There was nothing odd about the great white limo parked in front of the paparazzi-lined red carpet, except for the fact that the carpet led up to the Shapiro Campus Center. Its not the Kodak Theater home to the Oscars but it got to live the dream for one night. And with stars like Jesse L. Martin, from Law & Order and Rent, and S. Epatha Merkerson, most famous as the longest running cast member still on Law & Order, the dream wasnt half bad.
The SunDeis Red Carpet Awards Ceremony began in true Brandeis fashion: more than fashionably late. The delay was, however, understandably due to some of the special guests belated arrivals. When the show finally got rolling, it began with none other than one of Brandeis own big names. When Anita Hill took the stage, she was warned that the orchestra had full permission to start playing if she used up all of her allotted time, and thus, she kept her welcome short, sweet, and full of Brandeis pride. Id like to say that from here the night went off without a hitch, but with a event only in its third year and the technological difficulties that always seem to crop up here, it wasnt exactly smooth sailing.
The ever-popular Alwina Bennett was unfortunately locked in a meeting during the ceremony, and missed her chance to present the first award of the night with Scott Edmiston. She also missed a joke about a torrid love affair between a gay cowboy and the Assistant Dean of Student Life.
Celeste Holm was also unfortunately missing when the time came for her to receive her Lifetime Achievement Award. Holm, best known for her Oscar-award winning role in Gentlemans Agreement and Oscar-nominated role in All About Eve. Yet the show must go on, and Scott Feinberg 08 said that they would show her film montage and hope for her speedy arrival. To add insult to injury, the montage of Holms work experienced technical difficulties. Luckily, by the end of the evening, the bad karma had balanced out and Ms. Holm appeared to quickly accept her award.
Fellow Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Margaret OBrien made for a smoother part of the evening. One of the most famous child actresses, best known for her role opposite Judy Garland in Meet Me In St. Louis, spoke about her love for her career and acknowledging the importance of hard work and higher education. Part of her speech felt like a pat on the back to every college student, which isnt a bad thing.
Yet, when Jesse L. Martin took the stage, it was all over. He and S. Epatha Merkerson literally, figuratively and completely stole the show. He began by teaching the audience how to pronounce his co-stars name (E-pay-thuh), then mentioned that on the way to pick her up, he got into a car accident – and it just escalated from there. Among other things, he also reminisced about the day he started working on Law & Order, when his sole thought was that he would be working with Reba the Mail Woman from Pee-Wees Playhouse.
And what did Reba, a.k.a. S. Epatha Merkerson, have to say about that? Following a brilliant introduction in which Martin at one point referred to her as the best curser hes ever known, she showed that she would not be out-done. She said that she had to share he tale of how she thought Brandeis was Barnard and got a little shocked when she realized that she couldnt just call her good pal Jessie L. Martin to go uptown with her and pick up an award before dinner. A part of me wonders how these two celebrities ended up coming here.
Being star-struck wasnt the only fun of the night. With the big names, the emphasis on the student filmmakers appeared to be lessened. As Best Picture winner Kai Jae Wang from Emerson College said when Jessie L. Martin and S. Epatha Merkerson left the stage, thats a tough act to follow. However, the students and their work were always highlighted. Of the forty-one films submitted this year, a majority of winners came from BU. Jeff Arak 07 represented Brandeis finest work as the Best Brandeis Picture winner for his Voice Through Film. One student, Best Documentary winner Aaron Faulls, got on stage and was so excited that all he could say was this is really freaking cool! The combination of student enthusiasm and charismatic guests made for a good awards show mix.
John Krokidas, a director who accepted the Special Award for Outstanding Achievement on behalf of his absent stepfather Jeremy Leven, summed it up best namely, that to succeed in filmmaking, you have to be willing to fail and be turned down a lot until that one opportunity that launches you. Its good advice, even for those of us who could never actually throw away a solid job and run away with the dream of making movies.