Saturday, February 23, 2013

Oscar Fever

Dear George,
Katja and I have come down with our annual case of Oscar fever.  We’ve been watching the Academy Awards faithfully every year for five decades, even longer than the Super Bowl and Miss America.  We take it more seriously than the latter because we’re such dedicated movie-goers.  I saw a recent survey which identified “frequent movie-goers” as those who attend 12 or movies a year.  We normally see at least fifty movies a year.  Consequently, we usually cover all of the Best Picture nominees and most of the actor/actress award performances.  Bob Hope was doing the sixth of his 18 master of ceremonies jobs when we started watching in the early 1960’s.  Our favorite host over the years was Johnny Carson, though we rated Steve Martin and Chevy Chase pretty highly too. 

Movies have declined drastically in sheer numbers over the years, and, aside from technical sophistication, I think they’ve declined in quality as well.  The Best Picture nominees fifty years ago in 1963 were The Music Man, The Longest Day, Mutiny on the Bounty, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Lawrence of Arabia.  I’m not sure any of this year’s contenders would even be included on that list.  Plus they say that the Oscar voting has become dominated by advertising, money, and politicking.  That could be why I usually don’t agree with the Academy’s choices. My two favorite potential Best Picture picks for 2012 (Moonrise Kingdom and The Master) weren’t even among the Academy’s nine nominees.  Of the nine films the Academy did wind up with, I thought Zero Dark Thirty was way ahead of the others, though it’s apparently not a strong contender, and director Kathryn Bigelow wasn’t even nominated.  I also disagree with the pundits’ opinions about the likely Best Actress winner (Jessica Chastain or Jennifer Lawrence).  Emanuelle Riva (Amour) is not only the oldest nominee in Oscar history (age 85), but Sunday’s Award ceremony will be on her 86th birthday, making her one year older than the Academy Awards themselves.  In my opinion, her blood-curling performance as a dying stroke victim had a lot more angst than all the other Best Actress nominees combined (who generally played unmemorable roles).

Because this will be the 85th annual award show, a lot of history has accumulated over the years.  Here are some obscure but interesting facts that I’ve run across:
·       Oscar’s name.  No one know for sure how the award statue got named Oscar.  The most common theory is that a librarian who worked at the Academy remarked on seeing the statue, “Why it looks like my Uncle Oscar!”  (6)
·       Oscar the winner.  Oscar Hammerstein II is the only person named Oscar who has actually won an Oscar  (for Best Song, “The Last Time I Saw Paris,” 1941).  (6)  
·       Model.  Mexican film director and actor Emilio "El Indio" Fernández posed naked for the sculpting of the Oscar statuette which was cast in tin and copper and then gold-plated.  (9)
·       Wooden Oscars.  In 1938 ventriloquist Edgar Bergen got an honorary Oscar that was made out of wood and had a mouth that could move.  (3)
·       Mixed Messages.  Hattie McDaniel was the first African-American performer to win an Oscar (Best Supporting Actress, Gone with the Wind, 1939).  Because of racism, she had to sit at the back of the room next to the kitchen.  (1)  
·       Plaster Oscars.  During World War II, because of metal shortages, the Academy handed out plaster Oscars.  They could be traded in for metal ones after the war.  (6)
·       Siblings.  The only brother-sister pair to have won Oscars for acting were Lionel Barrymore (Best Actor, 1941) and Ethel Barrymore (Best Actress, 1944).  (6) 
·       McCarthy Era.  In 1957 the Academy made a rule that no one who was a Communist could win an award.  The rule was repealed two years later after Senator Joseph McCarthy’s death.  (3)
·       No Popcorn.  When Ben Hur won Best Picture in 1959, the Academy prohibited theaters from selling popcorn and soft drinks because the movie was deemed so important.   (3)  
·       Barred.  In 1971 the Nixon administration blacklisted Vanessa Redgrave from the Academy Awards ceremony.  (3)
·       Substitute.  Marlon Brando refused his Best Actor award in 1972 for The Godfather because of discrimination against Native Americans.  A woman identified as Native American activist Sacheen Littlefeather collected the award for Brando and delivered a 15-page speech.  It turned out later that she was really an actress named Maria Cruz.  (6)  
·       Ad Lib.  When a naked man named Robert Opal streaked across the stage behind presenter David Niven at the 1974 ceremony, Niven ad libbed, “The only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping…and revealing his shortcomings.”  (6)  
·       Rated X.  Midnight Cowboy (Best Picture, 1969) is the only X-rated movie to win an Oscar.  (6)
·       Politically Correct.  In 1989 the phrase, “And the winner is…”, was replaced by “And the Oscar goes to…”  (6)
·       Family Lines.  Two famous Hollywood families can each claim three generations of Oscar winners: (the Hustons: Walter, John, Anjelica) and the Coppolas (Carmine, Francis Ford, and Sofia).  (1) 
·       Muscle Man.  When Jack Palance received his Best Supporting Actor award in 1992, he used his on-stage time to do one-armed push ups, then continued on with a rambling speech.  (5)
·       Youth.  The youngest male actor to win a Best Actor award was Adrien Brody in 2002 in The Pianist (age 29 years and 343 days).  (7)
·       Height.  The tallest actor ever to win an Oscar was John Wayne at 6’4” (True Grit, 1969).  (8) 
·       Drunks.  Denzel Washington (Flight, 2012) is the nineteenth actor nominated for playing a drunk.  (2)
·       Good Company.  Anthony Quinn has appeared in more movies (48) with other Oscar-winning actors and actresses than any other Oscar winner.  (3) 
·       Two-Timers.  No male actor has ever received more than two Best Actor awards.  There are eight two-time recipients: Spencer Tracy, Gary Cooper, Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson, Fredric March, Dustin Hoffman, Sean Penn, and Tom Hanks.  (8) 

So that’s some of the Hollywood story.  I hope everybody watches and their wishes come true.   And let’s be checking out those flicks for next year’s awards.

Sources: (1), “Oscar Trivia”; (2), “Oscar Trivia”;  (3), “Academy Awards Trivia”; (4), “Academy Awards Best Picture Facts and Trivia”; (5), “10 awful moments in academy awards history”; (6), “Academy Awards Interesting Facts”;  (7), “Oscar Trivia Quiz”; (8), “Oscar Trivia”; (9), “Academy Award” 

G-mail Comments
-Linda C (2-23): Love your movie information, so well researched and the kind of info i love knowing, not that there was a place for this, since I don't know if  nick  cage won an oscar . But he is a Coppola also.  I too far exceed the average moviegoer pictures seen in a year.  I'm going out on a limb here, because my Oscar picks aren't politically motivated but just who I think should win
Best movie. jingo
Best actor. Joaquin Phoenix 
Best actress. Forget her name, but woman from amour 
Supporting actor. White guy from jingo
Supporting actress. ???? Sally field
Best director . Amour.  Exquisite direction.
Costumes.  Anna karenin
Music. Can't decide
Hated wreck it Ralph , took twins at Xmas and they sat still and watched all of movie, I thought it was bad for kids
 Almost best
Beasts of southern wild
Helen hunt
??? Daniel day Lewis
The last quartet, not nominated but wonderful
Crazy king from Norway
Going to party, I'll see if I win ( really, not name of movie)
What do you think of my picks?
-Dave L to Linda (2-24):  Hi Linda,  I agree with almost all your picks.  I was torn between Django and Zero Dark Thirty for best picture, thought J. Phoenix was great, Amour lady (Emannuelle Riva) definitely the best.  I also enjoyed the crazy king, Southern beasts, Quartet, and all your other choices.  Movies are great.

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