“I don’t know what I did in this life to deserve all this. I’m just a girl from a trailer park with a dream.”
Who said that? Was it the main character at the end of an inspirational Lifetime original movie — something with a title like “Semi-Precious” or “The Fire Inside Her”?
The line was delivered by Hilary Swank during her 2005 best actress Oscar acceptance speech for her leading role in “Million Dollar Baby.”
I was in eighth grade when I heard the speech, and fell instantly in love — not with Swank but with the Oscars.
The ultimate awards show had always been in my life, though I never paid much attention before. Before they divorced, my parents had a tradition of eating takeout in front of the TV during that special Sunday night every February or March, and my older sister has always loved seeing the red carpet outfits.
But until I was old enough to appreciate some of the nominated films, the Oscars was just an empty spectacle — an excuse to stay up a little later than usual and hear my mom cuss when the actor she liked didn’t win.
That all changed at the blissfully awkward age of 13.
As my peers were stressing over acne, discovering excess body hair and obsessing over their first boyfriend or girlfriend, I was begging my parents to drive me to a movie theater — any movie theater — to see any and every new release.
Every weekend I would dissect the entertainment section of the newspaper, reading every single review, from the token mediocre romantic comedy to the sadistic foreign horror film. As much as I’d love to claim this was because I was mature for my age, in reality I was just rabidly trying to prove myself too cool for my classmates and family.
But however self-serving the reason for my infatuation with cinema, it led to a pure love for the Oscars.
Yep, call me cheesy, but I loved the Oscars then, and I still love it now.
I love the glamour and excitement of the evening. I love watching someone’s childhood dream come true in real time. And it may be sadistic, but I also love the disappointment losing brings.
The Oscars is like the Superbowl for the kids who prayed for rain because it meant they got to stay inside during recess and watch “Forrest Gump.”
The Oscars get a lot of hate, and some of it is surely warranted. The nominations process is formulaic and biased, and plenty of great performances get snubbed. If you look at any awards show as an end-all decider on what was truly the best from the past year, you’re going to come up short.
But there’s more to it than that. I love the Oscars for the same reason I love movies: the drama, the excitement and above all, the laughs.
The Academy prides itself on honoring the most seriously brilliant films, like “The King’s Speech.” But if the Oscars were a movie, it would be probably be more of a cheesy guilty pleasure, like “Country Strong.”
It has all of the ingredients for a blissfully terrible blockbuster.
The nominees are a crazy cast of characters, including heroes, villains, underdogs and always at least one pregnant lady. The host provides an over-dramatic and irritating voice-over. And the beginning and end are the most exciting parts, opening with a somewhat funny monologue and ending with a disappointing, yet comfortingly predictable finale.
But the greatest part of all, the climax of the movie, will always be the acceptance speeches for the best actors and best motion picture categories.
Swanks’ is one of my all-time favorites, as is any one in which the winner forgets to thank his or her spouse or tries to get political. Some winners are sobbing, some don’t give a damn, and some speak charming gibberish, but really, they’re all great to me. And seeing the losers’ faces right after the award is announced is always frosting on the sickeningly sweet cake.
So this Sunday, I’ll be tuning in. And though I know awards shows aren’t any sort of legitimate measuring stick, I hope “Black Swan” wins in every category.
But what I want most from the Academy Awards is to be entertained. What else could I ask of a crappy made-for-TV movie?