Recently, I got to check out the new Academy Museum Of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles. Believe it or not, it’s the first museum dedicated to movies in Hollywood (the closest type of museum like this in the USA is the Museum Of The Moving Image on the completely opposite coast – Astoria, Queens) and it, largely, did not disappoint.
How an item gets included in the museum is a bit unclear since the main theme of the museum seems to be the Oscars, yet there were several artifacts from films such as Midsommar, Dolemite Is my Name, and The Big Lebowski, which never received any Oscars. However, it was still cool to see them included. The museum begins with the first exhibit, “Stories Of Cinema” which the museum describes as “an immersive, multi-channel media installation” that chronicles the history of film. However, it was basically just a montage of movie clips throughout history with the sound jumping from one screen to the next. In a museum dedicated to film, I’d prefer to see what I haven’t seen or what I haven’t seen up close, instead of an entire exhibit dedicated to why I’m here in the first place.
However, the next exhibit is where the museum really shines, which is a collection of props, equipment, costumes, and more from some of your favorite movies. A cool artifact is one of the surviving Rosebud sleds from Citizen Kane on loan from Steven Spielberg as well as the original ruby slippers from The Wizard Of Oz. One of my favorite exhibits was the Spike Lee room which featured props from his movies, Mookie’s shirt from Do The Right Thing, and even movie posters signed to him by other directors. The museum is big on equity and spotlighting underrepresented groups in films and a fascinating exhibit is on Oscar Micheaux, an African American director who made more than 44 films in the early 1900s using all-black casts – something unheard at the time, since all Hollywood movies were made up of white casts with black actors only playing maids and servants. Personally, I didn’t know that such films were made and would love to see Spike Lee or another black filmmaker take on his life story for a movie one day.
My only problem with the museum was the so-called “Oscar Experience.” For an extra fifteen dollars, guests can simulate what it’s like to win an Oscar, and it’s all recorded and edited into a video that’s immediately sent to them. Sounds pretty cool, right? As I walked through the museum I heard guests remarking that they had heard it wasn’t that great. I later discovered they were right. First, I was unable to remove my mask for the video, which kind of devalued the experience. I was confused as to why because you needed to be vaccinated to enter the museum and you’re alone in the room in which they record. However, I wasn’t going to argue with them and, ultimately, knew they’re just trying to make everybody safe. Second, the experience itself and the resulting video were underwhelming. All you do is hold an Oscar in front of a screen playing a clip of people applauding for you. And the video they send you is a mere 14 seconds. The experience is an interesting concept as everyone dreams of winning an Oscar, but it doesn’t seem to be thought out entirely.
It’s hard not to love a museum dedicated to film. Being a huge movie fan, it’s easy to gaggle at all the wonderful props. Hell, I got excited just seeing the lenses that shot Citizen Kane. There should be more museums dedicated to film because these pieces are a part of history. They may not be important artifacts like what we find in the Natural History Museum, but they are cultural artifacts that should be shared. It may not be the first fork but movie props do mean something to people and we should be given more access to them. I hope that as years go on the exhibits change and more material from films are shared with fans and respected for the historical pieces that they are. It’s strange it took this long for a movie museum like this to open in Los Angeles, a town built on the film industry, but I’m glad one exists to celebrate the great moving miracle known as film.
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