Honor. Recognition. Esteem. Validation for one’s craft.
Tedious. A popularity contest. Self-centered aggrandizing.
Regardless of which opinion, if not both, one might hold about the Academy Awards, the question is: Would you go if you were invited?
With perhaps the notable exception of best actor nominee and Ross resident Sean Penn (who may or may not attend), the answer is largely a yes among Bay Area locals who’ve been nominated in this 74th go-round of cinematic achievement.
Director Pete Docter (“Monsters, Inc.”)
Nominations for: Best animated feature film, achievement in sound editing, achievement in music in connection with motion pictures (original song).
This is trip two for the director, who showed up with fellow employees from Emeryville-based Pixar in 1996, when “Toy Story” had been nominated for best screenplay. He planned to wear the tuxedo he bought belatedly for the occasion. “We had all these formal events (for ‘Toy Story’), and right at the end I bought one — I have my own shoes now.” Docter may also don the fez again bearing a 3-D Pixar cartoon tyke.
Superstition barred him from giving away what he would say in the event of the win, but accompanying wife Amanda would be mentioned. “You have to thank the wives,” Docter says. In watching previous telecasts, “the wives rate the recipients by the way they thank their significant others or not.”
He and the others — including Pixar executive vice president, creative, John Lasseter — were scheduled to arrive in style as they did in 1996: in the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile.
Ralph Eggleston, above, (“For the Birds”)
Nominated for: Best animated short film.
The only arrangement the animator made was for an Armani tuxedo. “I actually went out and bought one,” Eggleston said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime event — well, I don’t know, I’m considering it a once-in-a-lifetime event.”
Nervousness should be allayed, since he’ll be with a contingent of Pixar co-workers, who are going to Los Angeles for “Monsters, Inc.” Although he hadn’t yet written out any acceptance speech in the week before Oscar night, he had his list of people to thank at the ready.
Eggleston did find a prescription for distraction from nervously awaiting the big night: work. “I’m so busy on our next project, it makes it a little harder to get nervous when you’re so busy.”
Justine Shapiro, B.Z. Goldberg (“Promises”)
Nominated for: Best documentary.
Even as their documentary about seven Palestinian and Israeli children garners international recognition, the bloodshed in the Middle East grows at an ever more furious, mutually destructive pace.
“We’re part of a big celebration,” Goldberg observed; “the place and people are going up in flames.” In the days before the ceremony, the Berkeley filmmakers — including Goldberg’s husband, Carlos Bolado — were raising last-minute funds to fly four of the children (now teen-agers) for the Los Angeles premiere, the Indie Spirit Awards in Santa Monica and for Oscar night. Two — Sanabel and Ziad — are both from the Deheishe refugee camp that has been in the news.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of interest in the kids,” Shapiro said. “With everything that’s going on right now, they’re going to have a lot to say about it.” The days leading up to the Oscars had been logistical chaos, coupled with the fact that Shapiro and Bolado have an 11-month-old baby as well. (Although Bolado worked on the film, Academy rules only allowed them to list two names for their nomination.)
“A lot of people think it’s so fantastic and glamorous,” she said. “Who’s got time to shop?” Fortunately, actress Debra Winger has been a “huge supporter” of the film, and on March 20 (Shapiro’s birthday), she arranged with a costume designer to meet with the filmmakers and the kids to help with their ceremony wear.
As for what they want to say should they win, Shapiro admitted that she cries so easily, there’s no point for her in preparing any speech.
“Tune in and find out,” Goldberg said.
Terry Zwigoff, Daniel Clowes, (“Ghost World”)
Nominated for: Screenplay based on material previously produced or published.
As has been the case with many men throughout history, Terry Zwigoff will be at the Kodak Theatre because of his wife, Melissa Axelrod. “She’s really excited about it,” he said in a pained monotone.
He and fellow nominee Clowes had directed their respective agents to find a suit or tuxedo, something very dark and conservative, “something Jay Leno would wear on ‘The Tonight Show.’ None of that double-breasted nonsense,” Zwigoff said. “I hate dressing up. It’s part of the pain.”
Meanwhile, Axelrod got herself a Halston. “I’m happy for that,” he said, although every award ceremony “costs me at least $300.” A designer loaned an outfit for Clowes’ wife, Erika.
Clowes, a graphic novelist living in Oakland, actually felt “vaguely comfortable” despite the suspense, because he’s convinced that they don’t have a chance. “If I thought we had a 1 percent chance of winning, I’d be catatonic thinking of what I’d be saying.”
For his part, Zwigoff would have been content to stay at home and, like past nominee Marlon Brando, “go and send some American Indian and make some political statement.” He has planned nothing to say, since “there’s no chance in hell I’m going up there — I’m not going to lug that home,” Zwigoff said.
The San Francisco resident admitted the nomination helps in getting work. While an Oscar nomination can be a once-in-a-lifetime event, “you can’t take this stuff too seriously. I’m going for (my wife). I hope she has fun. I don’t have fun doing anything, so why should this be an exception?”
Vera H-C Chan is the Times event editor. She can be reached at 925-977-8428 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.