EVERY YEAR, THE ACADEMY AWARDS REMIND ME why I fell in love with the movies. When I was young, movies drew me closer to my family, particularly the devil-may-care Irish side, including my maternal grandmother and a handsome, reckless cousin. In those days, an old movie was the perfect companion for a gloomy afternoon, when the world reverted to black-and-white. And the classic films of the 1930s and ’40s were already relics when I first saw them on TV, grainy reflections of Hollywood’s golden age.
My grandmother lived with us when I was a kid and would often call downstairs, asking if I’d like to watch a “picture.” Nana, once divorced and once widowed, was a frail but feisty woman with orange-tinted hair who liked to play the horses up at Rockingham. Her television, a huge Magnavox, was one of the few items she’d brought with her after the death of her second husband. We’d chat about the old film stars while she perused the racing form, blowing the smoke from her Pall Mall out the window.