Saturday, 16 February 2013

The road to the Oscars

Hello, my pals and gals!
So, one week before the Academy Awards, I decided to make a post to explain just what these Awards are, why they're such a big deal, who got them, who should've gotten them, the general gist. First things first, the video up there is my tribute to the Oscars. Because, despite the fact that they can and have been unfair, predictable and biased, their glamour enchanted generations and the emotion of getting an Oscar, or rather, watching your favorite get one, has yet to be equaled.

Academy what?

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was founded in May of 1927, by Louis B. Mayer, of MGM. In its original board of directors, there prominent names such as Harold Lloyd, Mary Pickford, Cecil B. DeMille, Jack Warner, Irving Thalberg, and its first president: silent star Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. It is currently presided by producer Hawk Koch, who worked as an assistant director in a number of movies, among which "The Way We Were" (1973). Among its presidents, there are some well-known names: Gregory Peck, Frank Capra, Jean Hersholt and Bette Davis, who was only in the job for 2 months before resigning. The Academy's job is to stimulate the industry of moviemaking in the United States and, secondarily, in the world.

Douglas Fairbanks, Sr, the first president
of the Academy. 
Contrary to popular misconception, the Academy doesn't only present the annual Academy Awards, known as Oscars. They also present a series of three non-competitive Awards, known as the Governors Awards: The Irving Thalberg Award, to outstanding producers ; The Honorary Oscar, to honor a person with lifetime achievements and contributions to the film industry and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, for a motion picture person who made outstanding contributions for humanitarian causes. The Academy is also responsible for multiple fellowships and financial stimuli for young students and filmmakers who, they feel, will contribute to the improvement of the industry in the future.

The Academy Award itself is as old as 1928. The original Awards consisted of the following categories: Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Production Design and Best Screenplay (this category would be broken down into Original and Adapted in 1940), plus a number of categories that have since been discontinued. The newest category was Makeup and Hairstyling, introduced in 1981.

The Oscars are fascinating for the amount of charm and glamour they have been able to maintain throughout the decades. This may come from the fact of them being a lot more well-known to the average person (by average I mean not inclined to having cinema as a profession or hobby) then other awards, such as the César, the BAFTAs and the Palme D'Or. The Oscars are the ones that make the most difference box-office-wise to a picture. Thus the undeniable desire to win an Award that most people in the film industry harbor. This desire, consequently, leads to the glamour associated with it.

Oscar giants, coincidences and oddities

The record for most awards won for a single picture is currently held by three pictures: Ben-Hur (1959), Titanic (1997) and The Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King (2003), each with 11 wins. The record for nominations for a single film is also with Titanic (1997), and All About Eve (1950).

Kate's first win, at 26...
Katharine Hepburn holds the record of most wins by a single performer. (No, I will never get tired of saying that.) She is one of the Oscar giants, who are personally responsible for many of the Oscar milestones. She is one of the two actresses who had two consecutive wins. Kate has single-handedly won more Awards than entire families of artists, such as the Fondas, the Garlands and the Hustons, who each had at least three members in the industry. She was also the first and only actress to get 3 Awards in the Best Acting category, for The Lion In Winter (1968). She beat her own record in 1981, with "On Golden Pond". No other actress has ever gotten three or four awards in the main category, but Meryl Streep and Ingrid Bergman have gotten two in the main category and a third for Best Supporting Actress.
...and her last win, at 74

Katharine's records don't stop there. She has the longest time span between her first and last nominations, 48 years. She also happened to win both her first (Morning Glory, 1933) and her last (On Golden Pond, 1981) nomination. She does not have the highest number of Academy Award nominations (Meryl Streep has the record with 17, as opposed to Kate's 12), but she does have the highest nomination-to-movie ratio, with 3.6. In layman terms, after Kate starred in two or three movies, she could be more or less sure she'd be nominated for her performance on the next. For forty years (1963 to her death in 2003), every Oscar she was nominated for, she won. Katharine Hepburn is, without a doubt, the most accomplished performer in history, Oscar-wise.

Mirroring Kate's four, the directing record is also of four Awards and it's held by Kate's good friend John Ford. Coincidentally, he shares another of Kate's records: He was one of the two directors to win two consecutive Awards. The two consecutive wins are, funnily enough, exactly mirrored in a third category: for male performers, and Spencer Tracy, Kate's longtime lover, is one of the consecutive winners. Apparently, she's a fan of Academy Award record-holders. More power to them!
Walt Disney with Mickey Mouse

Edith Head is the female all-time record-holder. She has won 8 Academy Awards for costume design and was nominated 35 times, spanning 29 years. The all-time record-holder for anyone resides with animation pioneer and all-around genius Walt Disney, who won a whopping 22 Academy Awards. He also holds the record for most nominations for a single person, with 59. Hard to believe, but considering he was the greatest and most celebrated animator in history, and analyzing his fantastic body of work, completely fair and understandable. He also holds the record for most consecutive awards, with 10; and most nominations in a single year, with 5. There's even a wikipedia list for all the Awards he won. He is the most accomplished individual, Oscar-wise, who ever lived.

Peter O'Toole has a lot to be angry at the Academy about: While he has the second highest number of nominations for a male performer (losing only to Spencer Tracy), he has never won; holding the record for most nominations without a single win: eight in total.

An interesting anecdote: While no actor has ever won Best Actor for a debut performance, 5 actresses have won the main category for theirs. They are Julie Andrews, Shirley Booth, Barbara Streisand, Marlee Matlin and Audrey Hepburn.

The snubs

This is the bad part of the Oscars. Despite the fact that the Academy Awards are a world-renowned and respected form of recognition for the motion picture industry and its artists, they have been widely criticized for ignoring valuable talent throughout their history. The “snubs”, as they are called, are artists who have never been recognized by the Academy Awards, and are considered by most film specialists as deserving of such recognition. The Academy itself uses the Honorary Awards as a mechanism to apologize to those stars, but these are usually taken less seriously than their competitive counterparts. There are numerous unrecognized performers, directors and writers of questioned worth, but some of them have such obvious talent that letting them die or retire without an Award is a travesty that cannot be forgiven.

All things considered, the Academy Awards are still a thrilling part of being a movie fanatic. Watching your favorite win is a thrill I can't explain, and watching them lose is a disappointment, but it's all a part of loving cinema. The Academy will never please everyone, but so far, it has been doing a pretty good job at bringing attention to some of the best in cinema and praising those who deserve it.

I'd like to close this post with a video: In the Oscars' 75th anniversary, 58 past winners reunited. Among the attendees was the oldest winner alive, Luise Rainer, who has just turned 103.  They were presented after a thrilling entrance to the sound of Tara's Theme and a moving speech by Olivia DeHavilland. This video, I feel, represents the essence of the Oscars. In the end of the day, we're all - and they're all - adorers of cinema, who want to tribute it in the best way they can.

So long,


  1. Good work, girl! A fine spotlight on the Oscars.
    Kate for sure related with the best people in her industry. There is a gossip that Maureen O'Hara's character name in The Quiet Man, Mary-Kate Danaher, joined the name of the two women John Ford loved the most: his wife Mary and Mrs. Hepburn.
    Oh, the last video. I wasn't aware of is existance and it's so moving! I sometimes watch old Oscar videos on YouTube and tears come to my eyes!

    1. I think Kate's one of the reasons why I love the Oscars. She said she didn't care about them, but I don't believe it. She was darn happy every time she won one.
      She should've been in that Olivia DeHavilland thing, but she was 96 with Alzheimer's and would die just two months later :(((