Oscar Winners Viewed Through a Local Lens

 

By Ricardo Kaulessar

Riverviewobserver.netThe 86th Academy Awards will be held on March 2 to honor excellence in filmmaking during the past year.

But you may be thinking that the Oscars will be handed out in Los Angeles, and I am here in Cliffside Park or Bayonne. What connection does it have to me?

Actually, those towns as well as some others in northern New Jersey have an interesting association with Oscar history.

Bayonne

Whenever Bayonne is mentioned in any sentence regarding the movies, what should come to mind are two things: Tom Cruise and alien invasion.

Anyone who’s a fan of the 2005 blockbuster hit, “War of the Worlds,” will remember that Cruise’s character and his family lived in the Peninsula City before fleeing for their lives. Much of the Bayonne filming for the Steven Spielberg movie that earned three Oscar nominations happened in the area of First Street and Kennedy Boulevard.

Then there’s the 2006 film “The Wrestler,” starring Mickey Rourke as the title character, which earned Rourke an Academy Award nomination along with his co-star Marisa Tomei. The picture was filmed in such locales as the Color & Cuts Salon and the former Dolphin Gym on Broadway.

And don’t forget the Ron Howard movie, “A Beautiful Mind,” that won four Oscars including Best Director for Howard. The 2001 movie featuring Russell Crowe as Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Nash and his struggles with schizophrenia has some scenes shot at the former Military Ocean Terminal, now Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor.

Jersey City

A drive through the state’s second largest city can be a moviephile’s delight.

Start the trip at the old Jersey City Medical Center, now known as the residential development The Beacon, on the corner of Montgomery Street and Baldwin Avenue. The hospital’s nursing residence Murdoch Hall was used for the 1994 film “Quiz Show” starring Ralph Fiennes and John Turturro that earned four Oscar nominations including a Best Director nod for Robert Redford.

Next, stop at the intersection of Grand Street and Communipaw Avenue. Look in the direction of 731 Grand Street, now the site of an insurance agent’s office. But back in the late 1980’s, it was home to local favorite Brummer’s Confectionery, where Woody Allen filmed a scene for his 1987 film “Radio Days”. The movie earned Academy Award nominations for Best Achievement in Art Direction and Best Original Screenplay.

Finally, get over to Liberty State Park and just look out at the vast landscape. Then flash back to the “squid birth” scene that occurred in the Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones starrer “Men In Black,” and that the park is where it took place. The 1997 sci-fi flick won the Academy Award for Best Makeup, and was also nominated for Best Original Musical or Comedy Score and Best Art Direction.

Hoboken

A walk in Hoboken today does not resemble a trek across a rough-and-tumble town filled with dockworkers and other blue collar types.

It’s a good thing that the 1954 classic “On The Waterfront” exists. The film starring Marlon Brando as dockworker and ex-boxer Terry Malloy fighting an uphill battle against his union and the mob won eight Oscars including Best Actor for Brando, and more importantly, is a cinematic document of the Mile Square City as it used to be even though the movie is set in Brooklyn.

Some locations used in the movie that can still be found around town are Stevens Park on Hudson Street and Our Lady of Grace Church on Willow Avenue.

Cliffside Park

Everyone remembers the famous scene in the 1988 movie, “Big,” when Tom Hanks’ child-trapped-in-an-adult’s body is leaping back and forth on the oversized piano at FAO Schwartz in Manhattan.

However, does anyone remember where the Josh Baskin character lived?

As a matter of fact, it was Cliffside Park. Specifically, the homes for Josh and his friend Billy that are seen in the film are located on Greenmont Avenue, while the school that both boys attended is located on Oakdene Avenue, which in real-life is the site of both Cliffside Park School #6 and the Cliffside Park Middle School.

The movie was nominated for Best Actor (Tom Hanks) and Best Original Screenplay.

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