by Ramona Pilar Gonzales
My mom and I used to have a tradition come Academy Awards Sunday. Established during the Pre-Cable Era, it involved pizza and scanning through the network channels in order to “watch the dresses arrive” as my mom would say. Even now, she prizes red carpet arrivals over the actual awards ceremony itself.
We used to go to the movies pretty often when I was a kid. At least, it seemed that way. Maybe once every two weeks. Definitely monthly. Money was scarce and we didn’t have a whole lot, but my mom always found some money for us to go to the movies. Going to the movies in the 80s wasn’t the financial commitment it is today. Tickets were less than three dollars, popcorn even less than that. For about ten bucks we could take in a matinée and drop into worlds of legends.
My mom was always working, and when she wasn’t working, she was going to school. The weekends when we had movie time, she was rested. The stress and anxiety that plagued her during the week faded enough for her to be excited about whatever movie we were going to see. She took me to see kid movies like E.T. (which, incidentally, we both thought did not live up to the hype). She took me to Sci-Fi movies like Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which I desperately wanted to see because of Ricardo Montalban. (I was initially a bit uncomfortable with his turn as a bad guy, but it didn’t stop me from wanting him to win.) My mom took me to see Empire Strikes back because I wanted to marry Darth Vader. She took me to see Grease because I loved John Travolta from Welcome Back Kotter. She took me to see Footloose, which was the first movie I saw that dealt with divorce and had a main character being raised by a single mother.
When I got older, she took me to see movies I hadn’t heard of and knew absolutely nothing about. I went with her to see Hairspray under the impression that it was “a movie about dance shows in the 60s,” which it was. However, it was also a movie about racial integration and became a touchstone for me as far as non-traditional casting. It was the first movie I ever saw that had a fat girl as the main character who not only gets the hot boy, but also out dances the blond chick, and takes a stand for injustice.
In high school she told me she wanted to take me to see a movie called The Crying Game. “What’s it about?” I asked her. She paused long and then said, “Um, it’s about the Irish Republican Army.” About half way into the movie, after the first big reveal, I turned to her and said, “this movie isn’t about the I.R.A., is it?” She smiled huge and shook her head. “Nope!”
I tried to establish the connection with some friends when I started living on my own, but it never quite took. They either weren’t as interested in the movies, or hold the belief that awards shows aren’t really a big deal, that they’re all politics, that the idea of Hollywood celebrating itself for two months straight is kind of ridiculous.
Since I grew up paying attention to an industry that generates and operates only a few miles from where I lived and live, my view of the Academy Awards has changed. Instead of noticing who is there, I now notice who’s not there, namely people who look and sound like me. I think of the traffic and exhaust and the fact that I won’t be driving to the Westside of Los Angeles that weekend for anything. The glitter and glamour has faded and the whole thing has become a bit of an inconvenience.
It’s the same with my mom, too. She’ll record the show. She may or may not watch it the next day or she’ll rely on the newspaper to tell her who won. “There’s just nothing I want to see anymore,” she says. “They don’t tell good stories anymore. They just wanna blow everything up and call it a movie. Nah.”
New Year’s Day I was over at my mom’s house eating some menudo when she asked if I minded her putting on the Rose Bowl game. I’m generally not a fan of sports on TV. People tend to get emotional and very loud. It makes me uncomfortable. “Yeah, sure! It’s cool.” So she put on the game and I sat and watched my first ever football game from start to finish. It wasn’t like hanging out with my guy friends watching the game – every time I have questions I get a quick, terse answer or they can’t be bothered to respond because the game’s going on. I learned about the game, the players, the coaches, even the band! I learned rules and plays that I instantly forgot, but the game made sense to me for the first time. It was one of the best times I’d ever had with her.
We may have ditched the glittery illusion of awards shows, but it seems as though a new tradition is being ushered in on the backs of 200+ pound men.