It feels like I’m always talking about the Oscars and other awards shows. Is there nothing else going on in the movie world? Well, the answer that question is largely no. The number of movies released in January 2010 in Brisbane has been tiny. In fact, there have been just 12 in all. The last time there were such a low number of releases was in January 2002 (also with 12). I don’t why studios aren’t trying to movie a few releases forward to fill the gaps. Here I am, hungry to see and review plenty of movies.
Why I Love The Oscars
Even since I became a movie buff, I’ve always loved the Oscars. People often ask me why. Some see the Academy Awards as a pompous excuse for stars to dress up and pat each other on the back. Don’t forget the parties!
For me, the Oscars are about more than that. I believe that in any profession, recognition of good work is important. It gives us something to strive towards. It sets a benchmark for how high we can achieve. In sport, there are prizes such as the Brownlow Medal, the Allan Border Medal and the Dally M Medal. Outside of the sporting world, I can quickly name of the Booker Prize, the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prizes. I don’t even need to think this broadly. We can be recognised within our own workplace with simple things such as cash bonuses, time off and staff awards. It’s just what we do.
The Oscars are no different. A group of roughly 5,000 people (made up of a wide range of movie related folk) sit down and pick the best films, the best performers and the best craftspeople of the year. Yes, there are some voters who don’t see all of the possible films and that annoys me. It’s a flaw within any such system. But for the most part, the Academy know what they’re talking about.
I often disagree about their choices (such as Crash winning over Brokeback Mountain) but that’s just how it is. You’re best to look at it from a positive perspective - when you scan through lists of previous winners, a lot of great movies and a lot of great performances have been recognised. Winning an Oscar can launch a career and it can also provide a fitting tribute at the end of one. I’d love to be on the list of winners!
I also admit to liking the suspense. Once the nominees have been announced, the actors go to a variety of functions and take advantage of the moment. Everyone wants to know them. Everyone wants to be them. They can take a month to soak it up and celebrate their success. Then, the night arrives. We see all 5 acting nominees in little windows on the television screen. The winner’s name is announced. Four people try to look happy. The other is overcome with emotion. Music is played as the winner walks to the stage and they get just under a minute to say something meaningful to an audience of a billion people. Kind of neat.
Also making the Oscars special for me was a Who Weekly competition I entered in 1995. There were 10 categories and you had to pick the winner of each. The best score won a year’s free movies at Birch, Carroll & Coyle Cinemas. I deliberately didn’t listen to the results during the day so I could watch it when I got home that night – as if it were “live”. I can still remember being at the video store (where I worked) when Restoration won best costume design. That was the first category on my ballet and yep, I got it right. By the time midnight came around and Braveheart won the best picture honour, my entry form was full of ticks – 10 out of 10. I won the year’s worth of free movies and within a year, I had become a “critic”.
10 Great Oscar Moments
I’ve got a lot of great memories from the Oscars. For everything post 1994, I saw it on my television screen at home. For everything else, I’ve scoured the interweb looking for old tapes and footage. Not all of my favourite moments from the Academy Awards are online but I’ve picked out 10 really good ones to share with you. I’ve provided the Youtube link and a little blurb on each. This is why I love the Oscars.
1969 – It’s A Tie For Best Actress!
In the history of the Oscars, there has only ever been one tie in a major category. It happened in 1969 with Katherine Hepburn and Barbara Streisand tying for best actress. Hepburn’s win made her the first actress to win three Oscars for leading role performances. She did not attend the ceremony (she never did actually – with one exception) but Streisand was on hand to collect her prize. I love the look of shock on Ingrid Bergmann face as she opens the envelope and realises it’s a tie.
1985 – Geraldine Page Wins Best Actress
In terms of actors, Geraldine Page was Oscar’s biggest loser. She’d been nominated 7 times without success. That changed in 1985. In an incredibly tough category (which included Anne Bancroft and Meryl Streep), Page finally won and received a standing ovation. It took her a while to reach the stage however. Accustomed to losing, Page wasn’t even wearing her shoes when her name was read out. It took her a few seconds to “get ready” and ascend the stairs to receive her prize. It was her final nomination and Page died two years later.
1993 – Marisa Tomei Wins Best Supporting Actress
I don’t think there’s ever been a bigger upset than Marisa Tomei’s win in 1993. It spawned an urban legend that presenter Jack Palance read the wrong name and that no one corrected him. Many wondered how she was even nominated. She didn’t receive a Golden Globe nomination and wasn’t honoured by a single group of critics. She was up against Miranda Richardson (who won the BAFTA), Joan Plowright (who won the Golden Globe), Australian Judy Davis (who won almost every major critics award) and Vanessa Redgrave (a previous winner). How did she do it?
1995 – Anna Paquin Wins Best Supporting Actress
I love a good upset. In 1995 at the age of 11, New Zealand born Anna Paquin upstaged favourite Winona Ryder and won the Oscar for best supporting actress. Her reaction of hearing her name says it all. I love co-star Holly Hunter’s reaction too. It all came as such a shock. Once she composed herself on stage, Paquin gave a short, elegant speech. It was very touching.
1998 – Ben Affleck & Matt Damon Win Best Original Screenplay
They were expected to win but it was still great to see Ben Affleck and Matt Damon take the Best Original Screenplay Oscar in 1998 for Good Will Hunting. They were both struggling for work and had written the screenplay to help land them a job. Studios liked it but were reluctant to let them star in it as well. It look much persuasion but they got their wish. The film earned Gus Van Sant his first nomination for best director and Robin Williams finally won an Oscar after three previous nominations (also a great moment). Affleck and Damon accepted the award from the great Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon (who sadly are no longer with us) and their careers took off in the year’s following their success. Also funny about this clip is the fact that Minnie Driver (a nominee for the film) had recently broken up with Matt Damon. You can see her (in the red dress) looking rather annoyed at their win as they walk to the stage. Sour grapes!
2000 – Michael Caine Wins Best Supporting Actor
Michael Caine won an Oscar in 1986 for Hannah And Her Sisters but was not able to attend the ceremony. In 2000, he was the auditorium to collect his prize for The Cider House Rules and he gave a beautifully moving speech following a long standing ovation. He’s a gracious person and a classy guy. I loved this film and was thrilled to see him honoured.
2002 – Woody Allen Tribute To New York City
Woody Allen is one of my all time favourite filmmakers but despite have received 21 Academy Award nominations, he has never attended the ceremony. It’s just not his thing. He did make one exception though in 2002. He wasn’t nominated that year but he turned up to pay a special tribute to New York cinema in the aftermath of the events of September 11, 2001. He was as funny as always. God, I love Woody.
2003 – Adrien Brody Wins Best Actor
I’m particularly fond of this memory since I had a lot of money on Brody at good odds. He was up of best actor against four guys who had all won previously – Jack Nicholson, Nicolas Cage, Michael Caine and Daniel Day-Lewis. The ultimate underdog, his wonderful performance in The Pianist was recognised. As he arrived on the stage, he embraced Halle Berry (who was presenting the award) and it has gone down in history as a classic Oscar moment. An hour later, Roman Polanski won the best director Oscar for the film – still one of the biggest Oscar shocks in recent memory.
2006 – Meryl Streep & Lily Tomlin Pay Tribute To Robert Altman
Robert Altman was a brilliant filmmaker who was nominated 5 times for the best director. Sadly, he never won. In 2006, Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin gave a beautifully funny tribute to Altman and his style before awarding him an honorary Oscar. The moment has an extra poignancy because Altman died later that year. It was the last chance for the Academy to recognise him and they did it in style.
2006 – Crash Wins Best Picture
I hate to end on a bad note but this is a memory which will stick in my head for a long time. Brokeback Mountain won almost every single lead up award. It was the only horse in the race. Then, Crash came along. The film had come out earlier in year, received lukewarm reviews and made a so-so amount at the box-office. It wasn’t even nominated at the Golden Globes. Very few people cared about then. The studio then launched a massive publicity blitz. They sent 130,000 screeners to every person they could think of and launched a wave of “For Your Consideration” ads in major publications. It still didn’t look to be enough after Ang Lee won the Oscar for best director. But in one of the big upsets in recent memory, Crash pulled off the impossible. A clearly stunned Jack Nicholson read the name the envelope and the rest is history.