Oscars by RI

The 2016 Oscar ceremony thrown by the RI International Film Festival was filled with surprises, drama and excitement – and little of that came from the Oscars themselves.
There were beautiful gowns and dashing tuxes, and awards were handed out to several well deserving local filmmakers, most notably Mauro Coangelo, a local composer now scoring films on an international stage; and producer Chad Verdi, known for a series of horror films (Self Storage, Army of the Damned) and more recent dramas, including the highly anticipated Vinnie Paz story, Bleed for This. Filmmaker Martin Scorsese (yes, the one you’ve heard of, Director of Goodfellas and a dozen more of the greatest movies ever) took a moment to congratulate Mr. Verdi on the award by teleconference.

The event is sorted a bit oddly – those whose tickets included a mean ate on the stage among the giant screens, while those with non-meal tickets sat far above in the balcony – and essentially spent a solid part of the evening watching the eaters eat. Beside this detail (almost everyone in attendance was among the dining population, and I fervently hope the non-diners snuck down to the stage for at least a little while to socialize, show off their stunning gowns, and sneak off with a drink or two), the evening was filled with graceful greetings, spry hosting by RI Film Office Chair Stephen Feinberg, and our own local version of those Oscar acceptance speeches.

But the bizarre highlight of the evening was when the award for local cult filmmaker Richard Marr-Griffin was announced. Known for schlocky, funny and often outrageous horror films (Nun of That, Atomic Brain Invasion, Disco Exorcist), Mr. Marr-Griffin’s speech was highly anticipated, and it would be no surprise if he transcended some of the usual boundaries of propriety at a formal event. However, at the moment he was invited to the podium, a fire alarm went off, with a resounding, commanding robot voice that ordered all present to leave the building immediately. Everyone ignored it, waiting for the punchline to what seemed like an elaborate gag. But after a few minutes, the robot was still yelling and there was no punchline. People went outside, still speculating about the nature of the alarm. But it turned out to be a genuine fire (George Marshall of RIIFF was told by the Vets staff that it was a small conflagration in a kitchen three floors above).  The confusion was exacerbated by the fact that Mr. Marr-Griffin had needed to leave the event earlier in the evening.

Although it might sound like an interruption, the incident was mostly a fun way to get everyone out of their seats, socializing and postulating. It even happened between courses. So in the end, all was well.

Suggestions for future years? Let the non-diners come down and join the fun somehow – and find a way to integrate the actual Oscars into the evening – maybe a pool where participants can try to predict winners and score prizes, or something like that. And finally, keep giving Richard Marr-Griffin awards until something normal happens as a result. Or 2050, whichever comes first.

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