The Academy Museum in Los Angeles

For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed watching the Academy Awards on television every year – filling out a ballot (sometimes with a little wager involved), having a party, and dishing with friends and family starting with the red carpet arrivals through the bitter end of a ceremony that usually ended late enough to make getting up the next morning on Eastern time challenging. So when I heard that the new Academy Museum was opening just before a planned trip to Los Angeles, I purchased required timed tickets. And when I saw there was a virtual experience where you get to receive an Oscar, well, there was no way I would pass that up! I usually blog about NYC, since it’s where I live and work, but who doesn’t love the movies? Since it’s a new museum, it might help others to see my experience of visiting the Academy Museum in October of 2021.

We are still dealing with Covid, the first step was to show proof of vaccination and get a wristband showing you had been checked. Masks are required at all times as well. Then another check in to prove the timed tickets and get a second wristband to allow access to the areas of the museum beyond the ground floor, which is free to enter. The outside of the museum is gorgeous, the site of an old department store in a classic mid-century LA style. Behind it, a fabulous new annex holds theatres as well as an outdoor domed space with panoramic views of the Hollywood Hills – including the sign. To avoid having others in my photos, I went straight up to this level at museum opening.

This area is breathtaking, and I have no doubt that this part of the museum is going to become an iconic part of LA. To get from the main building to this area, you cross over the Barbra Streisand bridge, just past a display honoring women in the film industry from the early days to the present.

Hanging from above, a model of “Bruce,” the shark from Jaws . . .

There will be some permanent exhibitions, and other temporary ones. There is a temporary exhibition now that allows you to enter the world of Hayao Miyazaki. No photography was allowed in the exhibit, requested by Miyazaki, but it was delightful. In addition to storyboards, videos, and details about how films were made, there was a place to recline and look up to a beautiful animated sky, and another to rest under the lighted tree spirits of Totoro.

On the same floor, you could see a zoetrope with a scene from Toy Story. A zoetrope illustrates how individual photos (or in this case, actual figures) can give the illusion of continuous motion (see the entire sequence here.)

Another exhibition highlights the importance of backdrops, using the famed fake Mount Rushmore backdrop for the end of Hitchcock’s North by Northwest. The exhibit also uses this as an opportunity to explore the issues involved with the monument itself and how it has been viewed by Native Americans for whom this area was of significant religious importance.

Another exhibition explores the development of moving pictures, from early attempts of entertainment using shadow play, through magic lanterns and peepshows through the Cinematographie Lumiere, the first successful film projector.

The foundational exhibit at the Academy Museum is Stories of Cinema, and it spans three floors of the main building. Items on display here will likely change over time, but are guaranteed to deliver an almost-overwhelming “wow” factor!

These artifacts generally need no description whatsoever, but there is always interesting background information included.

There were several “Rosebud” sleds used for the making of Citizen Kane, but several had to be burned for the final scene, so this remaining one is certainly one of the most famous artifacts at the museum.

There is a room with famous Oscars, and, poignantly, an empty space for Hattie McDaniel’s Best Supporting Actress award from 1939. She had to sit separately from the rest of the cast of Gone With the Wind because of segregation, and her Oscar has been lost.

There is also a room featuring Oscar acceptances, with a rotating series of videos of famous acceptance speeches.

Perhaps THE most famous display shows the ruby red slippers worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz. This display is surrounded with a wealth of other items from the movie.

The two gingham dresses, one in sepia tone and one in color, were used for the scene where Dorothy transitions from the real world, in sepia, to Oz, in color. Shot in one continuous scene, a stand in for Garland wore the sepia dress, was shown from behind, and opened the door. At that point Garland, wearing the blue dress, stepped into colorful Oz.

Spike Lee has loaned the museum his extensive collection of memorabilia.

Hitchcock’s Psycho is one of my favorite films, so I particularly enjoyed this shower scene storyboard and other materials, including Hitchcock’s own first edition of Robert Bloch’s book.

There is an elaborate display of movie costumes in one room (here, from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Jordan Peele’s Us, and Rocketman).

The gift shop has an abundance of unique items. I like the logo on their tote bags, hats and shirts, featuring the look of the outside of the museum. There were paper clips shaped like Oscars, and even candles that supposedly evoke the scent of different movies scenes and types (POV: You’re the Villain was my favorite trope if not my favorite scent!).

And what of the OSCAR EXPERIENCE???? Well, I loved it. The staff helping explain the procedure remained in character, congratulating me for my win. You basically get to come out, look out to a full audience and pick up a real Oscar, and get a video of the experience afterwards (see mine here). I really found myself surprisingly thrilled by the experience (the tech person watching me from outside the filming area told the person I was with that I was channeling Sally Field, lol). Well worth the extra $15 to me – and when I win a real Oscar one day, maybe I will have learned to play it a little cooler . . .

If you want to visit the Academy Museum, get timed tickets and more information here.

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