OZY on the Oscars

OZY on the Oscars

Why you should care

Because pictures are worth 1000 words, and that counts for quite a lot when the curtain comes up.

Get your OZY fix on the Oscars with a few of our weirdest, wildest, most interesting thoughts on the award show. Here’s what we’ve been chewing on in our offices: from past, to present, to our wishes for the Academy Awards’ future.

Glory days of Oscar yore

Sometimes, things get meta

In 1955, Judy Garland became an Oscar nominee for playing a fictional Oscar winner in A Star is Born ; in 1979, Maggie Smith became an Oscar winner for playing a fictional Oscar nominee in California Suite.

You get what you pay for

In 2003, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King tied Titanic and Ben-Hur for the still-standing record of 11 Oscar wins — but also set a new record for the biggest clean sweep in Academy Awards history, by taking every single prize for which it was nominated. As New Line Cinema’s then-president of theatrical marketing told Vanity Fair recently, the studio spent more than $10 million on that film’s Oscar campaign.

That time Marlon Brando missed his own party

Oddities

Details, details

The 1989 ceremony was the first in which presenters said “And the Oscar goes to” instead of “And the winner is.”

Sometimes attending the Oscars is like being a Wimbledon ball boy, in some sort of weird casual carpool

Like every awards show, the Oscars telecast relies on hundreds of “seat fillers” to briefly sit in on behalf of anyone who vacates for a stage appearance or a restroom break, to keep the theater looking full at all times on TV. Want the gig? Fillers should be well-groomed, good-looking, and between the ages of 18 to 29. Plus, you can’t lose your hat: you’ve gotta avoid talking to the stars. Aside from insider connections, they get their thankless jobs through agencies with names like Audiences Unlimited, Dynamic People Club, and Seatfillers & More.

Anyway, who needs it?

In response to his film Tristana’ s 1971 nomination for Best Foreign Language Film, the great iconoclast Luis Buñuel said, “Nothing would disgust me more, morally, than receiving an Oscar. Nothing in the world would make me go accept it. I wouldn’t have it in my home.”

Is it worth it? (Hold the chips at your Oscar party.)

Okay, we know Hollywood loves the skinny-minnies, but let’s talk about skinny men for a change. First-time Best Actor nominee Matthew McConaughey reportedly lost 38 pounds for his role in Dallas Buyer’s Club. Matt Damon lost 50 pounds for his role in 1996’s Courage Under Fire, and scored his first Best Actor nomination for 1997’s Good Will Hunting. Christian Bale lost 60 pounds for his role in 2004’s The Machinist, and won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for 2010’s The Fighter. Michael Fassbender lost 35 pounds for his role in director Steve McQueen’s 2008 film Hunger (oh, the irony), and now is a first-time Best Actor nominee in McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave. Tom Hanks lost 26 pounds for his role in 1993’s Philadelphia, which won him the Best Actor Oscar, and lost and regained 55 pounds for his role in 2000’s Cast Away, for which he was again nominated.

…Now he has type 2 Diabetes.

Winners and losers

Gone Hunting

Who doesn’t love a ruddy-faced young’un winning big? Let alone two? Relive the glory of Matt + Ben’s big win for Good Will Hunting . Maybe they’re not exactly underdogs, but don’t you just love their puppy-dog excitement?

Take heart, losers

Ben-Hur was made in 1959, the same year as North by Northwest and Some Like it Hot — neither of which were Best Picture nominees. But history smiles on them.

You can’t win them all

At 110, Alice Herz-Sommer, the subject of short documentary nominee The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life , was the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor — until her death, last Sunday, February 23.

What we wish for

A Very West Wing Oscars

Maybe we should make Oscar nominations contingent on a willingness to come back and help create next year’s show. Wouldn’t you love to see an Oscars written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Martin Scorsese? (It’d be better than James Franco.)

Dream Presenters’ Tandem

Dream Presenters Tandem: Supporting Actor nominees Jonah Hill and Barkhad Abdi walk out to present Best Makeup and Hairstyling wearing each other’s teeth.

Excuse us while we soapbox a moment

Can we please, finally dispense with the fiction that the Academy gives Oscars in any category to compensate for stiffing the same movie in any other category? It’s the movie equivalent of the old canard that America prefers divided government and therefore tends to award control of Congress and the Presidency to different parties. The Academy and America don’t “award” anything monolithically. Individual voters mark their preferences – frequently in a straight ticket sweep for a single movie or party. If it’s close, the swing voters and the case-by-case voters make the difference. Talking about the Academy’s “preference” as if it actually existed is like flipping a Bitcoin.

And of course… this year:

Where no man has gone before (kinda)

Before Alfonso Cuarón’s nomination for Gravity, the last director to get the nod for a movie set mostly in space was Stanley Kubrick, with 2001: A Space Odyssey, in 1969. (He lost, to Carol Reed, for Oliver !)

A new dynasty emerges

Is Megan Ellison the new Scott Rudin? Time was, Rudin bestrode the Best Picture category like a colossus, notching five producing nominations, including one this year for Captain Phillips and a win in 2008 for No Country for Old Men. Now Megan Ellison, the daughter of Oracle founder Larry Ellison, is eating Rudin’s lunch for breakfast. She’s had three nominations in two years: one last year for Zero Dark Thirty and two this year for American Hustle and Her. Is 28 too young to win the Irving G. Thalberg Award for creative producing? (That’s a big one, FYI.)

Monochrome might (occasionally) be the ticket

Before Nebraska , the last Best Picture nominee to be shot in black and white was The Artist, which won in 2012. Before that, Schindler’s List, which won in 1994. Before that, The Apartment, which won in 1961.

First time’s a charm?

For two of this year’s nominees in supporting roles, Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years a Slave and Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips, it’s their first time being in a movie at all.

Downright un-American

How come there are no Americans up for Best Cinematography this year? The nominees hail from Mexico, Greece, England and France (twice). What does DP stand for, director of photographer or displaced person? (We kid. A little.)

Industry incest: connect the dots

Competition in the Original Screenplay category pits Spike Jonze against David O. Russell, who directed him in 1999’s Three Kings . Competition for Best Actor pits Leonardo DiCaprio against Matthew McConaughey, who plays his mentor in The Wolf of Wall Street. Competition for Best Picture pits American Hustle , in which Amy Adams has a nominated lead role, against Her , in which she has a supporting role. It’s enough to make you want to hunker down with Being John Malkovich.

Contributions from Jon Kiefer, David Kipen, Sanjena Sathian and Aneesh Raman.

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