When we put our initial LA list together in the top 5 was the Academy of Motion Pictures museum. I have watched the Oscars every year of my adult life and have followed closely the Academy itself has it has tried to diversify and remain relevant in today’s world. A few years ago they started talking about a museum and I was very excited because the history of motion pictures is very interesting to me.
The museum itself was a little difficult to find actually and doesn’t have it’s own parking garage. We ended up parking across the street at the Peterson Automobile Museum which is across the street and walked over. We found the right building but had some difficulty finding the right door but eventually made it in. The museum took over a large department store and they stripped it so inside it has a warehouse feel. The lobby itself is huge and has restaurant, bar, and gift shop.
I am going to say right up front that I was pretty disappointed. The good news is the museum is only 14 months old and is still figuring out what it wants to be. There were large sections of space that had TV screens with movie clips and then other sections where a big topic was jammed into a small section. I get it, the Academy covers a lot of topics but almost all of them in my opinion were done somewhat poorly. There were a couple of stand outs though and the $25 ticket was reasonable enough that I was still glad I went.
There are basically 4 floors and each floor has sections but they didn’t really follow a pattern as far as I could see. I will just show you the sections as we saw them but don’t expect any kind of an historical flow. Actually I would have been fine with each group of awards having its own section, but it didn’t seem grouped that way either. If it was again didn’t make much sense to me and I follow the Oscars pretty closely.
The first section really bothered me because it was a collection of movies showing diversity. Since I am very aware of how much of a struggle diversity has been in the nominees and winners I truly though this was somewhat disingenuous. That being said I saw the look on an Asian person’s face in the Bruce Lee section and they seemed deeply moved by it.
The next section was actors and actresses accepting their awards and again diversity was stressed. They had a display with VERY small print showing year by year but it was too much to read. I did enjoy some of the acceptance outfits in this section in particular the dress Halle Berry wore. I vividly remember how emotional her speech was so that was nice to see.
Then they had a special exhibit on The Godfather which was actually one of the coolest things we saw. It had costumes, scripts, a mockup of the horse’s head, and the desk The Godfather sat at. If more of the museum was like this section it would have been terrrific.
Next was the costume area and this was one of my top two favorite. Actually they called it the Identity Area and it included costumes, makeup, prosthetics, and wigs. Very well done. I don’t know if they let the costume people design this section but really they should let every area be designed by the experts in that area.
Like I said some section were good others were not. The stories area for example just had some TV screens with clips.
The animation section was ok but again I think this could have been much better. I did like that Merry Melodies was included.
The special effects area was really disappointing. It was very small and really insufficient in my opinion.
That being said the next section was around world building and science fiction and it was fantastic. They had R2D2 and C3P0 along with lots of other models for created characters. For me this was worth the price of the ticket and I particularly loved how it was dark but the lighting made it easy to take really good pictures. Extremely well done!!
The most disappointing thing was that we spent an extra $15 on the “Oscar experience”. Basically you get to hold an Oscar and they film you accepting. The clip (which is less than 15 seconds) is then emailed to you. And there is no sound. The whole thing was somewhat cheesy and not worth an extra $15 in my opinion.
Another really good section was about the history of black cinema. This was extremely well done and I saw several people of color deeply impacted by what they saw. I was shocked that when some of the early vaudeville people of color were filmed they had to wear blackface. Insanity. They also had quite a bit about Josephine Baker who made movies in France because she didn’t want to deal with the discrimination in Hollywood. My absolute favorite exhibit was the tap shoes from the famous Nicholas brother from Stormy Weather. I actually almost got in trouble because I got too close when I tried to take a picture. That piece of history was very special.
As wonderful as that exhibit was the next exhibit was the impact of women on Cinema and it was dismal. Really so bad it made me angry. All there was was one small picture for all of these ground breaking women. Really upsetting.
Finally there is an open air area where you can see the city. This is used as a venue area and I appreciated the view.
Finally I went to the gift store and I was super disappointed. All I wanted was a miniature gold statue I could get my grandkids but they didn’t have them despite the clerk telling me there was a ton of demand for them. I know I have been really tough in this review but only because I think this museum has so much potential. I really hope the academy doesn’t let politics get in the way of this museum reaching its full potential.
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