A colleague and I attended Holy Land Central’s (HLC aka Israel) version of The Oscars Tuesday night… Although I haven’t ever physically attended Hollywood’s Academy Awards Ceremony, let’s say I could just tell from years of U.S. couch viewing that the two events were about as far removed from each other as… umm…hummus and caviar.
The first striking difference I noted as our cab pulled up curbside to the ceremony’s Tel Aviv Opera House venue was lacking paparazzi, red carpet and fanfare. Not that I was expecting it for myself, mind you. I’m 1) not a celeb and 2) my simple black cocktail dress & black Via Spiga heels accented with a strand of pearls and red silk Dior headscarf were nice enough but not star quality Pay Attention to Me! stunning.
This is HLC where casual is where it’s at. But I had hoped to see Starz arrive to flashing megawatts and crowds of admirers. Instead, all attendees – common folk and celebs alike – quietly milled about in the Opera House lobby sipping wine and nibbling cheese. No bodyguards or cordoned off VIP area. Politicians in these parts get bodyguards but not actors. They’re sort of regular folk who appear on t.v. but that you might see at your local cafe. Oh, there’s so and so. Wow, he looks different in person. Can you hold the foam on my latte?
Celebs were easily discernible, however, by their professional styling: complimentary make-up, good hair and brightly hued, glammy sheer and sequined formal gowns. Actors entered the lobby, pulled poses, photographers snapped and then it was back to the conversation or glass of wine at hand.
The ceremony was painfully under-produced so when, for instance, the Israeli network carrying the event cut to commercial breaks, we the audience weren’t offered any indication of a pause. Everything simply went quiet following an acceptance speech. Participants walked off stage and there was a lull. It was up to us to work out the details. Oh. A commercial. I see. A few minutes later the music would start up again or the hosts would come out on stage. Back in business. Here we go. Strange.
As films go, Waltz With Bashir was the evening’s big winner; it took 6 awards including best director and best film and it will represent Israel as a contender for this year’s foreign film at the Oscars. An animated semi-documentary, Bashir is director Ari Folman’s autobiographical foray backwards into buried military memories of serving in Israel’s 1982 Lebanon War.
Folman and animation/tech crew spent four years making the film and it’s doing well on the circuit. Sony picked up distribution rights and the L.A. Times‘Clive Barker described it as “ingenious animation” and an “overwhelming anti-war” movie. Each time Folman made his way onstage to accept an award Tuesday night, he came across as humble and grateful. An uber-mensch very much admired by the crew members he invited onstage with him to accept the Best Picture Award.
As he and crew made their way up to the lectern for that honor of honors, however, I was horrified to witness half the audience rise from their seats and begin filing out the exit doors. A little Respect here, People! Come on! He just won best film!
Over a post-ceremony glass of wine in the lobby with my friend Ilana who heads Israel’s Film Academy, I mentioned my alarm over the seeming disrespect.
Yeah, it was disgusting, she remarked. I think it was a simple case of the audience wanting to get back out to here to the alcohol and food.
Shame. Because they missed Folman’s scant but poignant speech welcoming into the world 8 babies born to staff members during production. In fifteen years, he said, I hope these kids will watch this film and see it as just another animated movie that has absolutely nothing to do with their realities.
I’ll drink a post-ceremony cocktail to that.
Check the trailer here.