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What Do the Oscars Mean to Hollywood?

April 26, 2021 | Posted by Steve Gustafson

I originally started off writing a Top 10 list of “Ways to Save the Oscars” but it got so out of control I had to put it aside and go with something more simple. 

Oh, and if you’re interested in changing the Oscars, giving the Stunt Coordinators their own category is just the top of the iceberg to me. 

At any rate, the Academy Awards have come and gone and this morning we’re left to debate the winners, losers, and the merits of going hostless yet again. 

People all over the world hovered around their television, mobile devices, and whatever else they watch it on, captivated by celebs on the red carpet. The event draws its share of fans but also its share of distaste. Back in the day, George C. Scott refused the Best Actor award for Patton. He dismissed the awards as “a two-hour meat parade”.

Some say he nailed it.

It was a far cry from how things were back in May of 1929 when members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences first gathered to celebrate their own achievements. While tens of millions watch the Oscars, the first show only received a single paragraph of attention in the pages of Time magazine. It would be a little longer before the Hollywood marketing machine would realize the potential an awards show holds.

Before we jump into things, I thought it would be fun to share some trivia with you:

* Gone With The Wind is the longest Best Picture winner, clocking in at languorous 234 minutes. You could watch the shortest winner, Marty, two and a half times before Zendaya  hangs up her gown.

* Midnight Cowboy is the only X-rated film to win Best Picture, although A Clockwork Orange and Last Tango in Paris have received nominations.

* Oscar voting takes place in two parts: in the first vote, members of the Academy’s 15 branches vote on their area of expertise (e.g. Directors of Photographys vote on Best Cinematography), making five picks in order, as well choosing a movie for Best Picture. These need a 5% share of the vote to secure a nomination. In the final round, members vote on every category with the winner arrived at via a first-past-the-post system.

* To win a Best Picture, Oscar history says you should make a weighty drama or solemn biopic, rather than a comedy, sci-fi or horror.

* To qualify for Best Picture, a film needs to be at least 40 minutes long, have been shown at an LA cinema for at least a week in the previous year and have a projection resolution of 2048 x 1080 pixels.

* Of the 55 Oscars that were stolen by truck driver Lawrence Ladent in March 2000, 52 were returned by his accomplice’s brother, one was recovered in a Miami drugs raid three years later and two are still missing.

* The sealed envelope dates back to 1941. In 1940 the LA Times broke the Academy’s embargo and published the names of all the winners before the ceremony. The jerks.

* The longest speech in Oscar history was given by Greer Garson, winner of Best Actress for Mrs Miniver. Garson rattled on for nearly seven minutes. She was nominated again on four occasions but never repeated her success.

OK, let’s focus on the Oscars. Its purpose: To honor cinematic achievements in the film industry.

What it’s become: A bloated, over-hyped ceremony that showcases the excess of Hollywood.

Take the gift bag, for example. Regardless of who wins and loses, all best and supporting actor and actress nominees, along with the nominees for best director, receive a bag of goods. It should be noted that the gift bags are not affiliated with the Academy Awards or the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who are behind the awards.

This year’s bag, estimated to be worth $205,000, contains many health- and wellness-oriented products and services. They include concierge vitamin therapy for hangovers, a 24-karat vape pen, sleep tracker headbands, free personal training, and liposuction sessions for “celebrity arms.” There are also free stays at stunning resorts, notably to Sweden’s secluded Pater Noster Hotel, a former lighthouse converted to a nine-room luxury hotel.

Fun stuff.

But at its core, what do the Oscars mean to Hollywood?

Studios spend millions and millions of dollars and hire publicists to promote their films for Oscar consideration and buzz. It’s no surprise that many accept this practice and admit it’s not really about quality but about who can do the best marketing.

William Friedkin, an Academy Award-winning film director and former producer of the ceremony, said as much at a conference in New York in 2009, describing it as “the greatest promotion scheme that any industry ever devised for itself”.

All one needs to do is take a quick at past winners and see that a number of winners don’t accurately reflect the very best in artistic vision and innovative influences. In the late 70s and early 80s, studios discovered “formula-made” blockbusters with slick production values that capture the hearts and wallets of theatergoers. With that came Best Picture nominations and studio bought acclaim.

We all know what types of movies will play for the Oscar voters. From 1927 to 2001 around 49% of Best Picture nominated films had been categorized as a drama and out of the 432 films to be analyzed within that time 47% of the winning films were in fact dramas.

You know what’s a good reflection of movies?

The Razzies.

The winners (losers?) of the Annual Golden Raspberry Awards, also known as the Razzies, in their own way, reflect the worst of Hollywood, and get it right. They take no prisoners and it’s always a treat to see what actor shows up to accept their award.

Now, I could get cheesy and talk about how movies inspire us to dream and are an escape from the drudgery of life And that’s all true. For some people. But do the Oscars reflect that? Going back to what I would change about the Oscars, I’d focus on celebrating the achievements and the positive side of Hollywood. Yes, add in categories for Best Stunt Coordinator and Best Casting. Hell, I’d make the Oscars 2 NIGHTS! Yes, break it up, freshen it up, get things out of the comfort zone. Include as much of Hollywood’s past in the festivities as the present and future. But, again, that’s another column.

Let me know your thoughts below.

article topics :

Academy Awards, Steve Gustafson