Teaser 309: Best Picture’s the One for Me

I have no clue why the Academy chose Jennifer to present the award for best picture, except the previous year she starred in a popular Hollywood movie and was nominated for best actress, though she didn't win. They often have nominees from one category present another during the Oscars show, but they usually don't throw someone in as presenter who has a rather strong relationship with any of the nominees. Considering there were a large number of independent theaters all over the world which chose to run The True Cross again since I was a nominee for three awards and Jennifer was a nominee for best actress, it certainly was fresh in everyone's mind concerning the most daring couple in recent movie history. In any mainstream movie no other man and woman had acted together in as many bold and revealing scenes as Jennifer and me in probably the last ten years, if not more. Since neither of us ever expressed any reservations or embarrassment and we both were still very good friends, even though our paths rarely crossed, left most in perpetual disbelief. Usually, a high level of unrestrained nudity often produces some later regret by participants, but neither Jennifer nor I ever, publicly or privately, expressed any.

Jennifer once commented in an interview, “Today, I'd never do it, but I don't have to, I have no interest in doing those kinds of scenes any more, and my personal life has changed considerably. But, if I had to go back with a large number of choices, I'd still only do it with Gregory, the man who is now Al-Barrak. I would only do those kinds of scenes with him, because I do remember being on that set, how nervous we both were, and how Gregory himself turned it around to one of my fondest memories of being on any set at any time. I can't say that about anyone else.” When I was told her comment by a reporter and asked for my thoughts about it, I responded, “Now, I would never do it either, not with anyone. But, like Jennifer said, if I had to go back, I'd only do it with her, and for all the same reasons she gave. If there was another I might consider, she would be Serena, but she was married at the time and it would have been awkward, at least for her. I still would have made her laugh doing three guns. It may have been nervous laughter but it still counts in my book.” That's why I had no clue. Being the professional she is, though, I expected Jennifer to retain reasonable detachment, and the whole time she was up there on stage, she made every effort to avoid catching my gaze. She knew exactly where I was sitting.

Interspersed through the later awards, the major ones, they showed clips from each of the nine nominated for best picture, each clip presented by Jennifer. Maybe they chose Jennifer to encourage her to make a comment, maybe even discussed it with her and included it, because when she got to Myth of Man and Woman, Jennifer read the list of producers as she did for all the nominees, and I listed my name last. Jennifer read the others, paused very briefly and stated, “And Al-Barrak...that name sounds so familiar. I believe I've seen that man somewhere...” There were snickers in the theater. She added in a much louder tone, “Up close and personal!” The whole place erupted, Jennifer wore her smug smile, looked right at me, quickly blew me a kiss and remarked, “Those are the producers. Let's take a peek at Myth of Man and Woman.” I write “maybe,” because Jennifer insisted she improvised and has never told me different, but it sure seemed she was still engaged with the teleprompter. I'll take Jennifer at her word. Her actions told me a different story, the little tease.

Different from all the other clips, they ran a montage of songs throughout the movie. I was certainly impressed, especially as well as the sound was reproduced in the theater. Almost every one of them featured me, and they included my slamming the guitar during This Ain't No Game. I sensed much of the crowd enjoyed this clip more than the others, even though there's always been a kind of undercurrent of distrust and disrespect between members of the music business and those of the movie business. I never gave it much thought and always dismissed it as irrelevant. “I'm an entertainer. Both are elements of entertainment and the entertainment business and the artistic world in general. I don't get hung up on who is more relevant. I don't care about it.” I had received many comments of admiration from members of both areas. They didn't seem to care either.

Recalling my thoughts when the show had finally reached the last award, I was thinking Jennifer was a good decision for presenter. She didn't deliver a hyped, overly exuberant prelude. She merely stated calmly the words as they scrolled over the teleprompter about the variety, diversity, and the like of all the nominees together. Jennifer paused, looked down as she lifted the envelope, opened it with ease, and in a very understated fashion, read, “Myth of Man and Woman.” This was followed, as she had to shout now since the entire theater was filled with shouting and applause, the list of producers while we all stood and filed out to the aisles. Bruno, Rebekka, Jan, Jeremy, Lena, most in shock, and I made it slowly to the stage. I was on occasion mugged by friends and close acquaintances near the aisle, and I noticed as the others reached the stage they were presented with their Oscar prop by one of the stage people. Jennifer, though, took the last one from the young man and held it for me. When I reached Jennifer, I took it from her hand, and she immediately threw her arms around me and kissed me hard and full, released me and smiled big and wide as she stepped out of my way.

Everyone had voted for me to give the acceptance speech, again, so I reached the podium and had to wait nearly a half minute for the place to calm down. I spent the time glancing around at familiar faces and either smiling or winking. When it lowered to a mild roar I shouted, “Calm down, heathens!” This provoked more laughter but it soon grew quiet. I held the Oscar at a level above the podium and stared at it for a moment. “You all know I don't care about awards. You've heard me say it many times. This one doesn't change my opinion either, but if there was an award this fine Academy can present, best picture's the one for me, because it's the most democratic of them all. Everyone gets to vote for best picture! With eight others I understand the likelihood is most of you voted for the competition, but enough of you voted for our picture over the others and that's how I'll remember it, that when it came to all of you what we did meant something special to you. I thank you. I thank all of you for this resounding recognition. Peace be upon you all!”

Often, after best picture has been awarded and the speech has concluded, they let the winning producers mingle on stage until the network goes to break. It always depends on the production and whether the show has run long or not. Jennifer advised all of us we should stay on stage until they break, which is what you saw. What you couldn't hear was Jennifer, when she stepped up close to whisper in my ear. “I saw them all, Al, and yours was the best movie this year. When I saw it in a theater I was thrilled, and I fell in love with you all over again, even dreamed about you again. I can't take any more of these, so please never make another movie like it ever again.”

I looked at her with mock incredulity. “You didn't wake up with the sheets damp, did you? What did your husband say?” Jennifer, naturally, whacked my left shoulder, thus sparing my right shoulder, the one which never heals. Apparently, it didn't deter her or her husband from attending our after-party and all had a good time.

- Just Desserts, Segment Thirty-NineDeflection” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021

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