02/19/2013 02:59 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Celluloid Patriotism in the United States of Oscar

I'm a product of the VHS generation. The world was at my mom's Blockbuster card fingertips. Family can't go to an actual movie-movie? Pop that film in the VHS player and boom. I was obsessed (like this level of obsessed). Everything that's great about TV but longer and better quality? And somehow the people were prettier and more sophisticated? Sold! Needless to say, while my brothers watched Saved By the Bell, I re-watched Beetlejuice (miss you Geena Davis!).

"Wow, I'm surprised, I didn't expect this. Of course I'd like to thank the Academy, because like (holds up Oscar) duh! And my parents for having sex that night (audience laughs). Pretty much everyone I've ever met in my entire life (more laughter). But seriously, this is for every gay, hungry, black, Asian, inner-city kid who has a dream. Thank you (applause, H. Alan exits the stage)." - my Oscar speech

Do I even have to tell you that Oscar season is my favorite time of year? The excitement starts in September when the first round of "Oscar" movies are released, leading up to the big night in late February. It isn't the competition of the season that excites me, it's more pure and simple than that. It's because the season is all about film!

I have this friend who jokes that his middle name is "I haven't seen that." First off, that's a weird middle name. Secondly, when he says this, almost always in reference to a film I mention, it's like a dagger to my heart. How can one go through life not seeing movies just 'cause? Or at least how can one just casually admit to their cinematic ignorance without a little shred of guilt? Movies, though popular worldwide, are very much an American art form. Hashtag PATRIOTISM. It's "Hollywood" all across the globe. The importance of this most vital American export is like a postcard to the world saying, "This is us, the quality of work we do, and sometimes we hang out with aliens." I hear him say, "I haven't seen that," but what I really hear is, "I hate America."

I'm a gold star film fan. I see it IN. THE. THEATER. Nothing compares to actually (more like "satisfactually") going to a movie theater. Strangers sit together, watch the same thing on an extremely huge screen, all reacting to the same thing at the same time. Still, even with all these same things they're all samely seeing and doing together, everyone leaves with a vastly different interpretation of what they just saw. Genius! Let's review.

The first film I saw in theaters was Rain Man. I was six. I didn't follow the story, didn't understand what was wrong with Dustin Hoffman, but I knew I was watching something good. And even though I didn't understand why Tom Cruise's character had to say goodbye to his brother (Hoffman), I cried. Then I looked up to my father and saw tears. If the movies could make my stern German father cry, then that's some powerful shit.

Let's revisit 1992 shall we? This year sticks out as particularly good one for the moving picture. Michelle Pfeiffer deserved an Oscar nomination for Batman Returns (I mean, HELLO!). Mention A League of Their Own to my little brother and he'll bitch about how often I made him reenact certain pivotal scenes from the film (especially this scene -- BTW, I'm super gay!).

So in 1994, my full-on movie obsession hat on, I watched the Oscars for the first time. I saw this little girl hyperventilate on stage after she won her Oscar for The Piano (Anna Paquin -- she's gonna be big guys), and then Tom Hanks basically said, "It's okay if you're gay," when he won for Philadelphia. Yeah, that was all I needed to get hooked.

Next year I had memorized all the major Oscars ever given out. #truth

Seriously, quiz me.

My first date with a girl happened at Father of the Bride Part II. When I stood up, it looked like I shit my pants -- but no worries, just Junior Mints that missed my mouth during the movie that melted between my legs making their mark. In unrelated news, this was also my last date with a girl.

Over the years more milestones. I saw Interview with the Vampire by myself (at 12, thanks Dad). My Mom took me out of school to see the first showing of Home for the Holidays (had a thing for Jodie Foster, still do, and yes, I always knew about her, and she's still "coming out").

In 1996 my family went to see The Birdcage, and I was like NO no no no no no. I'm thinking, this is a gay film, I'm gay, they're going to find about me. Turns out -- they frickin loved it, A LOT! It also turns out that they love me, A LOT!

As I got older my taste in films broadened. Seeing Hedwig and the Angry Inch at 16 changed what I thought it meant to be an artist. Turns out it's okay to be weird, really weird. It also inspired me to get my first job at -- are you ready for this -- an independent movie theater. I started watching foreign films like The Bicycle Thief, with it's last few moments of that little boys face frozen in my mind forever; seeing Night of Cabiria was like everything in my world suddenly didn't make sense after witnessing (no, feeling) the kind of pain Giullietta Masina's conveys on screen. Pedro Almodóvar . Yeah. I mean, there are no words for Almodóvar. In fact, he deserves a paragraph all to himself.

This is Pedro Almodovar's paragraph. I will not, because I cannot, tell you how amazing this man is. I can't. No words. Moving on.

But wait.

There was one moment where my love of film almost ended. 1997, when my big happy MORMON family decided to see Boogie Nights. We're sitting there, smiley and Mormony, and Julianne Moore tells Mark Wahlberg, "Just take it out and cum on my tits." At this point, I whisper to mom, "We should go!" Thrifty Midwesterner that she is, she replied, "No, we paid for this, we're getting our money's worth. How much worse can it get?"

We all know how much worse it got. In an effort to try and save the situation, as we exited the theater, my mother says to my brothers and I, "Boys, look at it this way, having a large penis only leads to a life in pornography and drug use, you should be proud of your small penises."

Film has been the touchstone for so many events in my life, from seeing my father cry for the first time, learning my family could potentially accept me for who I am, that it's okay to be a weird artist, and to always speak your objections when you know Mark Wahlberg's dick is going to make an appearance. It's these experiences, and the ones I continue to have, that shape my appreciation for the movies. As the Oscars approach, I'll eagerly wait to hear who the winners are that I'll need to add to my memorization.

Now that you know I know things about things, feel free to agree with my picks for who I think will win -- and who I think SHOULD win -- at this year's Academy Awards:

Best Picture



The best thing that ever happened to Ben Affleck was not getting nominated for Best Director. The results of which almost surely get his film the Best Picture Oscar (and my personal award for "Oh My God I can't look you with that beard, my loins are on fire, please, call a fireman, better yet, get Ben Affleck to come dressed as one -- or find one dressed up LIKE Ben Affleck -- PUHLEASSSE!")


Best Actor

WILL WIN: Daniel Day-Lewis

SHOULD WIN: Daniel Day-Lewis

Pretty sure that in 10 years Daniel Day-Lewis is going to tell Oprah he used performance enhancement drugs during the filming of Lincoln, but until then, he gets to keep the gold man.

Best Actress

WILL WIN: Jennifer Lawrence

SHOULD WIN: Jennifer Lawrence

She brought Hollywood a lot of money this year (Hunger Games), is young, talented, this is her second nomination, she's funny, slammin' bod, has appropriately negotiated having some level of humanity in a town full of drones -- I could keep going but I think you see my point.

Best Supporting Actor

WILL WIN: Christopher Waltz

SHOULD WIN: Christopher Waltz

All the nominees have won at least once before (twice for De Niro, but fuggetaboutit). My money is on Waltz because this is the only clear Oscar Django has, whereas Lincoln, Silver Linings, Argo and maybe The Master all have better shots in other categories.

Best Supporting Actress

WILL WIN: Anne Hathaway


Love Anne Hathaway, but I hate Anne Hathaway, you know what I'm saying? She's talented and probably deserves it, but like, give Amy Adams something already. She did the Muppets movie, it's her fourth Oscar nomination, she had to jerk off Philip Seymour Hoffman in the movie AND used to work in dinner theater. She deserves the base of an Oscar, the nameplate, just something already!


Best Director

WILL WIN: Steven Spielberg

SHOULD WIN: David Russell

This is a tough one, because Spielberg pretty much has a lock on it. But historically when he has a lock on something (The Color Purple, Saving Private Ryan) he either isn't even nominated or it hurts the film elsewhere. Which is why I think Lee or even David Russell could sneak in there and pull a Jurassic Park dinosaur smack down on Spielberg's momentum.

That's a wrap. And this February 24th at 8 p.m. EST -- you know I'll be hashtag live tweeting the #Oscars. Dream that dream with me at @Halanscott.