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History of the Oscars
Season 2010/11

City on the Oscars: Oscars History

  • 24 February 2011 16:00
  • Posted by Tim Oscroft

6-0. No, that’s not my prediction for how City will get on against Fulham, that was the score when it came to the Oscars won by Forrest Gump and The Shawshank Redemption at the 1995 Academy Awards ceremony.

And it could be argued that there, in a nutshell, is the whole conundrum of the 84-year history of the Oscars. There are winners, there are losers, there is joy, there are some genuinely head-scratching moments and then there is benefit of hindsight.

So, going off the judgement of the Academy for Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the heart-warming tale of a well-meaning simpleton is a “better” film than the adaptation of a Stephen King short story. The former was a huge box office hit and seen as a “feel good” movie, whereas the latter was a relative failure on release and an all-together tougher proposition. But the prison-based melodrama developed legs as the years went by and regularly does well in all-time great polls, and maybe has kudos for not winning any Oscars.

It seems, then, that the Oscars, like football, are all about opinions. Some years the Academy goes on a bigger is better theme, hence large-scale “quality” films like Ben-Hur, Titanic and The Return of the King each swept the board with 11 Oscars. On the other hand, “smaller” films like Slumdog Millionaire and Million Dollar Baby have done well in recent times.

John Wayne was never seen as a great actor, unlike Laurence Olivier, but they both won the Best Actor Oscar once – for the original True Grit and Hamlet respectively (it would be fun to see what they would have done in the opposite role!). It seems like Meryl Streep just has to walk near a camera to get at least a nomination – she holds the record for the most for an actor with 16, but has won “only” twice, for Kramer vs Kramer in 1979 and Sophie’s Choice in 1982.

Acceptance speeches have provided some memorable moments down the years. In 1973 Marlon Brando sent an actress dressed as a Native American in his place when he was nominated for The Godfather, and with his victory “Sacheen Littlefeather” gave voice to his disgust at how Hollywood had portrayed them – and to decline the award.

Sally Field burbled “You like me! You like me!” after winning for Places in the Heart in 1984, while Gwyneth Paltrow dissolved into tears after getting the gong for Shakespeare in Love in 1999. As for George C Scott, like Brando two years later he declined the award and did not even go to the ceremony when nominated for his portrayal of General Patton.

My favourite movie references to the Oscars? The comedy For Your Consideration shows what happens when a low-budget but “worthy” film starts to get Oscar buzz before even released, but Wayne’s World also mocked the institution. Our hero tearfully admits to his girlfriend that he can’t read, and all the while the caption “OSCAR CLIP” flashes up over his histrionics.

Enjoy the 2011 show!

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