is the grass any bluer...

is the grass any bluer...
on the other side?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Oscar Night Shows Polish and Shine -- and I Get A Pleasant Surprise!

by Kim Thomas

Although I have mixed feelings about the results, I thought last night's Oscars presentation was one of the best ever. Sure, Hugh Jackman is no David Letterman, but he proved he's not your every day actor, that's for sure, by dancing and singing his way through the show.

Seems as if the Oscar producers enlisted the help of some good writers, and despite a few stumbles, I think for the most part, the dialogue between and amongst the presenters showed some polish and shine, as my Ace Weekly Editrix likes to say.

The most surprising moment for me, however, was at the beginning of the show, as I was blithely tweeting back and forth on twitter with my tweeples (heh) about the Oscars. We were dishing about all the red carpet thrills and frills, when suddenly I heard the name "Courtney Hunt" being nominated for Best Screenplay. I put down my mouse and turned up the volume at that point, because Courtney and my sister, Kelli, were best friends when they were children. They'd met in Memphis and stayed in touch through the years, so I knew she had won a Sundance award for her short film, Althea Fought, a few years ago, but I had no idea she had not only written Frozen River, but it was her directorial debut as well. What a treat it was to know that Courtney still has the blue eyes, the tumbled blonde hair and wonderfully wry view of life that she did back in 1976 when she and Kelli used to run and laugh through Audubon Gardens and Colonial Country Club.
Years later when she visited Lexington, we somehow wrangled back stage passes to see her idol, Billy Joel perform at Rupp. I'll never forget how happy she was to meet him, she was still just a kid but with those bright eyes and quick humor, I knew she would go far. It is also hard to forget her loyalty. When my parents passed away, Courtney was the first friend on the scene to hold our hands and make sure we were all okay.
So, to see Courtney last night being honored for her work just tickled me to death. I am so proud of her, and I know her husband Donald and daughter Wilder are too! Showing a creative talent early, Courtney and Kelli wrote dozens of songs when they were only 13, and to our collective delight, they would put on 'concert shows' for everyone in the house. My favorite was their country ditty called, "Come On Over Here, Good Lookin' Lifeguard!" I'm chuckling just typing those words, in fact.

Apparently, however, these days Courtney has earned the title of "Little Miss Darkness." Karen Schoemer of New York magazine writes, "Hunt’s on a bit of a crusade when it comes to makeup, and more generally, most movie depictions of working-class women. “People are so jaded at this point by seeing only beautiful, big, toothy smiles,” she says. “Even if the characters are dirt-poor and desperate, they’re gorgeous. I guess I’ll be struck dead for saying this, but I didn’t like Erin Brockovich. I feel like we don’t have to seduce everybody every moment.”

"Hunt has another bone to pick with Hollywood about depictions of violence. "I don’t like big, huge violence,” she says. “I find it hard to believe. It’s all choreographed. Real violence is small. It’s messy and inaccurate. People try to shoot somebody and wind up shooting their own ear off.” When the director staged a fight between Ray and her Native American smuggling partner, Lila (played by newcomer Misty Upham), she let it happen in a spastic, awkwardly angled way. “Lila whacks Ray in the head, and Ray’s head is bleeding, and she’s like, ‘Bitch!’ That’s what fighting is, in my mind.”

Schoemer also observed, "Hunt, 43, grew up in Memphis and Nashville, raised by a mother who was married at 18 and divorced when Courtney was 3. Isolated and struggling, her mom took refuge in film. “I saw Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore when I was 11,” Hunt says. “I related to everything in that movie. I was living with a single mother, she was making it the best way she could. It was not pretty; she’d have boyfriends, and maybe they’d be nice and maybe they wouldn’t.” Her mom eventually worked her way through law school, and after college, Hunt followed her path, despite realizing only a couple of months in that a law career wasn’t for her."

It's always nice to see that some things never change. Every time I hear her voice, I think of all the times Courtney made me laugh, and alas, she also made me cry, describing how she and her mother Sally struggled over the years. She seemed to find peace, however, once she went away to Sarah Lawrence, met Donald, got married, passed the bar exam, and then her precious Wilder was born (on September 11, 2001, in New York, bless her little heart). As a survivor, as a woman with an independent spirit, as a mom who will teach her daughter that nothing can stand in her way, she's an inspiration to all of us. Good for her for not bowing to the trends and attitudes of what is thought to be ideal for Hollywood. Applause and accolades are all yours, Courtney -- the Independent Spirit is alive and living after all!

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