08 March 2010

A Story of O

Why Oscar? From what I learned, there are several versions of naming the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences award statuette Oscar. Officially, it is called the Academy Award of Merit. A bit stuffy for Hollywood, no wonder a nickname was created. One theory gives the Oscar-naming honors to Bette Davis who, in 1935, likened the statuette to her husband. Legend also says that in 1939 an Academy librarian, Margaret Herrick, thought the sketch of the award looked like her Uncle Oscar. A favorite explanation, and the one on most blogs and online sites, is that the name was taken from an old vaudeville joke, “Will you have a cigar, Oscar?” I do not know what that means, but up in smoke comes to mind (a reference to a joke or an act bombing?). Up in smoke. To come to nothing.

I wonder if Bette’s husband or Margaret’s uncle were rolling in their graves knowing their name is associated with Hollywood’s biggest night, especially this year’s. The Oscar was stretched thin and the program long. The shift to nominate 10 movies rather than the usual 5 smacked of an industry’s desperation for cash. And speaking of “smack”, nice gum chewing Sarah Jessica Parker and Cameron Diaz! A potentialy sticky situation occurred when a woman in blue hijacked the Short Form Documentary winner’s acceptance speech. The craziness ended when the microphone cut off and the orchestra leader played Thanks for the Memories. I’m sure the dead Oscars of legend were miffed to see that Lauren Bacall was not paid tribute to at the Awards, rather she was cast aside with stand-and-applaud honors. While the program paid tribute to those the industry lost, it didn’t seem so heartfelt because they didn't fully honor the lifetime achievement winners. To those of us still alive, Bacall is Hollywood. It would have been something to hear her entire speech.

This year's Academy Awards only had time for the winners and losers. After all, there were nearly a dozen Best Picture nominations to summarize. With the exception of Kate Winslet, all the presenters said, “and the winner is” rather than the standard, “the Oscar goes to.” I don’t think they have announced “winner” since Bette won her Oscar statuette and said it had a flat bottom like her husband's! So now Meryl Streep is not even a winner for being nominated, she’s just a loser. For fuck sake, what does the Academy want Meryl to do? Hang the moon?

On the other hand, the Awards did present a fabulos win, Katherine Bigelow! Midway through the Academy Awards, I half expected Bob Costas to break in with a statuette-count update between The Hurt Locker and Avatar. How many times were the presenters going to mention that James Cameron’s visionary masterpiece took over a decade to make and is the biggest grossing movie of all time? Looks as if with all the money in the world a Best Picture or Best Director Oscar was “unobtanium” to Cameron. Avaterd added up to zilch.

Not for nothing, the annual Academy Awards are a big deal. It brings people together, presents topics of conversation, and rewards Hollywood with a boost in last minute box office tallies from people going to the cinema to see all the nominees and/or nominated movies. More importantly, it is broadcast worldwide. Since the nominations were announced, my sister, Valerie, and I emailed our predictions and talked about the awards being a battle of the sexes, exes and military might. Two days before the Awards, she watched Inglorious Basterds and I went to see Up in the Air (it finally made it to my part of the world). Then, on Sunday night in Ohio and Monday morning in Singapore, while Valerie sipped champagne and I drank coffee, we Skyped and watched the first half of the broadcast together. Isn’t that something?

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