Apparently, the Academy Awards are upon us once again. For some reason, I'd forgotten that they would be so soon. I was thinking they'd be in March. Oh, well.
This year, I have no opinions about the nominees and prospective winners. I saw few films in the theatre this year, due to the fact that I can't afford to go to movies anymore, and they are usually not worth my time and money anyway. I just hope Pan's Labyrinth wins Best Foreign Film. Oh, and I wonder why Meryl Streep was nominated in the Best Actress category for her SUPPORTING role in The Devil Wears Prada.
In honor of the miniature golden man, however, I'll discuss some Oscar-winning (or nominated) films of the past.
The first Best Picture winner that I remember watching from start to finish was Ben-Hur. My teacher showed it to us when I was in fifth grade, because we were studying Ancient Rome in social studies and she thought it would be relevant. I was canny enough to realize that Judah was the same person as Moses in The Ten Commandments, which I'd also seen. [We didn't see a lot of movies where I grew up, and they were carefully monitored, but Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments were biblically-related, and so were deemed acceptable.]
The first Best Picture winner that I ever saw that really impacted me was My Fair Lady. I viewed it in the late 1980s. I was fascinated by the music, the dialogue, the elegant costumes and settings. I can still sing most of the songs in the score. However, I'd never even HEARD of the Academy Awards. And I didn't realize that movies had changed since 1964. Pretty much the only movies I had ever seen were musicals or Disney films. And Star Wars.
The film that really turned me on to classic old movies (and how!) was It Happened One Night. It changed my life. I had just moved to the US, didn't understand New Kids on the Block or Beverly Hills 90210. Experiencing the great writing, performances, and film-making of a blithe and witty romantic comedy... It injected sense and beauty into my life. I haunted the Beaverton Public Library section on film; I moved from there into the neighboring sections on theatre and music. My goal was simple: Learn as much about old movies as possible. My corollary goal was equally simple: See as many old movies as possible. I refined my tastes and developed lists of actors, actresses, directors, and movie genres that I preferred over others.
Likes - Screwball comedies. Musicals. Historical epics. War movies.
Dislikes - Movies about sports. [Gary Cooper was great, but Pride of the Yankees really didn't do much for me; ditto for James Stewart and The Stratton Story.] Some gangster movies. [I never finished either Public Enemy or Little Caesar. Not sure why I didn't care for them.]
Any person who has any interest in films, modern or historical, absolutely must see It Happened One Night. The cross-country buddy movie attains a new dimension, long before buddy movies even existed. Learn handy hitchhiking tips and understand the importance of the walls of Jericho. Figure out why sales of men's undershirts dropped following the release of this film.
It always seems a bit unfair when actors who originate a role onstage repeat it on film and win an Academy Award. It's like, they had WAY more time to practice than their direct-to-film competition. Nevertheless, those performances often deserve the award, as in the case of Judy Holliday and Born Yesterday. I would recommend this movie not only for Miss Holliday's heartwarming performance but as a fabulous (and only slightly fantastic) demonstration of the power of education to transform an individual's life.
I certainly don't always agree with the Academy's choices for awardees. The first Best Film winner that I actively disliked was Cimarron. I still can't figure out why it won, although the competition was pretty weak that year (1931). I've also loathed Forrest Gump, Terms of Endearment, and Shakespeare in Love.
How about some Oscar trivia?
First set of siblings to be Academy Award-winners? Norma Shearer and Douglas Shearer.
Second set of siblings to be Academy Award-winners? Lionel Barrymore and Ethel Barrymore.
Another set of Oscar-nominated siblings? Shirley MacLaine and Warren Beatty.
Sisters who were competing with one another for Best Actress awards? Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine for 1941 Awards; Lynn Redgrave and Vanessa Redgrave for 1967 Awards.
Complete nuclear family to have Oscar wins and nominations? Judy Garland (nominated for 1954 and 1961, won special juvenile Oscar for work in 1939), Vincente Minnelli (nominated for 1951, won for 1958), Liza Minnelli (nominated for 1969, won for 1972).
Multigenerational family of Oscar winners? Actor Walter Huston, director John Huston, actress Angelica Huston.
His and Hers trophies? Aside from Garland and Minnelli (mentioned above), several married couples have taken home awards: Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier, and Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, won Oscars while married to each other. Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones also have matching Oscars, though he won his before they were married. I'm not sure if even I can remember all the married couples who have been nominated for and/or won Oscars, whether married or not at the time. Off the top of my head: Carole Lombard and Clark Gable, Carole Lombard and William Powell, Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner, Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg, Joan Crawford and Franchot Tone, Mary Pickford and Charles Rogers, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester, Rex Harrison and Rachel Roberts, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, Helen Hayes and Charles MacArthur, Ginger Rogers and Lew Ayres, Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini, Annette Bening and Warren Beatty, Sam Mendes and Kate Winslet, Margaret Sullavan and William Wyler, Margaret Sullavan and Henry Fonda, Michael Todd and Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Todd and Joan Blondell, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall... I'm sure I missed someone, somewhere in there.