A few quotations over the last few years from the prominent and the not so prominent:
A.O. Scott wrote in the New York Times in 2008:
“…I am…bothered by the disproportionate importance that the Academy Awards have taken on, and by the distorting influence they exercise over the way we make, market and see movies in this country.” (2/24/08)
Scott wrote in the same article: “The wonderful thing about the Academy Awards is that they are fundamentally trivial. To pretend otherwise is to trivialize movies.” This reminds me of the psychiatrist who after a “Good morning!” from a fellow psychiatrist, asked himself: I wonder what he meant by that. I wish Scott had written more about what he meant.
“the way we make, market and see movies in this country”: Michael Cieply and Brooks Barnes in the NYT later that same year: “If, as expected, ‘Iron Man’ comes into the awards mix, that will be partly because Paramount recently moved a more conventional prospect, a drama called ‘The Soloist,’ into next year and out of contention. That film…had promised to complicate the studio’s life at a time when it saw awards potential for the currently hot Mr. Downey in three pictures at once.” (“Box Office Winners,” NYT 10/28/08)
Two years later, Tom Sherak, then president of the Academy, was quoted by interviewer David Mermelstein in the Wall Street Journal about interesting the public in the awards presentation: “…make them feel invested and that’s done by having movies they like up for awards.” Mermelstein: “ABC, the show’s long-time broadcaster, depends on high numbers (ratings) to set pricey advertising rates. The greater the fees, the more the network pays to televise the ceremony. That’s important because over 90% of the Academy’s revenue is derived from this relationship.” (3/3/10) AH! “the way we make, market and see movies in this country.”
Back to 2008: Sean Smith and Benjamin Svetkey wrote an article for Entertainment Weekly called “Why Does Hollywood’s Biggest Night Keep Getting Smaller?” There’s very little historical perspective in this piece by youngsters unfamiliar with the world before T.V.; but they offer a couple of fascinating quotations from E.W. Davis, then Executive Director of the Academy. “…it’s not because we’re too dumb to know that people aren’t fascinated by who wins best production design.” Well, they won’t become fascinated if that’s how the Executive Director feels; and they could become more interested in technical awards if the same dumb, shallow explanations of categories were not engaged every year with stupid comments from silly gigglers like Goldie Hawn and arrogant clowns like Mike Myers. This year one of the two awards I was most interested in was the award for production design which I so wanted to go to Budapest Hotel.” In 2011 it was the single category in which I was most interested, in favor of Hugo.
But the strange Mr. Davis did make a good point: “We gave out Oscars before there was any television broadcast at all.” (Hear! Hear!) But the article next immediately made fun of that remark. And Smith and Svetkey made an admirable observation themselves about “a fragmented media culture — with a glut of award shows and 24-hour entertainment coverage dimming the mystery of stardom…” (EW 3/7/08)
And continuing with Academy Award history, from Jerry Vermilye’s The Films of the Twenties: “In the Academy’s third competition, there were no less than eight nominations for Best Actor, including two each for Ronald Colman, Maurice Chevalier and Geroge Arliss.” (Secaucus, Citadel Press, 1985) THEM WAS THE DAYS.
NEXT FRIDAY POST April 3
See you at the movies,