Written by: Erik Powell Jr., special to CC2k
I’ll concede that Oscar has gotten it right most of the time in the last eight decades. After all, he is now 79 years old and must be allowed a certain number of memory lapses. But the history of his inconsistency is strong, and let’s face it, a few of those oversights will never come off his record.
Certainly, the most infamous Oscar slight of all time happened in 1940, when “Citizen Kane” lost the Best Picture Award to John Ford’s “How Green was My Valley,” a great film but incomparable to Orson’s opus. History corrected that slight, as “Kane” is now widely considered to be the greatest film ever made. Other classic Best Picture snubs: 1948. The been-there-done-that “Hamlet” trounces the now legendary “Treasure of the Sierra Madre.” The cutesy “Oliver!” wins over “Funny Girl” and “The Lion in Winter” in 1968. And in 1980, the now-forgotten “Ordinary People” pulled the trophy from the hands of Martin Scorsese and his iconic “Raging Bull.” What a putz!
Other classic performances that were snubbed by the God of Cinema: Judy Garland in “A Star is Born,” (lost to Grace Kelly in “The Country Girl,” 1954). And you gotta love Cher, but was her performance in “Moonstruck” really strong enough to knock out Meryl Streep in “Ironweed?” (1987).
Meryl Streep brings up another aspect of Oscar’s dark side, and that is his tendency to get bored with brilliance very quickly. Streep has, it seems, been involuntarily retired from future Oscar wins, despite toppling Katharine Hepburn’s long-held title as the most Oscar-nominated star ever—Streep now has 14 nominations under her Prada belt. But she will not walk home with a third Oscar at her hip this year, though she has been nominated 9 times since her last win in 1982! Streep has been effectively told by the attention-deficit dunderheads in Hollywood, “Sure, we’ll admit you’re good. But you’ve already won two, bitch. Don’t ask for anymore.” Yes, Oscar prefers pretty young girls. He loved Bette Davis in “Dangerous” (1935), but wouldn’t touch her fifteen years later in “All About Eve.” Ms. Davis, once President of the Academy, experienced in color the pain of aging as Margo Channing did in black and white. No wonder Davis resigned as Academy President after two months! So, decades later, a parade of younger, prettier and less talented actresses continue to walk away with Oscar time after time, ever lowering the standards for actors, filmmakers and audiences. Now I see the difference between the Oscar, and… just Oscar.
But despite the yearly whipping the old man takes every year from critics like myself, it’s pretty clear that Oscar isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. His golden touch will continue to thrill us and kill us as he pleases for years to come. Though I claim not to care what the elites think of my taste in film–“Oh, I don’t let the critics tell me what to watch!” or “Oh, it doesn’t matter that it didn’t win any Oscars. Nobody watches them anymore, anyway!”—it is still impossible not to get excited when my pet films are nominated. I heralded Helen Mirren’s Oscar nod for “The Queen” with the intensity of a royal trumpeter! However pleased I am that a few “good” films were nominated this year, I think I will sit out the Oscars yet again, opting instead to read the likely forgettable list of winners in the next morning’s paper while drinking coffee as hot as my bloodstream. I don’t care how Leo looks, or what Kate wears. I just want to see quality filmmakers and artists get the credit they deserve. –EP
The Oscars will air on ABC, Sunday, February 25th at 8 PM EST.