeyore-like reporter who tried to cast a gloomy dark pall over her brand new golden statue.

And Lawrence wasn’t the only winner to take the stage with notable gracefulness and generosity. Ben Affleck, whose film “Argo” was nominated for Best Picture, was left off the Academy’s list of Best Director nominees. He’s been sweeping through the awards season, collecting other statues and trophies. So when his movie won Oscar’s big prize of the night, Best Picture, he could’ve simply taken the mic and said to the Academy, “Nah, nah, nah, nah, boo, boo.” Instead, he spoke graciously and authentically about how Hollywood can build you up, knock you down, and build you up again. He also spoke about mistakes and, quite importantly, not holding grudges. He finished with, “It doesn’t matter how you get knocked down in life, ’cause that’s gonna happen. All that matters is that you gotta get up.” Then his voice clogged with emotion as he signed off with a loving shout out to his three kids.

It’s about time the director of “Gone, Baby, Gone” and “The Town,” is forgiven for “Gigli,” “Armageddon” and the whole Bennifer dating debacle with Jennifer Lopez.

Not everyone can win and not everyone can be nominated, notably this year Kathryn Bigelow. She instead got a January Time magazine cover and another big prize: the Senate Intelligence Committee closed its inquiry into the contacts she made at CIA while making “Zero Dark Thirty.”

Most surprisingly, even Quentin Tarantino revealed a slightly more benevolent and humble side, unusual for the hyper-articulate and, I might add, typically arrogant director. I’m not the only person with this impression of him — just put Quentin Tarantino arrogant in your search engine.

He was notably but confusingly gracious to his actors during his acceptance speech for Best Original Screenplay for “Django Unchained”: “I’ve been saying things like ‘I want to thank the actors for what they’ve done when it comes to my script.’ And it’s not just an easy thing to say. It really is why I am standing here. I actually think if people are knowing about my movies 30 to 50 years from now it’s gonna be because of the characters that I created and I only got one chance to get it right ... I have to cast the right people to make those characters come alive and, hopefully, live for a long time. And, boy, this time did I do it. Thank you so much, guys.”

Considering it was Quentin, that speech almost sounds like it was written by Miss Manners.

But none of these folks are perfectly well-mannered angels. Lawrence forgot to thank her director and admitted to the press back stage something ungraceful: “What went through my mind when I fell down? A bad word. That I can’t say ... That starts with ‘F.’ ”

If I’d fallen in front of a billion people — including, just feet away, Bradley Cooper and George Clooney — I might’ve uttered a bad word, as well. But like Ben Affleck says, all that matters is that you gotta get up. And graciously thank your colleagues and the folks who got you there in the first place.

Jaletta Albright Desmond is a columnist who writes about faith, family, and the fascinatingly mundane aspects of daily life. She lives in North Carolina with her family. Contact her at jdesmond@bdtonline.com.

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