Lights! Cameras! Action! Yes, today it is the world of movies…or, more accurately, the world of motion pictures, visiting Hollywood’s first museum celebrating film history, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. It almost sounds anachronistic, doesn’t it? We never say we are going to see a motion picture, just a movie or a film.
The museum opened in September after being in the planning and construction phases for many years. Our primary reaction after visiting all the floors and wandering through each and every exhibit is – the museum is much, much too small and too limited for such a vast subject. The history of the awards, and films in general, needs several large warehouses to do it justice. (Debbie Reynolds, who had one of the largest collections of movie memorabilia and costumes, stored it all in several huge warehouses. She had even offered the collection to the Academy of Motion Pictures, but they declined. So off to auction the items went, dispersing around the world.) This museum, then, is the merest of peeks. It does take on film’s early history, with some footage from the Lumiere brothers films of 1895 (in fabulous condition and clear as a bell!), and even showed early zoetropes, which were the beginning of animation. Where props, costumes, and innovative idea boards were displayed, they tended to be from the same nine or ten movies featured, a far cry from displaying more than 125 years of history. The museum does do a great job of providing film clips throughout, with numerous places to sit and watch. One of the most interesting was a 26-minute film put that was a compilation of sci-fi films, shown on a curved 180-degree screen.
We are horror and sci-fi fans, so we found that exhibit especially good. The clips were organized to show how different movies handled the same subject matter, such as space travel and the first communication between aliens and humans. In general, they became more sophisticated over time, but some earlier films, such as Metropolis, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and The War of the Worlds, were way ahead of their time. Metropolis, by the way, influenced many other films, such as Star Wars and one of our favorites, Blade Runner. That display reminded us of our visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, where they focused on who influenced who in musical genres. We felt the Academy Museum didn’t show enough of those lines of development.
There are fabulous costumes on display, with some shown below, and an entire room was devoted to the films of Pedro Almodovar, with multiple screens showing his films. So many big stars, past and present, were never mentioned! One room was showing the best of Academy Awards speeches, and while a few were really noteworthy, others were just okay. You have to stand to watch these acceptance speeches (or non-acceptance, as in the case of Sacheen Littlefeather, rejecting the award for Marlon Brando), but oddly, in the next room there are numerous sofas to sit on to look at static, small wall niches containing some older Oscars.
The admission price is $26 for adults, $19 for seniors. Adjacent parking was $18 for the day. Was it worth it? – is a question always asked. We would say yes, but only because we have seen, by our conservative estimate, about 20,000 movies over the past 20 years. This museum visit felt like a quick dip of our toes in the ocean. What was there was good, but not nearly enough. The other factor was the enormous amount of time to drive there, the only option in a mostly public transportation-free region of the world. The museum is located 38 miles from our hotel in Orange County, but took us more than 90 minutes. Where are all the millions of folks working from home??? NOT in California!