Oscar History

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"I loved it! Simple, but by no means dumb. Light, but with enough emotional beats and such attention to character detail to keep it from being fluff." - Val 

"If Michelle Yeoh actually gets an Oscar nomination for this, I'll probably cry. (Tears of joy, of course.)" -Cash"

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Entries in Oscars (90s) (207)


Showbiz History: Super Remake, Early Franchise, and A Barrymore

10 random things that happened on this day in history (Aug 15th) as it relates to showbiz...

I am a collage of unaccounted for brush strokes...

1483 The Sistine Chapel is consecrated and holds its first mass at the Vatican. Remember that "anecdote" in Six Degrees of Separation (1993) about slapping the hand of god? What a fantastic play/film. Stockard Channing's nomination that year was so well-earned. In many years that performance would have been my gold medalist, but what a stellar Best Actress year 1993 was. Hunter, Bassett, Channing, etc...

1879 Future Oscar winner Ethel Barrymore (None but the Lonely Heart) born in Philadephia. She is one of only nine women to have ever been nominated for 4 Supporting Actress Oscars. We're discussing that list right now actually ...

1912 Amazing actress Wendy Hiller born in England on this day. She would go on to 3 Oscar nominations and a win (Separate Tables, 1958). On the same day in Pasadena...

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Oscar Myth-Busting: The Academy Doesn't Like Popular Films

by Nathaniel R

The 10 biggest hits of all time when adjusted for inflation. All but one of them was nominated for Best Picture and three of them won.

We hear it every year: "The Oscars only nominate films that no one has heard of!" Every year this untruth is spread by people who a) don't pay attention to movies and are thus not the target audience of the Oscars anyway and b) don't think things through before proclaiming them and c) haven't worked out that in our increasingly niche world MANY people haven't heard of tv shows, albums, movies, or plays that are of utmost importance to a whole other group of people.

Somehow this myth of "obscure taste" has sunk deep into the Academy's own mindset and they've bought in to it. This week's catastrophic announcement suggests that they've bought into this myth that they don't like popular things to the point of self-loathing. So, here's a quick bit of factual history to bust this myth once again. Our work is never done!

Box office history is harder to suss out prior to 1980 when box office reporting became a more regular occurrence. But most historical indications suggest that the nominees for Best Picture before then were often sizeable hits. Part of the divide that's happened in the past 38 years, which people are never honest about when they complain about Oscar's "relevancy," is that audiences became progressively less interested in human drama (Oscar's bread and butter from 1928 onward), which they mostly sought out on TV, and more interested in visual effects spectacle, cartoons, and mega-sequels. The former is an Oscar interest, the second one has its own category so they mostly ignore it, and the third is not an Oscar interest for which we are grateful because if you want the same things to win prizes every year, look to the Emmys!

So is there any kind of truth to the notion that Oscar doesn't like popular films and only embraces obscure ones? Let's look at the evidence from 1980 onwards...

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Months of Meryl: Music of the Heart (1999)

John and Matthew are watching every single live-action film starring Meryl Streep. 

#27 — Roberta Guaspari, a real-life violinist and instructor who brought music education to the classrooms of Harlem.

MATTHEW:  One of the pitfalls that tends to come with occupying such a prominent position in the highly public realm of moviemaking is a gradual inability to disappear into the most straightforward of roles. I’m not talking about the magical acts of self-vanishing that allow Daniel Day-Lewis to seemingly become figures as disparate as Bill the Butcher and Abraham Lincoln nor the larger-than-life personas achieved through virtuosic, full-scale deglamorizations by the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Charlize Theron, but rather the everyday characters who may achieve great things but whose lives are decisively rooted in reality, their appearances neither remarkable nor particularly conspicuous. No matter how hard a performer tries to shed her star persona and immerse herself in distinctly un-Hollywood settings, it is often up to us, the viewers, to forget everything we know about a star in order to actually believe her as, more or less, one of us...

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1994 Q&A: Frankenstein, Weaver, Past Glories, Future Nominations. 

Okay, our last dive into 1994! I recently asked readers to send in their '94 related questions (other questions will still be answered but that's for the next Q&A). So here's our final pontifying for that year. You asked, I answer. 

JAMES: 1994 was the year of Frankenstein, the movie that led to Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh splitting up, due to his affair with HBC. Thoughts on Thompson & Branagh’s (professional) partnership? What projects would they have excelled at if they stayed together?

"IT'S ALIVE!" Or, rather. "IT'S DEAD!" Emma and Kenneth. Kenneth and Emma. Sigh. Insert broken heart emoji. Young Nathaniel was so sad when they split. They were the Definitive Early 90s 'It Couple: UK Edition. That was such an awesome cinematic partnership. I adored their over-the-top genre mashup and reincarnation chutzpah in Dead Again and their luminous Shakespearean comedy in Much Ado About Nothing.

If you think about it Frankenstein, with its pulp grotesqueries, and bodice-ripped lustiness is absolutely the work of the same guy who made Dead Again. I miss that Branagh, still...

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Months of Meryl: One True Thing (1998)

John and Matthew are watching every single live-action film starring Meryl Streep. 


#26 — Kate Gulden, a suburban wife and mother dying of cancer.

JOHN: Here’s one true thing: Carl Franklin’s One True Thing is neither a Lifetime movie, an extended soap opera, nor a “chick-flick.” One True Thing is, in fact, a melodrama centered around a middle-aged woman dying of cancer, embellished with music and openly soliciting your tears. The maternal melodrama, a genre which Streep has revisited frequently, remains near the bottom of the genre totem pole, regularly maligned and dismissed by critics for all their attributes: it is proudly emotional, scored and scripted to produce waterworks, and an undisguised movie, unconcerned with presenting realism through its formal elements. One True Thing, like most contemporary maternal melodramas, is familiar and stylistically plain, and the film is admittedly hampered by a hackneyed framing device, but it also takes seriously issues central to women’s lives, exploring a mother-daughter relationship and issues of long-term marriage, especially the concessions made and female labor expended in keeping a household running smoothly. One True Thing deserves to be taken as seriously as Saving Private Ryan or any other masculine meditation on violence released in 1998. To immediately write off the film, and the genre to which it belongs, is to devalue and belittle the feminine concerns it explores...

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1994's Unsatisfying Best Actress Race 

1994 was our year of the month for June so before the month closes, a couple of more forays into that year. Here's Nathaniel R responding to a reader request during the Supporting Actress Smackdown to discuss the actual leading nominees.

It's an age old question and the answer is (nearly) always the same. 

Q: What happens when all the best stuff in a film year is within genres Oscar doesn't care for?
A: The Academy sticks to their traditional loves even if it means providing history with a weak shortlist that they'll judge harshly!  

Some recent years have suggested that Oscar is loosening up in this regard. The swell of new members might be helping along with the increased visibility of critical passion (the plethora of precursor awards constantly saying "but this is great! won't you please look at it?" seems to have shifted Oscar voters a bit more towards critical passion and away from "Oscar Bait"). But overall they stick to what they love (dramas, message movies, epics, biopics, etcetera). This is especially true of the Acting branch which rarely met a teary face it didn't fall for and continually sticks up its nose at laughing or screaming or unusual faces given their aversion to comic genius, horror films, and auteur experimental or sci-fi/fantasy work. Which brings us to 1994's BEST ACTRESS LIST...

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