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Oscar night minus one

In television on 02/27/2011 at 4:49 pm

I associate Oscar night with catty nattering about dresses, about the stupid questions asked by the gushy (and nervous, poor dears, but still) hosts of the red-carpet specials and cheering or damning the results of every one of the categories.

But my fave part of Oscar night, more often than not, is the montage to film people who have died in the past year. I could Google or Ping you a list of likely candidates right now, but I won’t because I want to feel the punch, and I do, of the passing of these people, big or small. I obviously love TV, and that is the raison d’etre for this blog, but I also love movies. I love how the words and the pictures take me away and sometimes how they make the world go away, which are not always the same thing. I love the darkness of the theatre, the smell of must and popcorn. I love the moment when the light drops and the curtains pull wider for the coming attractions. I love the art of opening and closing credits. I love it all.

Well, I lied. I will share one name that should be in the montage of dearly departed movie greats. Elizabeth L. Tomkins, nee Ross, my mum.

I watched my first Oscars with her and her onion-soup chip dip, a recipe for which you can find in the preceding blog post. And after I moved from Winnipeg to Montreal, if I couldn’t be in Winnipeg for the Oscars (and I would plan vacations that way as often as possible), I would call her at least a dozen times during the broadcast, sometimes just to say, “Did you SEE Geena Davis’s dress? OK, gotta go.”

The last Oscars we watched together was in 2009, via phone calls wedged into a live-blogging schedule that made exchanges even more abrupt. I tried last year, but she was then too tired to keep track of a whole awards show. We talked the next day and I barely swallowed the lump in my throat fast enough to give her a recap of what I was pretty certain by then would be the last Oscars she would be around for.

She died last summer of lung cancer and died in great glory, surrounded by family and having made her peace with every person she wanted to make peace with. It was like a scene from a movie.

I’ll be working the Oscars tonight, moderating a live blog featuring Gazette movie writers Brendan Kelly and T’Cha Dunlevy. Probably best that way. I’ll be too busy to reach for the phone to make the call I can no longer make.

But when my fave moment comes and all the dearly departed movie stars and writers and directors and such are honoured, I’ll imagine her face on the screen, another lost story teller.

Denise Duguay


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