A VARIETY REPORTER CALLS AND ASKS, in the light of the agonizing decisions forced on our friends at our sister academy, what are our plans for the Oscars? What do we think we might do?
We are at one of history’s stopping points, where the future holds its breath. It seems like nothing from this time on will ever be normal. What will the New York skyline heal itself to look like, what will remain of our civil rights, how will it feel to fly?
The explosion and collapse of the World Trade Center is only the most recent such national trauma. On Black Tuesday, 1929, the world economy collapsed — a day that was never forgotten by those who experienced it. The attack on Pearl Harbor pierced the complacency of Americans safe on our island between two oceans. The assassination of Kennedy — who alive then does not remember with crystalline clarity the events of that day? What we ate, who we called, the smallest particulars of our experience. After days like that, life is perceived in different colors; they are days when we reassess our lives, change jobs, ask questions to which we thought we always knew the answers. The ground shifts beneath our feet. We are full of a feeling of vulnerability, of our mortality.
Then life slowly returns to normal. But what is normal is not the same as what was normal. We live in a new world. Already, barely a month after 9/11, something has changed in our lives. We’ve regained a sense of community, of shared values, of oneness, one symbol of which is the current blossoming of American flags.
OF MORE IMPORTANCE IS KEEPING and cultivating that sense of community. And of going on with our lives despite that sense of vulnerability, of learning to live with anxiety. Did we go soft on our island of safety between two oceans? The Japanese nation thought so in 1941, the Nazis thought so, Osama bin Laden seems to think so. I don’t think so.
I believe we have the courage to live with daily risks that Europeans have taken in stride for years. Londoners got to their theaters even as the bombs fell in WWII. Already we’re flying again — not without a heightened level of concern and intelligent attention to security measures, but we’re flying. And we’ll go on about our lives, have our weddings and our memorial services, and our soaps, movies and awards shows.
The celebration of artistic accomplishments may not be the highest priority in a time of national trauma, but the Academy Awards, with all their pomp and history and, yes, occasional foolishness, are a quintessentially American activity, and the right to carry on our thousand of less-than-earthshaking activities — our football games, our state fairs, our conventions — is a large part of why we’re fighting terrorists today.
The Oscars will go on next March.
There may be modifications in the nature of the ceremonies if those are appropriate, but this show, just as it did throughout the great crisis of WWII, just as it did during the Korean and Vietnamese conflicts, will go on. As life goes on.
The world will see an American tradition continue, and will take notice. If we give in to fear, if we aren’t able to do these simple and ordinary things, the terrorists have won the war.
President, Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences