Idol Chatter

seanpennpic.jpgThe Oscars is one of the most inspiring nights of the year when the ceremony is done well, and I’m not sure I can remember one done better than last night’s event. It was quick, witty, fresh and, interestingly enough, spiritual. Here were the top moments I saw for spiritually-minded people.
Hugh Jackman’s opening number: I believe the saying that “excellence honors God and inspires people,” and Jackman was truly excellent. He sang. He danced. He was gently comedic but not forced. He gave a crowd expecting a good looking showpiece a show they couldn’t have expected. Most of all he was confident within his skin, a great lesson for the young–and the young at heart–that we are at our best by being the best version of ourselves, rather than trying to be someone else.
Dustin Lance Black’s speech: As the Best Screenplay writer of “Milk,” he was articulate in his profession of God’s view of gay people. “To all the gay and lesbians that have been told that they are less than by their churches and by the government or by their families, you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value, and no matter what anyone tells you, God loves you, and someday you will have equal federal rights across this nation of ours.” I don’t agree with his view of God’s view, but his articulation and conviction was to be respected. I do agree with one thing he said: “God loves gay people.” I happen to believe He loves all people!

Bill Maher, producer and star of the documentary “Religulous”: “Someday, we all do have to confront the notion that our silly gods cost the world too greatly.” Again, a nice use of the freedom of the mike, but, really, who made Bill Maher the expert on it?
A.R. Rahman, my new favorite preacher! His simple benediction: “God is Great,” in the language of his own faith, after winning for “Slumdog Millionaire’s” original score. Then he ran off the stage to trade his Oscar for a microphone to sing the first of the nominated “Best Song” nominees. Finally, after winning a second Oscar for the Best Song, “Jai Ho,” he said “The essence of the film is about optimism and hope in our lives. All my life I’ve had the choice of hate and love, and I chose love, and I’m here. God bless.”
Remembering those whom we lost: Queen Latifah’s speech said “they’re not really gone–they’re around us, everywhere we look.” It was poetic, as was her song, “I’ll be seeing you in all the old familiar places.” But the spiritually-minded person must ask: where is their soul, right now? And where will ours be when we’re passed, like those many this year who were Done Too Soon, including Bernie Mac, Van Johnson, Michael Crichton, Roy Scheider, David Watkin, Richard Widmark, Isaac Hayes, Ricardo Montalban, Charlton Heston, Sydney Pollack, Paul Newman, and Heath Ledger.
The glorious pairings of five actors and actresses, supporting actors and supporting actresses in the presentation of the acting awards: It gave it a gravity–and a gravitas–that elevated the moment higher than in any year before. Unity is a glorious and spiritual thing and to see the giants of the industry standing in formation was powerful and un-egotistical. And the blessing they spoke upon each of the nominees was the kind of coronation that, for most of the nominees, was probably more powerful than the Oscar itself. Men saying “bravo” to other men, and women saying “you were incredible” to their peers, is almost tear-jerking. It was that warm, and that good, and that spiritually empowering.
Sean Penn’s acceptance speech: Penn’s speech was filled with humor and humility. “You commie-homo-loving-sons-o’-guns,” was his greeting. “I do know how hard I make it to appreciate me, often,” he acknowledged as a confession. He acknowledged Mickey Rourke who “rises again.” Then he referenced the signs of hatred, made a political statement about the state’s ban on gay marriage as well as a nod to our President, and seemed to find enough agreement in the room to have gotten away with it. The only bummer was that he completely neglected to mention his bride, Robin Wright Penn. Bummer.
Slumdog Millionaire: The whole Best Picture cast–many of whom came across the world to be there–became the most unlikely and star-less winner of the Best Picture Oscar since “Chariots of Fire.” As their acceptance speech said, “we had passion and we had belief,” Even Hollywood was able to look past some serious films about serious themes (Homosexuality, Holocaust, Abuse by Priests, Watergate, etc.) to nominate and then crown “Slumdog Millionaire” as its champion of the year.
I think Hollywood feels better about itself today. I hope spiritual themes find their way into more and more movies.
Hugh Jackman at

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