ABC, Feb. 26, 9:02 p.m.
If you care to remember them at all, you may remember that this year’s Academy Awards had a clear theme: the magic of the movies. The Artist’s best picture win, recall, was a foregone conclusion, and the only movie to come close was another movie about movies, Hugo. These two love letters to the cinema each scored almost twice as many nominations as any other film.
Of course the Academy picked up on this theme and bashed us over the heads with it, so maybe that’s why you remember it. Desperate to preserve their art form in the face of Breaking Bad, they kicked off the night with a long montage about the “the magic of the movies,” which was introduced as such by Morgan Freeman and featured a cameo from Justin Bieber. Then they re-emphasized the theme with a series of talking-head interviews with nominees, who revealed their earliest “movie moments.” Never afraid to be themselves, the actors responded with such childhood favorites as The Godfather, Paper Moon, and—who could forget?—Goodfellas. Both George Clooney and Viola Davis were struck at a young age by the family film Network. Bérénice Bejo chose “Laura from Otto Preminger,” and Nick Nolte gargled something about Dr. Strangelove.
But there was one moment that truly captured the magic of the movies: Brad Pitt talking about the War of the Gargantuas. The late-1960s Japanese monster movie, as the four-time Oscar nominee explained, was about “the good Gargantua and the bad Gargantua” (that were, of course, huge guys that warred against each other). But was War of the Gargantuas even a real movie? Part of what made this moment wonderful is that no one knew what Pitt was talking about. Even Pitt seemed unsure, referring to it only as being called “The Gargantuas … I believe.” Was he making fun of this whole thing? Was he making it up?
But the real magic came a second later, as Pitt explained, “At the end of it, the good Gargantua had to [pause] sacrifice himself [pause] to defeat the bad Gargantua and rid the world of evil.” There is a lot to unpack here, but what’s most important is that, as Brad Pitt recalls this moment for perhaps the first time in years, he is sincerely moved. When those two guys fought in giant moss-covered gorilla suits, and the one moss-covered gorilla-suit guy mimed giving up his life to defeat the other moss-covered gorilla-suit guy, it really stuck with him. In fact, it moved him so much that he dedicated his life to the movies. He still remembers it fondly 40 years later.
I still have questions about this moment. For one, before he talked about the ending, did you notice there was an obvious edit? What did he say that they cut out? Did he summarize the whole plot of the War of the Gargantuas? But above all I will remember how Brad Pitt managed to say more about the magic of the movies than anyone else that evening. That if a fight between two poorly costumed monsters could make someone love the movies so much that he pursued acting, that the movies would be safe. Sometimes the true magic of the movies is two guys wrestling each other in monster suits.