Admit it: you love to watch the Oscars, but you’re not so sure Hollywood’s self-congratulatory celebration makes for the best family viewing. As fun as it is to see who looks great on the red carpet – and, even better, who looks awful! – it’s hard to shake the nagging feeling that reducing some of the world’s best actresses to what dress they wore (and by whom) doesn’t send our kids quite the right message.
But, since we know you’re going to watch anyway, here are 5 things to tell your younger ones to make your guilty pleasure a little more worthwhile:
First things first: It’s not just about the dress.
With all the fashion hype, the Oscar pre-show has become almost as popular as the awards themselves. But as parents we can remind our kids that while, yes, the glitz and glamour is all part of “Hollywood’s biggest night,” the awards are really about talent, hard work and accomplishment. The Academy Award itself is officially known as the “Academy Award for Merit and Achievement,” so let’s tell our children that it’s what these people did, not what they wore, that got them on the red carpet in the first place.
Acting is a job – a really hard one.
Tell them that long before the bejeweled beauties or tuxedo-swathed screen-idols made it to the big screen – let alone the short list of nominees – stars did their time in the trenches. Fame doesn’t just happen.
Also mention to the kids just how much range the best actors have. Helen Mirren, for example, has played a Roman courtesan, a Renaissance English queen (Elizabeth), and now, in The Last Station (two nominations), 19th-century Russian author Tolstoy’s wife, in addition to dozens of other roles. And good luck summarizing Meryl Streep’s career!
The Oscar statue represents individual triumph and teamwork.
The road to the Oscars is paved with hard work and perseverance, but it’s not all about the actors – there’s also a small army of cast and crew involved in a very collaborative and obstacle-riddled process. Let them know, for example, that it took James Cameron 15 years to bring Avatar from his original script to its theatrical release, and he had to invent his own technologies and cameras to do so. Talk about a lesson in perseverance!
You can also let them know that the Oscar statuette itself, while a symbol of individual excellence, also speaks to the teamwork involved in moviemaking. It is a knight holding a sword atop a roll of film, and the roll of film has five spokes, representing the five branches of the academy – actors, directors, producers, writers and technicians – all of which are necessary to putting a picture on the big screen.
Four of this year’s 10 best picture nominees began as books.
Books are good for you – and they can make for good movies. This year, almost half of the best pic nominees jumped from page to screen: Up In The Air (based on Walter Kirn’s 2001 novel); Precious (based on Saphire’s 1996 novel, Push); The Blindside (based on Michael Lewis’ 2006 non-fiction book based on football player Michael Oher) and An Education (based on Lynn Barber’s 2003 magazine article and 2009 book). This year also saw a lot of other films inspired by books, including the Harry Potter series, Hotel for Dogs and Confessions of a Shopaholic.
Be sure to ask your young readers what books they think would be good movies, and tell them that, yes, the beloved book of all ages Diary of a Wimpy Kid will be hitting theaters soon!
The animated films your kids loved were loved by adults (and critics) too!
Your kids will want to know that Up, Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Princess and the Frog, and The Secret of Kells (an Irish indie cartoon about a boy who grows up with monks and discovers his talent for illustration) were all nominated for Oscars this year (Up is even in the running for Best Picture!). But while animated films are now loved by adults and kids alike, there wasn’t a Best Animated Film Oscar until 2001 (Shrek was the first winner).
Ask them which ones they’d give awards to, and for what. You can even make up your own categories: Best Talking Dog goes to:Up!
Now that your kids are watching the Oscars for the right reasons, you can go back to what really matters: Penelope Cruz in Versace! OMG!