On this date in 2001, a major tragedy struck America in which two planes flew into The Twin Towers. From there, uncertainty arose and the future didn't look as optimistic as it once did. For many, it was a question as to when we could laugh and enjoy ourselves again. For the state of New York especially, the involvement of Mayor Giuliani was crucial and the weeks and months surrounding that day was bleak. Thankfully, with his involvement on a Saturday Night Live episode, the world was able to persevere. Even The Oscars had that same question arise when it came to their 2002 ceremony: should they continue? They did, with a few surprising, moving tributes to film and the state in general.
By the point that the 74th annual Academy Awards came around, a lot had been said about September 11, 2001. Many politicians and entertainers had made rousing tributes. There were benefit concerts and several songs commemorating the events. Film would take a little longer with The Academy not quite embracing the subject until 2011 with Best Picture nominee Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.
Still, what was going to happen when entertainment seemed at its most vulnerable? For the sake of the argument "If we don't, the terrorist win," it was to go on with the show. Many things changed however at that year's ceremony. The most noteworthy is that the red carpet became more selective. Where in the past it was open to the public, it was now done through a lottery system that also did background checks and significant body searches. It was also held at the Pantages Theater, whereas it would later move to the Kodak Theater in subsequent years.
With host Whoopi Goldberg, the show went on without a hitch. The major winner of the night was A Beautiful Mind for Best Picture. However, the first face that came to the stage wasn't one of a big, spectacular number. It was that of Tom Cruise to a bare curtain. As he stood there, he spoke the general sentiments of the nation when he claimed about whether they should go on or not. He spoke of his own relation with cinema and how it cheered him up in dour times.
Check out the video below:
The speech, which was written by Cameron Crowe, may be simple and familiar. Yet it was one that set an appropriate tone for The Oscars and the night ahead. As he smirked and expressed his underlying enthusiasm, he captured what made film in general potent. While what followed was a somewhat goofy and comparatively throwaway piece from documentarian Errol Morris, it was The Oscars doing what they do best: appreciating film. In a night that also included a performance from Cirque du Soleil, it was fitting to start small.
Then, the bigger tribute came later on with the appearance of Woody Allen. This remains a big deal largely because Allen is a notorious recluse when it comes to awards shows. He wasn't even present when his film Annie Hall won Best Picture. His frequency was so small that this'll likely be talked about just for the moment when he walks out on stage. With the crowd standing and applauding, it's as if welcoming one of the finest comedy minds of the era, even if his controversial private life was not too far from memory.
Check out the video below:
More than Cruise, Allen embodied a New York state of mind. Over his career, he was notorious for using it as a backdrop to his films. While he jokes that other artists such as Mike Nichols or Martin Scorsese would have been more appropriate, he took the job because of how much he loves New York. His appearance may be the biggest compliment, even if the ceremony took place in Hollywood, California. While he is merely a presenter, he makes the most of his few minutes of time on the show with his reliably neurotic banter about being strip searched and owing The Academy back their Oscars. It's comical and reflective of Allen's sharpness after all these years.
While the video that he introduced may have not been the most deliberate about 9/11/01, it was a montage about New York that appropriately opened with Manhattan and continued to include various classics that took place in the state. The montage was compiled by director and writer Nora Ephron, who also made a significant amount of films in New York.
Check out the montage below*:
*I apologize for the poor quality. It was the only available copy I could find.
Even if this was less than 15 minutes of the show's 4.5 hour running time, it reflected that no matter what, New York was important to the film world. Yes, the state was significant in many other more important ways, but the way that the state has been depicted on film remains integral to history. Even if the tribute may seem stock out of context, it definitely reflects the value that the state has and only continues to have in the 14 years since that fateful day. The landscape may have changed, but the optimism remains. After all, that's probably the most important thing of all.