"Megastar Matthew McConaughey could not have been more charming as he accepted the 2015 Celluloid Hero award at the New Orleans Film Society's gala Saturday evening (March 28).
Haloed by pink and blue spotlights, in the yard of a Garden District mansion, the Academy Award-winning actor (for 2013's "Dallas Buyers Club") noted that he has had the pleasure of living in the Crescent City several times during the past few years, owing to a string of cinema and television projects (including HBO's "True Detective"). He said that residents are always appreciative of a celebrity in their midst, but they also are willing to let him go about his business without undo fuss...
"First of all what a big, beautiful mess it is," he said to an explosion of applause. "Cheers to that.
"I said this a few years ago. Someone said, what is New Orleans like? I said New Orleans is like a giant flashing yellow light. Proceed with caution ... but proceed. It is not an overly ambitious place, and that's being complimentary. It has a great identity, and, therefore, it doesn't look outside itself for intrigue, evolution or labels of progress. People here are proud of their home. You're proud of your Crescent City. You know your flavor. It is your very own. And if people want to come taste it with you, you welcome them with open arms. But you do not solicit.
"The hours trickle by here. Tuesday and Saturday are more similar here than any other place I've ever been. The seasons slide into one another without any status quo. Yes, it is the Big Easy, home of the shortest hangover on the planet, where libation can greet you on Monday morning with the same smile as it did on Saturday night.
"OK, (it's) home of the front porch. I don't know if y'all recognize this: it's home of the front porch. Not the back porch. Everyone everywhere else has back porches, alright. The back porch is something different. The front porch is an engineering feat that lends (itself) to so much community around here and fellowship. Private property and lines of demarcation all lend across borders. Here you relax facing the street. You face your neighbors. You do not retreat into the seclusion and privacy of your backyard. No, you engage with the goings-on of the world that is in front of you. It's a great engineering feat that you've pulled off here. It really is.
"What's my alarm here? My alarm here is church bells, sirens and a slow-moving, $8-an-hour carpenter nailing windowpanes two doors down. That's a good alarm. Do not honk your horn in a traffic jam here.
"You do not sweat the misdemeanors, and, since everybody's getting away with something anyway, the rest of us just want to be on the side of who's getting away with it. And if you CAN get away with it, good for you. You love to gamble. Rules are made to be broken, so do not preach about abiding. And, hey, if (they) don't get away with it, you're probably gonna let them slide anyway.
"Where else do the dead rest eye to eye with the living? New Orleans is a right-brained city. Do not come to town wearing your morals on your sleeve unless you want to get your arm burned. Yes, it's oil and vinegar, but somehow they mix. The poverty, the humidity, they both gracefully suppress all the rationale. And if you're crossing a one-way street, it is best to look both ways.
"Mother Nature rules around here. We all know that. (She's) the natural law queen who reigns supreme. She's a science to the animals, yet she's an overbearing and inconsiderate b---- to us bipedal humans. But here you forgive her and you forgive her quickly. You have to. Cause you know any disdain for her wrath is going to reap more wrath, more bad luck, more voodoo and more karma, so you roll with it, ... actually you meander rather slowly forward taking it in stride and never sweating the details."
"See, the art is in the overgrowth here. Mother Nature wears the crown around here. Her royalty rules. And unlike in England, she has both influence AND power. And, like the most authentic European cities, you guys don't use vacuum cleaners to give structure to anything, you use brooms. You use rakes to manicure, because everything here lends it soft edges. Everything.
"Where it falls is often where it lays, the swerve around the pothole, the duck beneath the branch, the poverty, the murder rate, all of it is just how it is and how it turned out. Just like a good gumbo, the medley is in the mix.
"Thank you, New Orleans; thank you, Louisiana. (I) appreciate it, hear. Cheers."