Saturday, January 18, 2014

Here's looking at you, kid



I imagine they were complaining about the list of nominees for the first Academy Awards back in 1929, the first industry awards to honor films and performances from 1927-28.  It was held in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and hosted by Douglas Fairbanks, who was the president of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences at the time.  It wasn't broadcast on radio or television, so people only found out about the winners the next day in the newspapers.

Wings was the best picture and Emil Jennings and Janet Gaynor.  The Director award was split between drama and comedy, with Frank Borzage (7th Heaven) and Lewis Milestone (Two Arabian Knights) bringing home the top prize.

It was at the end of the Silent era.  By 1930 Hollywood filmmaking had changed considerably and there were actually two awards shows held that year with All Quiet On the Western Front earning Milestone a second Oscar.  Seems WWI was still on everyone's mind.  The venue had changed to the Fiesta Room of the Ambassador Hotel.  This was the first time all Academy members could vote for nominations and winners.

Over the years, the number of members have swelled as has the body of work being judged on each year.  The Academy still sticks pretty close to home in its picks, preferring to stay pretty much within the industry, but in 1956 a special category was created for Best Foreign Language Film, with the Oscar going to La Strada.  That's Fellini with Giulietta Masina that year.  Honorary awards had been given to foreign films as early as 1947, so technically Vittorio De Sica was the first foreign winner with Shoe Shine, and later his iconic The Bicycle Thief.

The Academy Awards has grown into the single most important event in filmmaking each year, with producers relying heavily on nominations to boost box office numbers at the start of the year.  No doubt, the producers of American Hustle, 12 Years a Slave and Gravity are very happy with all their nominations, but a film surprisingly shut out this year is Inside Llewyn Davis, which had won the Jury Grand Prize at Cannes last summer and was at the top of most critics' polls for best films of 2013.

I suppose it is easy to forget who is who with so many films being promoted in Hollywood, and it seems the Coen Brothers or their distributors are too worried about the Oscars anymore, preferring instead to screen their films and festivals around the world, which have similarly gained in luster over the years.  But, you have to wonder if members of the Academy even bother to watch films anymore and are simply going on current buzz.


The Awards program is now insufferable to watch, stretching well over 3 hours with its many categories and special honors, when originally there were only 8 categories given at the end of a sumptuous dinner, but they try to make the most of it with tributes and various performances to keep you entertained through the evening.  There have been some memorable moments like the time Marlon Brando had a native American woman accept an Oscar on his behalf.

Here's some great photo moments from the Daily Mail.


14 comments:

  1. I am surprised Oscar Isaac didn't get a nomination.

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  2. Bogie = I just saw him recently in his last film "The Harder They Fall" about corruption in pro boxing. It was his last movie and a darn good one.

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  3. Seems to me the "Academy" was all over the place this year, but somehow forgot all about Llewyn Davis. I saw Blue Jasmine recently and couldn't see what all the fuss was about. Blanchett is good but not great in what struck me as a rather bland update of Streetcar Named Desire.

    What we need is a good boxing movie. There hasn't been a really good one since Raging Bull.

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  4. I just saw Captain Phillips and think it has a real chance to win Best Picture. Courage, heroism and Navy Seals! On top of that, it is a way better film than I thought it was going to be.

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  5. I suppose, if you like that kind of thing. Interesting that they got Somalis to actually play the "pirates."

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  6. If you like that kind of thing? Your prejudice is showing through, but perhaps you haven't you seen the film. From my perspective it does so many of the things the Academy likes, especially in our post 9-11 militarized world where so many of our "heroes" must be people in uniform.

    One rather astounding thing about the film is that those Somali pirates are not made out to be villains. As Manohla Dargis wrote in a review last October, "Phillips is unambiguously a heroic figure, but he’s scarcely the sole point of interest in a movie that steadily and almost stealthily asserts the agonized humanity of his captors."

    The fact that it received nothing at the Golden Globes probably means that it stands no chance on Oscar night, but you never know about the Academy. It has given the nod in recent years to some real dark horse candidates.

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  7. No, I haven't seen it, so I suppose my prejudice is showing. I'm so tired of Tom Hanks. Not that he's a bad actor, but he has become so exceedingly predictable. I'm sure Greengrass does a good job as director. This is his sort of thing after making United 93. But, what's the point of it all? I much preferred the dark humor in Zissou in regard to such hijackings,

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IV6CGOS_yo

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  8. If we must ask "what's the point of it all" then not many films will stand up. I don't know the point of "No Country for Old Men" but it is one of my all time favorites.

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  9. That's true, but I guess I look to see interesting twists on stories in the news, not just high sea drama. I liked the first half of No Country for Old Men but it became kind of tedious in the second half. Wasn't overly impressed with Llewyn Davis either, after finally getting a chance to see it. I liked Barton Fink much better. It's one of my all time favorites.

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  10. Llewyn Davis is not top drawer Coen brothers for sure. But it did have a pretty weird twist when that cop stopped the car Llewyn was riding shotgun in and absconded with the beatnik driver.

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  11. You figured how long could this ride last. It was kind of like a "shaggy cat" story.

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  12. I would have much preferred that they run out of gas. At least that would have made sense.

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  13. The funny part is that the road trip went nowhere, like the movie itself. The Coen Bros. were very dry in this one, a little too dry with all those non-starters. For a film ostensibly about Dave Van Ronk, they really seemed to miss the boat on this one.

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