From the frozen north to the red carpet

Two Sandpoint women attend the Oscars

By Sharon Lewis
Reader Contributor

And the winner is … Sharon and Justine for attending this year’s Oscars! 

Sharon Lewis and Justine Murray of Sandpoint attend the Academy Awards last week.

How is this possible? Let me explain. Justine Murray and I are avid movie goers and unapologetically love the Oscars. We live in a ski town, and yet, neither one of us ski. For us, winter is the season for movie watching, and we annually gather together with friends to dress up, drink champagne, fill out our Oscar ballots and watch the live ceremonies. A friend heard of our annual Oscar gatherings and mentioned this to his sister who works for the Academy Awards Association. Cut to opening scene, where Sharon and Justine’s jaws drop, eyes widen and hands cover mouth in disbelief when they learn they have been generously offered an unbelievable opportunity to attend the 91st Oscars ceremonies.

This was the start of a six-week journey that would lead us onto the red carpet this past Sunday. We were given lots of advice to prepare but my favorite piece of advice was, “It is impossible to overdress for the Oscars.” So, with the help of many family and friends (or dare I say “our entourage”) we booked our flights, found accommodations, purchased our dresses, scheduled hair and makeup and, voila, we were arriving at LAX the Friday before Oscars Sunday.

Friday and Saturday were spent with the fun and generous O’Leary family in Santa Monica. Many locals may know Jorge and Melissa O’Leary from their Beach House days here in Sandpoint, or perhaps you may know their son, Max, who attended school here and today roams the world as an internationally-accomplished trumpet player. On Saturday night we headed to Hollywood for dinner with our lovely friend from the Academy Awards Association and a lovely Swiss family who are red carpet veterans.  Our new friends fed us advice on walking the red carpet and how to be in the moment on the big day. We talked movies and shared diverse opinions on this year’s nominees among the clamor of this loud, bustling, popular Hollywood restaurant. Justine and I felt nourished and inspired as we fell asleep on Oscar Eve.

Sunday morning, we headed out for our hair and makeup appointments at Blo, a Hollywood dry bar. And by mid-afternoon Sunday, dressed and polished, we Ubered to the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, where we hitched a 5-minute golf cart ride to the Oscars venue. We could hear the excitement coming from the other side of a partition where we were dropped off, but we couldn’t see anything. As we walked the 20 steps before turning the corner, we recited our mantras, “We belong,” “Be in the moment,” “We got this.” Then we turned the corner just as Glenn Close arrived in her golden gown looking like a Hollywood Sun Goddess. We couldn’t help but be drawn to her light and follow her to what we didn’t realize was the nominee’s red carpet. Well, our mantras worked, because we stood in the nominee arrival area for 15 minutes before anyone thought to ask if we were nominees. We truthfully answered no and were politely directed to the end of the non-nominee line. But before our status depreciated, we watched as Sam Elliott and Katherine Ross mingled adjacent to us at the main entrance!

Cut to scene where Justine and Sharon successfully walked the red carpet into the Dolby Theatre, and sit in the upper balcony. The lights go down, the Queen music fires up and the entire theatre erupts like a rock concert. Stomp, stomp, clap. Stomp, stomp, clap. Rock on! All evening thrills were being tossed to us from the stage below; Olivia Coleman, Rami Malek and Spike Lee’s acceptance speeches, the wins for two shorts we saw at the Panida, “Period. End of Sentence” and “Skin” and the win for the documentary, “Free Solo,” a film that Justine brought to the Panida. And, of course, Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s “Shallow” performance was unforgettable. But hovering over us all evening was a feeling of awe for all the talent, commitment and creativity at the center of the cinematic storytelling we love.

I can hear the music telling me to wrap this up, but we would like to thank our local theaters and especially the Panida for showcasing so many brilliant films. And of course, we would like to thank our family, friends and the beauty experts that made our experience possible.  You know who you are!  

Oh, and we didn’t see Viggo. Darn it!  Maybe next time.

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