The Academy Awards and The Movie Decider

by Nancy Wurtzel on February 19, 2013

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A version of this post ran last year, but I think old Mr. Parsons deserves another Oscar bow. 

Do you ever feel as though you are moving backward instead of forward?  With all the hoopla leading up to the Oscars telecast this Sunday, backward is exactly what I’m feeling.

Let me explain.

When I was a kid growing up in Central Minnesota, I was totally obsessed with the Oscars.  I loved the statues, the dresses, the drama — even those long acceptance speeches.  It was a spectacle that took me out of my rural, small-town life, and I relished every single minute.

Perhaps you also remember when Barbara Streisand accepted her award for Funny Girl, wearing that silly see-through outfit or when Bob Hope hosted for the umpteenth time and joked (yet again) about never being nominated.  In my mind, I can still picture the ever-dapper David Niven keeping his cool as a streaker bounded across the stage behind him.  I recall a frail Charlie Chaplin receiving a lengthy standing ovation after being snubbed by the academy for decades and the ultra-glamorous Elizabeth Taylor winning a statuette.

However, experiencing the Oscars in real time also had its drawbacks.  You see, coming from a conservative farming community meant that I would have only seen a few of the nominated movies.

At that time, we had a movie theater with just a single screen.  The owner was old Mr. Parsons who was, in our little town, the movie god.  Or, as I think of him now: The Movie Decider.  He, and he alone, selected which movies were shown in his beloved movie house.  If a film was too risque or too liberal, then Mr. Parsons would simply pass.

Take Easy Rider or Midnight Cowboy, for example.  Both were deemed bad for the local youth, so they they were nixed.  The Movie Decider gave the green light to Goldfinger, a James Bond movie.  However, I heard later that he had confused it with a John Wayne western and it closed after two showings.

Our movie diet mainly consisted of Elvis Presley and beach blanket bingo flicks.  Movies of great artistry were suspicious and Mr. Parson simply avoided booking them.

This all leads me to my present-day situation.  Now that I am once again living part time in my small Midwestern town, I’ve found myself in much the same situation of my youth.  While I am looking forward to my beloved Oscars, sadly I’ve not seen all of the nominated movies.

Old Mr. Parson is long-deceased, but our local movie house, which now has multiple screens but looks remarkably the same from the outside, hasn’t shown all of the nominated movies.  While some things have changed, much remains the same in a small town.

So, yes, I’ll be watching the Oscars this Sunday and no doubt will enjoy the experience. I’ll fondly remember my history of watching the awards through the years and I’ll be sure to raise my glass to The Movie Decider.

Tell me about your Oscar experiences.

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