From the Academy Awards to Tuna Fish

I think humility is a virtue. I do my best to practice it.  I feel uncomfortable with praise, and am usually far more impressed with the people I meet than I am with myself. This post, however, may seem to lack that humility. I’ve been trying to figure out how I could recap last night without seeming like a total douche. But that’s probably unavoidable, so I’ll pass on some highlights.

Last night we went to The Academy Awards. The Academy was extremely generous and made sure we had great seats and felt wonderfully welcome. My biggest concern before going was shallow at best. Would I fit into my tuxedo? I took it to Armani and asked them if I should let the pants out. They said no. I didn’t want to wear Spanx. Fortunately, it fit and I didn’t need the Spanx.

Driving along an empty Hollywood Blvd. was surreal, at best, weaving through barricades, with crowds of people with cameras watching from both sides. Like everywhere in Los Angeles, there was a valet. Once we passed through the metal detectors without incident, none of us were packing, we were in the middle of the official “Red Carpet” area. I expected the people in bleachers and press, but it was that times ten. The press was three people deep with television cameras and interviewers. The bleachers were filled with people shouting and taking photos. This was far beyond a premier at Sundance. Who knew?

The nominees and presenters were in the first few rows and like an AIGA Gala, were all out of their seats talking to each other at every commercial break. The announcer began the countdown at 30 seconds and then said “5 seconds to the world.” I liked that. It was a good way to start.

I did my best to stay on top of things on Twitter, but it’s hard to be witty when you are trying to type and not have everyone around us say, “Well! How rude.” This show is a machine. The efficiency was incredible. Within the three minutes of commercial breaks, a crew of stagehands in tuxedos changed the sets completely. Presenters in dresses were helped down the stairs that looked perilous for presenters with high heels and lots of fabric. Most impressively, at the end of a commercial break when the announcer said, “30 seconds,” people got back in their seats. Try that at an AIGA Gala. Obviously, designers need to be commanded to sit down in 30 seconds over a loudspeaker too.

Now the other trivial issue in the back of my head was the valet. How were they going to return 2,000 people’s cars? Would we be there all night? And, I somehow lost my claim ticket. I’ve never done that in my entire life. Now in the most complicated valet situation possible, I lost it. Like the rest of the evening, though, it worked out beautifully. I told the valet, “It’s a Range Rover with an American flag sticker,” and in five minutes, they found it. Now real life kicked back in. Monday is an Art Center day, so I needed to prepare for class. I, also, didn’t want to eat at 10:30 at night, so we all passed on going out for dinner. At home, I had a bowl of tuna fish and 3 pretzels. Glamorous.

Security, valets

The Golden Years

One of the perks of being a designer is seeing your work in action. Over the years, like most designers, I’ve launched many identity programs. Some have worked flawlessly, meeting guidelines, but maintaining a sense of play and creativity. Other programs have been like slowly tearing off a scab. Everything is approved and ready to launch, but other designers refuse to adopt it. But, as I paraphrase, resistance is futile. I’ve documented these logos and systems with nice photos of stationery systems, signage, collateral, and websites. For the most part I’ve always been pleased with the result.

About a week and a half ago, the Academy held the 82nd Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon.  No, I was not invited, because I’m not a nominee. Soon thereafter, photos of the event started arriving. This made it clear that a logo looks much better when it is behind Meryl Streep. I was thrilled that the mark was there, and even more excited that it was handled well. It wasn’t squeezed to fit in the space. Doyald Young’s beautiful script “The” was intact. Even the correct gold was in place. Now I learned that logos look much better when you put well-dressed movie stars near them.

Negligees and Tragedy

I just received my Screening Schedule of Nominated Films for the Academy Awards. I immediately opened my calendar and began to determine which films I wanted to see. Of course, the films selected are all remarkable. They all share a clear vision, high production values, and world-class performances. But my taste in film, like my food, tends to be rather plebian. Maybe it’s my time warp problem that I somehow walk through life in a bubble of 1955.

Written on the Wind, directed by Douglas Sirk in 1956, is my idea of a film that has everything. If you ever watched Dynasty or Dallas you get the idea of the plot: big oil family, spoiled kids, hardworking good guy best friend, alcoholics, pregnant women falling down stairs, slutty bleach blonde sister, good girl trying to make things right. The Technicolor is extreme. I want my life to be lit like this. Everyone deserves blue backlighting, pink spots on the sofa, and fake dappled tree leaf shadows. The penultimate scene is a masterpiece of editing. Bad girl spoiled sister, Dorothy Malone, does the mambo in her room while wearing a negligee. She plays her record player at top volume, as her self-made hard working father has a heart attack and falls down the stairs. She was so good in this that she won an Academy Award. So I ask, why don’t people make films like this today? Groundbreaking CG animation is swell, but a mambo, negligee, and heart attack? Is there a better combination?