There were several historic no-shows at last night's Oscars. Among them, directors such as Busby Berkley, Victor Fleming, Michael Curtiz and Frank Capra.
They couldn't make it, because they are no longer on this side of that great screen-in-the-sky. Their absence, however, makes a point. Today's world of entertainment has only a few bankable prophets of what was once enshrined as the American Way. While last night's winners were each a tribute to their own particular slice of that Way, those gone gurus once provided a grand sense of ourselves which most of us could share together regardless of race, region, religion, gender or agenda.
Berkley cinematically concocted the sunny side of the Great Depression...Fleming gave us the technicolor magic just over the rainbow we all see...Curtiz crafted the pentultimate gritty American with the capacious heart in his Casablanca cafe....Capra gave every American of every Christmas persuasion the dreamy Jimmy Stewart vs the snarky Banker Potter.
There were others. Countless others visiting us with either laughs or tears from either the large or little screens we tended to watch together. Yes together, thereby sharing common views and values at the very same no-playback moment.
Last night's Oscars, while studded with some astonishing winners, offered few quite like those past performers whose American Way was somehow able to win almost universal attention and admiration. That of course was a very different America. More Unum than Pluribus. More united by common convictions than 2017's plurality of causes.
So while we quite properly celebrate the best of the best in 2017 Hollywood, a pause for what we once had and can have again. That is, an extraordinary artistic industry capable of capturing in authentic stories the very essence of who we think we are as Americans; then projecting that essence onto not only the screens of all our lives, but the very templates of all our hearts.
Like a team entering the stadium for the title game, or a squad advancing for the crucial battle, or a flock raising its eyes to the heavens, today's fragmented 330 million Americans still need some common intoxicating images of themselves and their place on the planet.
Such national intoxication is found on the Washington Mall during celebrations like the Fourth of July. We know there were those in last night's Oscars audience who breathe that same sense of collective celebration. Hope the same collective hopes. Envision the same collective stories. If the industry is correct and "films are forever," what better legacy than to continue carrying the torches lit so fiercely by their finest predecessors.
Done right, more such films will have the power to bring us to our feet and to our senses again....
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