Like every girl who moves to Los Angeles to be an actress, I always had dreams of winning an Oscar. The glitz, the glamour, the perfectly manicured nails captured on the manicam – it was a fairy tale, and I longed to be the princess. I imagined the dress I would wear, the speech I would give, the boy on my arm (Josh Hartnett? Leonardo DiCaprio?) But unlike Anne Hathaway, my dream has yet to come true. And that’s just fine by me.
Over the years, my attitude and feelings towards the Academy Awards have continually evolved, as with so many things in my life. For instance, brussel sprouts. I once hated them, now I cook them four times a week (minimum). Or roller coasters- they used to be the best thing ever, now they make me feel like I’ve just downed a bottle of gin. And the Oscars? Well, it’s complicated.
As a child, the Oscars seemed like heaven. Literally, if you had asked 8 year old Amy what Heaven looked like, I would have told you a massive stage with large statues of gold men and emaciated actresses looking perfect in vintage Dior. (Okay, I probably wouldn’t have used the word emaciated or known what a vintage Dior was, but definitely “actresses in princess dresses.”) The crowning moment in my childhood Oscar memories was Gwyneth Paltrow accepting her statuette for Shakespeare in Love in that pretty pink Ralph Lauren number. Move over, Mary, there’s a new queen of the clouds.
From the couch of my parent’s living room in North Portland (and a hotel room one year in Thailand), the award show just never quite felt real. It was like it was taking place on another planet, Planet Hollywood, where celebrities resided with all of their designer clothes and trophies and drug problems. Perhaps that was why I viewed the Oscars as Heaven in my adolescence. Or maybe it was just because I was a kid.
Whatever the reason, by the time I moved to Los Angeles, the sacred sheen had worn off. That’s not to say that I didn’t still want to win an Oscar – I wanted to even more at 18, 19, 20 – but rather, they had become more tangible. Here I was, living in Los Angeles, less than a mile from the Kodak theater, with the choppers circling like vultures and the limos creating traffic jams for miles. For days, weeks, leading up to the big event, there were parties and chatter and excitement building. Suddenly it felt attainable – I was here! I had made it!! I had an agent and I waited on Al Pacino and I could do this!!!
Except I couldn’t. As the years wore on, it became more and more apparent to me that my dreams were hopeless. “If you haven’t made it by 21, you’ll never make it,” a manager told me, pointing out dozens of examples of famous starlets. I watched as the calendar pages flipped, the years rolled by. 21, 22, 23. I had small victories here and there – a co-star on Veronica Mars, a featured part in Walk Hard, several game show appearances – but nothing even remotely close to the roles I’d been admiring for so many years. The Erin Brakovichs and Edith Piafs. The Virginia Woolfs and Viola de Lesseps. I grew weary of auditioning for drunken sorority girls and one-line waitresses. With each failed commercial audition, my dream died a small death. And then one day, it no longer existed at all.
“The Oscars are lame, just a tired exercise in self-congratulation by a bunch of rich, entitled pricks,” I began telling myself, and whoever else I was doing background work with. “It’s all politics anyway, they hardly ever get it right. I mean, Gwyneth Paltrow winning for Shakespeare in Love? Ludicrous. Who’s next? Keanu Reeves for The Lake House Part 2?”
The Academy Awards had gradually slid from Heaven into Hell, just like Satan himself. February would roll around, and I would find myself dreading Oscar weekend. On the outside I pretended I didn’t care (even though I’d seen every nominated film and read every Entertainment Weekly prediction and Carpetbagger article), but somewhere deep down inside I could feel a knife being wedged when Jennifer Lawrence stepped on stage for Winter’s Bone. It wasn’t that I didn’t love JLaw – I did and do, I thought she was fantastic in that film, and pretty much everything she’s done since. But I was consumed with jealousy. That was the career I had so desperately longed for as a girl back in Portland. That was a part I could have played, would have loved to have played, still wanted to play. The dream wasn’t actually dead, it was just buried under layers and layers of jaded exterior.
And that was how it remained until two and a half years ago when I started taking classes at The Imagined Life. I hadn’t quit acting (although I had taken a break to get my degree from UCLA in Art History), but I’d stopped really loving it and believing in myself. But Diana changed all that. She helped me see where I’d gone wrong – in making it about the product instead of the story. After all, for all of the hoopla around the nominees and the award circuit, at the end of the day what really matters are the films themselves. Which was why I’d been drawn to acting in the first place. Yes, I may have wanted the Oscar fairy tale at 8, but it was really the excitement of playing Betty in The Crucible or Juliet in Romeo & Juliet that made me want to be an actor. It was being moved to laughter and tears over and over again by Meryl Streep and Cate Blanchett and Kate Winslet that made me want to be like them. Sure, the award shows were great fun and ridiculously glamorous, but that had nothing to do with why I actually chose this career. And somewhere along the line, while becoming an adult, I’d forgotten that. Down they forgot as up they grew.
I’m happy to say that this year I will be watching the Oscars and loving it. I’ll feel nothing but proud for the winners as they take the stage, because they deserve it for telling the stories they’ve told. Whether it’s Michael Keaton or Eddie Redmayne, Julianne Moore or Julianne Moore, I will feel nothing but genuine love and support for them on their journeys. And after the last award is given, I’ll go back to focusing on my new dream: winning an Oscar for best screenplay.
Just kidding. My new dream is the same as my old: to tell stories. Good luck to all the nominees!!