Monday, February 25, 2008

Reflections on the Academy Awards

Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell spent their lives helping us comprehend the mythic world.

Movies (and the stars who make them) express that world.

Last night I, with about 43.5 million other Americans
(figure from Andrew Hearst’s blog), watched the Academy Awards. I was inspired, especially during the montages honoring past winners. Sure, these stars have an army of stylists and I’m always fascinated by their incredible gowns and jewelry. But it is the great heart of certain actors that moves me.

I’ve spent much of my life working with actors. If you’ve ever personally known performers (at any level of accomplishment), you know they belong to a unique stock. Their calling (for the greatest actors, there is always an artistic/religious-type calling to their work) requires the openness and curiosity of a child, and the ability to delve into and express all emotional states. Actors must be bigger than (daily) life.

Since most of us tremble when speaking in front of a few others (pollsters find that
public speaking is ranked more frightening than death) an actor’s ability to perform in front of millions is remarkable. That actresses during an Oscar telecast can gracefully cross the large stage in the highest heels and the longest gowns never ceases to amaze me. (I tremble for them everytime they cross the stage!)

I’m awed by the incredible talent of some actors, and by the enormous heart of others. Yes, it’s true that I don’t know these people. You think I’m simply imagining (a Jungian would say “
projecting”) their qualities? Perhaps. And it’s true that we all have a dark side (the Jungian Robert Johnson says the greater our creativity, the greater our dark counterpoint).

Still, when I watch certain acceptance speeches and see such grace, eloquence, and passion, I do sense a greatness of heart. Astonishing talent + a huge heart = a sublime actor who stirs hearts and souls. We become star-struck by this actor (or athlete—the Super Bowl and the Oscars are both wildly popular for the same reason). The elite actor/athlete expresses God-like talents. We see ourselves or what we hope to be. We see the ideal--what is possible for a human being to achieve.

We may gossip about their lives and criticize their fashion, but actors, through their exuberance and passion for life, bring us to the mythic realm. Watch this
replay of Cuba Gooding Jr.’s acceptance speech from 1997 (also replayed last night) for a sample. Try not to smile.

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