Bundle of Contradictions

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FEBRUARY 27, 2012 2:18PM

Watching a Friend Win an Oscar

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Oscar ready!

Oscar ready! 
 
It’s been years since I sat down and watched the whole Oscars. With a two-year-old, it’s hard to get out to the movies these days, much less afford a ticket on a one-income-household’s salary. All the pomp and glamour has seemed very much removed from my stay-at-home freelancer/mother-in-pajamas lifestyle--“And what are you wearing, Ms. Burnett?” “Target yoga pants and a CBGB T-shirt with toddler snot.”

This year, though, I had a stake in the action. A friend from high school, TJ Martin, was up for Best Documentary for his film “Undefeated.” I’d been following his excited Facebook posts for weeks, watching as the film generated buzz and began its climb toward an Oscar nomination. “How did I get in this picture?” he asked us, his beaming grin glowing between Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg.

Then last night, in the middle of helping my daughter go potty, I heard Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Downey Jr. announce the nominations for Best Documentary. Running out to the TV, my child crying behind me, I watched ‘Undefeated’ win the Oscar, making TJ the first African-American director to win an Oscar for a full-length film.

“Holy crap,” was all I could manage as I stared, slack-jawed at the screen.

It’s incredibly surreal watching someone you know win an Oscar. As a veteran of the music industry, I’ve had my share of celebrity run-ins, and quickly learned the sheen of fame is usually a gloss covering up some seriously insecure, broken people. I’m no star-struck naif. But the shock of seeing someone you watched grow through adolescence excitedly swear as he clutches an Oscar in front of all of Hollywood, is palpable.

Better yet was the response from his friends and family. Within seconds, his Facebook page was crowded with congratulations so genuine and unguarded it was moving and hilarious to watch. There were no couched, media-slick soundbytes--just friends excitedly, sometimes inarticulately sharing in the moment with heart-felt love. Everyone was so proud of him and so pleased at his success--something I’m not sure many of the seasoned vets can count on when they win.

At a certain point, though, the inevitable question loomed: What have you done since high school? For me, and most of my friends that know TJ, that answer is, “um...” Straddling that line between early and mid-adulthood, we early thirties-types are suddenly being confronted with the idea that we’re bona fide grownups. Many of us have children. Most of us are functional adults, with jobs and the usual milestones of success to look back on. But we’re not, you know, famous.

I’d like to say that’s completely ok. My mature side is horrified at any inklings of envy I might have. But the truth is, we live in a society that values fame, money, and power above all else and rewards it accordingly. There are no Oscars for being a dedicated parent or working a mundane job in order to keep your family fed. Most of us are never going to be famous. Or rich. Or powerful.

TJ worked his butt off for that Oscar. He didn’t waltz in off the street and get it for being pretty (although you might notice he’s awfully cute). He and his partner spent nine months in Memphis filming it, collecting 500 hours of footage they then meticulously edited to tell the story. And this, after a career working on other documentaries and projects that few people saw. He earned that Oscar.

But wouldn’t it be nice if there were Oscars for teachers and fire-fighters and stay-at-home parents? Wouldn’t you like to get all dolled up in your re-purposed JC Penney prom dress and walk the red carpet through a throng of adoring fans? Maybe in an alternate universe. Until then, I'll just be happy that a really nice guy won a huge honor for making something beautiful.

 

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Must have been quite a thrill...

OMoM
Awesome picture...I think my Oscar would be for managing to make edible meals out of my ever-stark larder, and yours would be for grace in the face of your health condition (while managing to be an awesome mom and a talented writer). But of course the more important question IS what would we wear?
OMoM, it was!

Felisa, a think a day of thrift-store shopping is in order! Maybe I should host an Oscar-for-normal people event?
Really cool! Never think of the backstory- thanks!
Mango Sherbert, I never really had before, either. I'll definitely look at things differently now.
How great to see your friend win - and yes, I do wish we could give out awards to everyone who does something brilliantly and well in this life. Wouldn't it be cool if you could go around with like little statuettes or figurines of some sort, and just give one out whenever you saw someone you found worthy? That would be crazy, but who knows how people might react.. Maybe it would make them happy...hmmm...pondering this..... :-)
What a special moment -- even with the envy. All the better when it's someone who deserves the recognition.
Miguela Hoyt y Robal, it was totally cool!

Alysa Salzberg, I love that idea!

Bellwether Vance, it's nice to see really nice people finish first!
Congratulations to your friend, I can see you are excited. You are so right, us normal folk winning something every now and then should be nice. BTW, very cool picture. R
Wow! I hope I can go to the Oscars some day.
We had a simalar experience watching our friend, Mark Bridges, win for best costume design for "The Artist"........it couldn't be more surreal...........
Thanks Thoth!

Wren Dancer, maybe we could crash it...eh? You with me?

Katt, that's so cool--I can't wait to see that film!
i don't get it, why do people need awards for being firefighters, teachers, and moms?? why do people need awards period. It almost sounds like some people are so bored with their lives they need some kind of something to jolt them out of the stupor of their own mediocrity. We all make choices - to get married, have kids, work the 9-5. Sure some of them suck, but it is what it is. and it is what most people do. Very few make choices to follow their passion and do things that few people can do and they happen to be damn good at it. But, most of us are not amazing or extraordinary and won't win academy awards, but to suggest being rewarded for living the ordinary life is ridiculous. This is exactly the reason why I am so reluctant to get married and have kids and work a normal office job - bc the people who do seem so bitter and resentful and bored and unfulfilled that all they have to think about in the few minutes they have between wiping kitching counters and changing dirty diapers is the oh why me, how did my life turn out like this, maybe if I write it on facebook or a blog it will give me short-lived immediate gratification. Ich. It. terrifies. me. This guy TJ sounds great, extraordinary even- but no I can't say that about everyone, not should I - and that is okay by me.
I have to agree with Roxyastor. People get awards because they do something exceptional, that makes them stand out from the crowd, in a way that's deemed to show extraordinary effort or skill or courage.

If you find yourself in your early 30s realizing you haven't done anything exceptional, there's bad news and good news. The bad news is that you haven't done anything exceptional and certainly don't deserve kudos for living an average, boring, completely uninteresting life. Sorry, but you just don't.

The good news is that you're just getting started. You've recognized that your life up until now has been rather rote and routine, and you have 50 or 60 years left in which you can step up to create an extraordinary life. It doesn't have to be extraordinary to other people (there's no need to win an Oscar), but you can do something extraordinary for yourself: go learn a skill you've always wanted to learn, explore a subculture, hike across the country. And when you do, keep on the lookout for intriguing detours and surprise opportunities. Take a small step out of your comfort zone every few months and within a year or two, you'll be on an entirely new path. A few years after that, you could be the one in front of thousands of people, being presented an award for something you've done that's above and beyond.

But it won't happen unless you take that first step. And you won't get any awards for that first step, but that step may lead somewhere amazing. There are no guarantees that it will, but if you stay where you are, wishfully hoping to win an award for washing the dishes, you can be sure you'll stay someplace utterly banal.
How exciting that must have been for you, wow!. R
Roxyastor and Stever Robbins, who said anything about mediocre or banal? I think that what firefighters, teachers, and parents do is quite extraordinary. Living a life in service to others does merit praise and appreciation. And Stever, you're a judgmental asshole. You know nothing about my life, which is far from uninteresting. You can go fuck yourself.

frequentflyer, thanks!
I like this warm and heartfelt post. There's something so sweet and sincere about it. Nice.
OMG that is just wonderful...
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Inspired by Linda S.
i understand your sentiment, i do, but if being a teacher, parent or firefighter were extraordinary than by definition less people who do them or be qualified to do them....my mom's a teacher (and a parent to boot!), she is the greatest person I know, but she is not extraordinary, she doesn't deserve a special award nor would she conceit to deserving one. I am just content that she is healthy and happy and proud to have raised me rather than publicizing any inner feelings of inadequacy she might be experiencing for having spent her life doing these. I, myself, have never had that "out of the spotlight and wanting to be in it kind of feeling" partly because I am happy with my life, but I have always thought about my choices and have carefully made them in alignment with the kind of life I wanted to life. So perhaps my criticism here, which I truly do not intend to be snarky or mean-spirited, is more of a sincere question as to why other people tend to feel this way, especially after voyeuristically consuming arbitrary media forms like televised award shows and facebook pages belonging former significant others and old classmates. It is sad to me that I often encounter people who seem increasingly discontent and dissatisfied with the ways their lives have turned out and are looking for external, extrinsic confirmation to the contrary as a superficial panacea. If I am wrong about this, fine. I hope I am.
i meant "then by definition"