Standing before a wall of wooden chairs and the half-interested students that occupied them, the professor of my intro level astronomy class was droning on about dwarf stars or nebulas.
It was my junior year at Indiana University, and though I am as curious as anyone about the birth and inevitable death of our solar system and all its inhabitants, my mind was elsewhere. I was having an epiphany, or so I thought.
Filmmaking, and not journalism, was my calling, I concluded, and it only took enrolling in this boring but academically necessary class with a bunch of hungover and possibly still drunk freshmen to realize as much.
They really ought to change the name of this class to “Figure Yourself Out While Some Guy Rambles on About Supernovas.”
I began writing short films and attending only those classes I believed had something to offer my new career path, such as the broadcast journalism class where they taught us how to use Apple’s Final Cut Pro.
In the months that followed, I made a few shorts, wrote a feature-length script about an ex-girlfriend and mailed it to her, landed myself on academic probation and spent many, many nights in edit bays on campus cutting together my films.
By the following semester, I came to my senses and realized the life of an aspiring director was no place for someone who had grown accustomed to luxuries such as food and electricity.
Looking back, my brief flirtation with filmmaking was a lot like someone opening a restaurant because they like to eat.
It might not have done much for my grades, but that semester did help enrich my appreciation of movies and the people who work so hard to bring us even the crappiest films. Yes, even “Transformers.”
Given that, it should come as little surprise the Academy Awards are always a special night for me as Hollywood honors the actors, filmmakers, editors, costume designers and countless others who brought us the year’s most memorable moments in film.
In honor of the Oscars, this week’s playlist features eight notable cameos by musicians in some of my favorite movies.
• Bruce Springsteen, “Brilliant Disguise” — For my money, there’s no better cameo than The Boss’ appearance in “High Fidelity,” plucking his Stratocaster and counseling John Cusack on how to talk to his ex-girlfriends.
• No Doubt, “Sunday Morning” — It was a stroke of genius casting former No Doubt lead singer Gwen Stefani as actress Jean Harlow alongside Leonard DiCaprio’s Howard Hughes in Martin Scorcese’s “The Aviator.”
• Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Higher Ground” — Before the Chili Peppers sprung onto the alternative music scene, frontman Anthony Kiedis appeared as surfer/thug Tone in Kathryn Bigelow’s “Point Break.”
• Motörhead, “Ace of Spades” — No cameo is more purely awesome than when Lemmy, cigarette in hand, exclaims “I was editor of the school magazine!” in “Airheads.”
• Alice Cooper, “No More Mr. Nice Guy” — Alice Cooper lecturing a stunned Wayne and Garth on the history of Milwaukee, Wis., is part of what made “Wayne’s World” such an iconic movie.
• Huey Lewis and the News, “If This Is It” — The least the makers of “Back to the Future” could do is give Huey Lewis a role as a snooty talent show judge given how huge a part of the film his songs are.
• Alanis Morissette, “Hand in My Pocket" — Alanis as God in Kevin Smith’s “Dogma” is one of the more fun and surprising cameos in recent memory.
• Tom Waits, “Hold On” — Iggy Pop and Tom Waits share cigarettes to celebrate that they quit smoking in indie deity Jim Jarmusch’s delightfully weird “Coffee and Cigarettes.”
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