A lot of attention has been paid to Melissa Leo's choice of words (well, one word in particular) while accepting the award for Best Supporting Actress during Sunday's Academy Awards. By far the most expressive speech of the evening, she can be credited with providing a refreshing flash of reality in an otherwise scripted and predictable awards show. Before she unleashed the mighty F-Bomb and captured the hearts and minds of viewers across the country, Leo was an Ulster County fan favorite.
You see Leo just happens to own real estate in Stone Ridge, a small yet progressive town in the picturesque Hudson Valley. Stone Ridge enjoys a central location within Ulster County, making all the neighboring towns like New Paltz and Kingston just a short drive away. Known as a quieter (and often less expensive) alternative to the bustling New Paltz, Stone Ridge has always been a desirable area within Ulster County real estate. These days it seems that everyone in Stone Ridge has a story about a Melissa Leo sighting. Residents gathered around their TV's on Sunday to root for the local girl. Most Stone Ridge natives I spoke to simply laughed at her choice of vernacular, refusing to let one little (albeit powerful) word take away from their moment of Ulster County pride.
Recognized for her gripping performance as the matriarch of a troubled boxing family, Leo is no stranger to the Academy Awards. In 2009 she was nominated for Best Leading Actress in her role in "Frozen River" which is a fantastic film worthy of any Netflix queue. She lost out that year to Kate Winslet, but the caliber of her work leaves no doubt that she is one of the best leading actresses of recent times. Backstage she apologized for her colorful language but she needn't have done so. Rather, Ulster County and in particular Stone Ridge couldn't have asked for a cooler and more appropriate representative: extremely talented, refreshingly unique, and fully prepared to drop an F-Bomb if need be.
Melissa Leo was not the only person from the Hudson Valley region being recognized last night. Mark Ruffalo, nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role in "The Kids Are All Right", owns real estate in neighboring Sullivan County. He lost out to Christian Bale in a tough, stacked category but this Upstate New Yorker's achievements didn't end there. Mr. Ruffalo is also credited for his work in promoting the documentary film, "Gasland" which was nominated for Best Documentary Film.
"Gasland" sheds light on the frightening practices used by natural gas companies to extract gas embedded in underground rock. Mark Ruffalo says he dedicated himself to the cause when he learned that the drinking water in Sullivan County is threatened by these practices. The threat comes full circle to Ulster County, which rests upon a massive shale range that natural gas companies are just itching to start drilling into. "Gasland" also stars none other than New York's own Democratic Congressman Maurice Hinchey, who although not nominated for an Oscar, is due a round of applause for his real-life role as a staunch opponent of natural gas. Unfortunately Ruffalo and "Gasland" did not win last night, but simply being nominated is an amazing accomplishment. It is also a tremendous service to the Hudson Valley region to call attention to this urgent issue.
In the end the big winner of last night's Academy Awards was the Hudson Valley. Upstate New York and in particular Ulster and Sullivan county had some admirable representation. Although far from the bright lights of Los Angeles, the Hudson Valley region had some significant contributions to the show. Melissa Leo set it off with an F-Bomb, and Stone Ridge officially was in the house! How cool is that?