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What’s in a ‘Best Picture?’
What Movies Mean to Me
Well, Hollywood will be having its annual party for itself at the end of the month with the Oscars, and I for the life of me couldn’t tell you who the nominees are. Don’t get me wrong; I love a good film. From popcorn flicks to genre-defining classics, movies have the power to spark powerful emotions in each of us. What those are depends on you as much as the movie itself. So, rather than make predictions on what the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will deem “best picture” this year, I’d rather share the films that impacted my own life, and why. Growing up in the ‘70s, I got to experience the peak of the American movie-going craze — back when tickets were cheap and VHS tapes were just coming onto the market. In those impressionable days, I remember always feeling like I had to be the heroes I saw on screen. My sister and I would come running out of the theater pretending to be the likes of Superman, Princess Leia, and Butch Cassidy. As I grew older, I found other elements of film caught my eye that I would have never paid attention to as a kid. Rather than dwell on larger- than-life heroes, I began noticing the landscapes, drama, and musical scores that brought these movies to life. I distinctly remember watching “Lawrence of Arabia” as a teenager. Now, for those trying to guess my age, I want to be clear — I saw this movie as a rerun on TV. “Lawrence of Arabia” was already an oldie at that point. But as a young man who had just come back from living in Saudi Arabia, I was moved by the film’s sweeping portraits of the Arabian Desert. While it wasn’t filmed in Saudi, watching Lawrence of Arabia made me feel
nostalgic. Rather than feel like I was transformed into the hero of the movie, I felt transported to a place and time. That’s when I really began to pay attention to the magic of film. Just as “Lawrence of Arabia” connected me to a place, I soon began discovering works that connected me to my love of music. Through high school and college, musical performance was a major part of my life — I got my bachelor’s degree while on a string bass scholarship. During this time in my life, I found myself glued to films like “A Fistful of Dollars” and “Once Upon a Time in the West.”
These spaghetti westerns, as they came to be called, featured the work of legendary Italian composer Ennio Morricone. If you’ve ever heard the iconic, two-note warbling melody of “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” then you’re familiar with the work of Morricone. To this day, I listen to his works and soundtracks and marvel at how his sparsely instrumented melodies convey so much emotion so honestly. In fact, I’ve set my phone to play the main theme to Cinema Paradiso when my wife calls.
This is all to say that movies are far more than pictures on a screen; the way we connect to them can be deeply personal. If you liked an unpopular movie or disliked a crowd pleaser, my advice is to not feel bad. You never have to apologize for the way a piece of art makes you feel. So while the academy may name a best picture at the end of this month, what matters most is what you choose to watch and the ways you connect to it. Alex R. Hernandez Jr.
Rather than feel like I was transformed into the hero of the movie, I felt transported to a place and time. That’s when I really began to consciously pay attention to the magic of film.“
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