Bruce Emond, WEEKENDER | Tue, 02/28/2012 2:45 PM |
The Oscars are a night of glitz and glamour, although (thankfully) not in the big-bash, free-flow ranks of the Golden Globes, once a small shindig put on by the Hollywood Press Association that was media spun into a new realm of respectability. Then Ricky Gervais, bless his angry heart, came along and caustically sank his teeth into the hands that fed him.
For the Academy Awards also have a history – founded in 1928, this Sunday’s ceremony in Los Angeles is the 84th – and a more serious side of choosing the most outstanding film workers in the industry for the previous year, or at least the most popular among their peers (the Screen Actors Guild Awards are often considered a more realistic take on the actual acting and directing merits).
But February 26 is likely to continue the tradition of being a starry, starry night for the industry to kick up its heels and put on a show for the world. The fashion police will be out in force to call into line the Oscar red-carpet offerings, and Twitter timelines will be clogged with amateur critics giving their style snippets and sniping.
“People love living in the limelight, they love to have their picture taken and need to be known,” says fashion-lifestyle writer and WEEKENDER contributor Samuel Mulia. “The red carpet and the media are the tools.”
Here are a few Oscar dramatic asides from years gone by.
And the Oscar Doesn’t Go To …
Some of the famous actors who never won an Oscar include Richard Burton, Deborah Kerr, Orson Welles, Cary Grant, Kirk Douglas and Greta Garbo. Kerr, like Glenn Close, was nominated six times but came home empty-handed. Burton received seven nominations with no payback, but the biggest loser of all was Peter O’Toole, with eight Oscar-less nominations, according to www.filmsite.org. He really lacked the luck of the Irish.
Marlon Brando and Woody Allen are among those who won but for their own reasons did not make it to the big night. Brando, the Best Actor winner in 1973, for The Godfather, chose to send along Native American activist Sacheen Littlefeather, with a very long speech (some say 60 pages) that he drafted about the plight of Native Americans in their homeland. She accepted the award but did not get to read the entire speech. Allen, who triumphed for Best Picture and Best Director for Annie Hall in 1977, begged off attending the ceremony because he said he had to take part in his regular jazz jamming session. In fact, he has only attended the event once.
Elizabeth Taylor won two Oscars, for Butterfield 8 in 1961 and her tour de angry force as Martha in Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in 1966. The former movie, in which the violet-eyed beauty played a good-time gal, is not considered a classic, but Taylor fell deathly ill a couple of months before the Academy Awards ceremony with pneumonia. “I lost to a tracheotomy,” fellow nominee Shirley Maclaine is reputed to have said. Even Taylor acknowledged that the Oscar was a “sympathy” vote for her condition.
Julia Roberts warned the orchestra to keep quiet because she wanted to have her say after winning the Best Actress Oscar for Erin Brockovich in 2001. The American actress, along with the many other winners whose waxing eloquent has been cut short mid-speech, may blame Greer Garson for the Academy instituting a time limit, according to http://oscar.go.com, the official blog of the 84th Academy Awards. Some sources say her speech after winning for Mrs. Miniver in 1942 ran as long as six minutes, but the blog puts the time at a mere 5 minutes, 30 seconds.
One of the most notorious acceptance speeches in Oscar history is Sally Field’s “You like me, you really like me” exclamation in 1985. It has been interpreted as the former “flying nun” star’s desperate wish to be accepted by her peers. Not the case, Field has said in interviews. “Have you ever had a standing ovation from your peers?” Field told Movieline in 1991. “If you do, you will be overcome with a feeling that at this one moment in time, I did it. An impossible task. All the odds, all the struggle to stay in the business, to get the work, to do it, to be right, to be good, at the right place at the right time, to commit yourself, to have it ‘work’! That’s what’s it’s about.” Yes, and we like you, Sally. We really do.
Lack of Acceptance
Very few Asian actors have been nominated, let along emerged a winner. Yul Brynner (part Mongolian) won Best Actor for The King and I in 1956, as did Ben Kingsley, who is of Indian descent, forGandhi in 1982; Haing S. Nor (The Killing Fields, 1984) and Miyoshi Umeki (Sayonara, 1957) are the lone best supporting male and female honorees. That’s it, folks, as Bugs Buggy used to say.
While actual Asian actors have little to be thankful for at the awards, at least two Caucasian actors have won for playing Asians. Luise Rainer, who is German and of Jewish descent, took the Best Actress Oscar in 1937 for The Good Earth, playing a Chinese peasant. American Linda Hunt was picked as 1982’s Best Supporting Actress for playing a diminutive Chinese-Australian man in The Year of Living Dangerously (set in our very own city of Jakarta). It was a real tall order for her, in many ways.
Living to Tell
By the way, two-time Oscar winner
Rainer is the oldest living Academy Award honoree; she turned 102 in January.
But she has been quoted as saying that her early Oscar success was the worst
thing that could have happened to her career, and she soon gave up artistically
stifling Hollywood for Europe. Search “Luise Rainer Academy Awards 1936” on
YouTube to see how the Academy Award presentation used to be – simple and
friendly, not a piece of bling in site – with the actress giggling at her
garbled acceptance speech for The Great
Ziegfield, and director Frank Capra jumping in to adjust the microphone. Keep
going strong, Luise.