It’s movie award season. The Critics’ Choice and Golden Globes have already been handed out. The Oscars are next. My friends and I always have an Oscar party where we dress up, sit around and eat, watch the Oscars, and compete for our own awards (plastic trophies). The nominations were announced last week. Time for me to catch up on all the films I didn’t see in 2022. Most of the time I watch older movies that I may or may not have seen before. When I’m not writing or gardening, I’m watching movies.
I don’t think awards are a true judgement of a movie’s value. Often that isn’t known until years after the film has aired, and frequently it changes as society’s ideals change. Years ago what might have been thought of as a great picture is now viewed as prejudiced or unethical by today’s enlightened standards. What was acceptable then is not acceptable now and likely never really was. We’ve grown through the decades in many important ways. These old films may still be important, though. They inform of us, for better or worse, what once was. They educate and sometimes sadden us. They make us want to improve.
History has always been my thing, and it is not always fair or fun. I used to wish I had been born in some more exciting era until I got old enough to realize I am woman. I wouldn’t have been able to earn a living. I wouldn’t have been allowed to sign a legal contract. I wouldn’t have been free to make major decisions for myself. One of the comments about this year’s Oscar nominations is that no woman was nominated for best director. The award shows have often been rightly accused of lacking diversity. So, I would say that awards only point out some of the good movies from each year. I use them as a guide for finding things I might have missed. Reading review columns and write ups on movies is another way to find what you might’ve missed.
For me, there is little difference between books and movies. They both tell stories. They both allow you to fantasize and be something other than what you are, leading the ordinary life that most of us live. I disagree with the notion that people don’t think or use their imagination while watching a movie because I know I do. Movies are faster, a shorter investment of time. A book takes longer for me. I will live with those characters for days, share their hurts, their passions, their dreams. That’s what stories are about.
Books, even historical novels, are not necessarily, factual. They are illusion. A chance to envision what it might’ve like to experience this or that. They allow us to be something more, to think something new. They have the power to change us the same way that a real life encounter does. They can exert enormous influence over our lives.
Movies didn’t exist when Abraham Lincoln was alive. Photography was in its infancy. Books were a great treasure to Lincoln, especially when he was young and lived in great poverty. He had few of them and reread the ones at his disposal many times. One of the early books he read was about George Washington and he quoted from it many times. I believe old George had a large influence over Lincoln and the type of man and president he was to become. Though George was not perfect, far from it, we owe him our country. He and the many men at his side. While congress delayed and delayed, George and the militia were offering up their lives. But they were men of their times. It’s important to understand the context in which men and women of all cultures used to live.