Fighting the Olympic Blues with The Oscar Wildes and Pre-Oscar Buzz

Paul Noonan of Bell XL

Do we really have to wait four more years for another winter Olympics?  Not having jewel-like Vancouver to turn to night after night for us in Los Angeles has been a little like tumbling off a ski ramp.  If you are looking to stay up in the air (no pun intended) a little longer, catch a little Oscar fever.  evening of cultural exchange, and after witnessing much friendly flag waving at the Olympics, I was curious to hear thoughts on cultural identity.  So I went to the Oscar Wilde awards, a pre-Oscar event celebrating the Irish in Hollywood.

 Seamus McGarvey (Atonement) and J.J. Abrams (Lost) received Oscar Wilde Awards this week at the elegant Ebell, home of an organization founded in 1894 by women for education and philanthropy.  Saoirse Ronan (The Lovely Bones) acceptedthe award via satellite.

I asked Seamus Mc Garvey about the need for culture in cinema today.  In a musical Northern Ireland accent he replied,  “If you come from a place spinning with nationalism, what’s important is to leap beyond that because cinema isn’t about flags or nationhood, it’s about what pictures tell people and nationalism simply contaminates meaning.  In terms of our relationship between America and Ireland, the less we use flags, the better the cinema. Cinema has no nation but the imagination.”

Likewise, the dashing J.J. Abrams commented, in a lilting L.A. brogue, “What’s obvious to me is that Ireland is a country that has created these amazing artists, storytellers, filmmakers and actors and often it seems like they are bigger than their country.  A lot of Irish stories connect to beyond what is Irish.  Of course you can have a story that is quintessentially Irish but I feel that in a way what is truly Irish will extend beyond all clichés and expectation.

Tom Cruise, in presenting the award to J.J. commented that “so many people want to be Irish and consider themselves Irish that growing up in America, being Irish is a state of mind.”  And author Colm McCann, in presenting the award to Seamus McGarvey, confirmed that “as far as the Irish were concerned, all you had do to be considered Irish was to fly over the place.”

For afters, Irish stew was served, Asian noodles and salmon, apricot pies, amazing chocolate covered cheesecake on a stick and of course, ubiquitous portions of Guinness. I spoke with Mark Murphy, executive director of Red Cat, LA’s avante garde theater, and he also lamented the fact that the Vancouver Winter Olympics had come to an end.  The Oscar Wilde’s had provided a delightful, if temporary, distraction.

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