Sonoma’s Oscar Awards

Roll out the red carpet, get on your designer duds and pause, pivot and pose for the paparazzi – Oscar is back.

As in years past, preceding the big to-do on Sunday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences separately celebrated scientific and technical achievements in the film industry with its so-called Sci-Tech awards. This, of course, was conducted in another (cheaper) ceremony a few weeks ago and honored the part of the biz most likely to have sprung from the AV Club. Yeah, missed that one too but glad to know the high school social caste system persists.

For those not attending the actual Oscars, our local Sonoma International Film Festival annually hosts an Oscar party sure to be every bit as glamorous as its inspiration (this year it will be hosted at Estate, visit for details), which, given the surprisingly high number of Oscars gracing local mantels is tantamount to the real deal and you don’t have to play cruise director on someone’s ego-trip for an invite. However, there’s no local shindig for achievements that fall outside the purview of the Hollywood popularity contest. Nor are there Oscar categories reflective of the Sonoma experience itself – not the “wine, cheese and retirees” scene often identified with the area, but the daily grind of Sonoma living that gets the terroir under one’s nails.

Consider these local achievements not coming to a theater near you:

The award for “Best Set Direction Evoking a General Sense of Dilapidation and Corporate Absenteeism” goes to (drum roll) McDonald’s on Sonoma Highway. Local lore suggests that an arch meant to span the highway as a “gateway” to the Springs was kyboshed by the state highway system, though pedestrians can pass through a smaller, “consolation arch” on the highway’s eastbound side. It’s ironic that a sign with a pair of Golden Arches and a gaping hole kicked through them currently greet travelers to the west side. Congrats, Mickey D’s! Be sure to reference how you ruin both “waistlines and sightlines” in your acceptance speech (there, I just spared you a c-note to Bruce Vilanch).

The nominees in the category of “Best Obligatory Right Turn” included, – facing south – “First Street West to Napa Street” and – facing north – “First Street West to Napa Street.”

This was the first time that a single street has enjoyed two nominations for right turns traveling in opposite directions. Another nominee, “Verano to Fifth Street West” was disqualified when it was discovered that it was actually a left turn from Fifth West to Verano and technically a bend rather than a turn. The statue went to “First Street West to West Spain,” which accepted the honor with the pithy “Two wrongs don’t make a left, but three rights do.”

The award for “Best Special Effect on a Manhole Cover” went to Sonoma Court Shops, which is studded with several such bronze-hued medallions, each of which are generically branded save for one that mysteriously reads “Santa Rosa Transit.” Surely, no one would venture to a transit mall 20 miles away and man-handle a manhole cover from its native habitat and transplant it to sparsely traveled Sonoma walkway where it would go unnoticed for years. This is clearly the work of a special effects wizard who effectively retouched the once-bland manhole cover to appear as if it were displaced from some far off land. Bravo! The magic of movies lives not only in our hearts, but under our feet.

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