DO YOU CARE?
This Sunday, at the Dolby Theater at the Hollywood & Highland Center, the 91st Academy Awards will be presented.
The Oscars were created by the moguls of the movie industry in Hollywood to promote their product. They do that by giving a trophy to people who, in the judgement of the members of the movie industry, have made great movies during the past year.
So, how well have the members of the movie industry been in selecting great movies?
One thing is clear from the start - the popularity of a movie may influence the voters in selecting movies that win an Oscar, but rarely have the Academy members agreed with the public's choice, that is, rarely is the most popular movie selected as the best movie of the year.
Few movies are so obviously great from their release that they are declared a masterpiece, instantly. Usually, it takes many years before a consensus grows.
So, let's go way back to 1952. At the 25th Academy Awards, the voters declared that The Greatest Show on Earth was the best movie of the year. Never saw it or even heard of it? The Greatest Show was a Cecil B. DeMille extravaganza about a circus. OK, you say, maybe it was a weak year. Here's a list of some of the better movies made that year:
SINGIN IN THE RAIN
THE QUIET MAN
THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL
PAT AND MIKE
THEY CLASH BY NIGHT
OK, was 1952 an aberration? Not really. Here's a small list of movies that were never even nominated for any Oscar:
BRINGING UP BABY
HIS GIRL FRIDAY
KING KONG (1933)
PATHS OF GLORY
And it's not just movies - many great actors and actresses have never won and some, like E.G. Robinson, were never even nominated for a competitive Oscar.
Most movies in the AFI 100 Greatest Movies never won Best Picture, including its top spot, Citizen Kane. In other lists, Vertigo is listed at the top, but it was not even nominated for Best Picture (Gigi was the big winner that year, while Vertigo won no Oscars and was nominated for only two - Art Direction and Sound).
So, does anyone other than the actual winner, his or her obituary writer (yes, win an Oscar and it will be the lead in your obit) and those with a financial stake in a movie, care who wins?
Fewer and fewer movie goers care. The number who watch the show gets smaller every year. In 2018, it hit an all-time low - thus, all the suggested changes in the Oscar telecast, from handing out an Oscar for popularity to cutting certain category winners from the telecast. The Academy is desperate to keep the telecast under 4 hours.
So, are you going to watch?
Many watch the show because it is live and every decade or so, something strange or wonderful actually happens. In 1969, Ruth Gordon, 72 years old, won her first Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in Rosemary’s Baby and told the audience, “I can’t tell you how encouraging a thing like this is.” In 1974, a man streaked naked across the stage, allowing host David Niven to ad-lib one of the most quoted lines in Oscar history: “Probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings.” In 1999, Roberto Benigni won for Best Actor and he was so thrilled that he climbed over seats on his way to the podium. In 2017, the presenters read out the wrong winner for Best Picture.
Of course, if something weird or wonderful does happen, you can watch it somewhere online the next morning and, also, find a list of the winners (did you win the pool?) so you don't have to endure the hours of heartfelt thanks from people you never heard of and the never-ending banter between the presenters that some writer (probably very late in the day) thought was funny.
This year, there is no host. The last time that happened was 1989 when the show opened with Snow White serenading the stars. Watch and catch the look on the faces of Tom Hanks, Dustin Hoffman and others as Snow White serenades them. It was an acting lesson on how to project embarrassment.
So, pop some corn, pour some wine, take some no doze and settle in for a night of - who knows what?