The Oscars: A timeline

1927:

The first ever US Academy Awards are held. First World War-based thriller Wings wins the first ever Best Picture Oscar.

1933:

 In a scene reminiscent of the early scenes of the 2001 comedy film Zoolander, comedian Will Rogers opens the Best Director envelope and says, “Come and get It Frank!” Unfortunately, there were two directors called Frank nominated in that year. Frank Capra was half way to the podium before Rogers clarified that it was Frank Lloyd, director of Cavalcade who had won, not Capra. Happily, Frank Capra later won for Mr Deeds Goes To Town in 1936. In future years, the awards are always announced in a heavily scripted way, in the hope of preventing such an embarrassing error ever happening again.

1940:

Hattie McDaniel becomes the first black woman to win an acting Oscar (Best Supporting Actress: Gone With The Wind). Having been barred from the film’s Atlanta premiere due to the state’s racial laws, she is made to sit at a segregated table during the Oscar ceremony. She is only allowed to attend at all due to the Ambassador Hotel making an exception to its usual strict ‘no blacks’ policy. Her white agent sat with her at the ceremony.

1941:

How Green Is My Valley beats Citizen Kane for Best Picture. Citizen Kane subsequently became the most critically acclaimed film of all time.

1964:

Sidney Poitier (Lillies Of The Field) becomes the first black actor to win an Oscar.

1968:

A very rare occurrence: A tie in the Best Actress category. Barbara Streisand wins for Funny Girl. Katharine Hepburn also wins for The Lion In Winter (her third). As most Oscars are determined by votes from several thousand Academy members, a tie is a frequent possibility.

1970:

George C. Scott wins Best Actor for Patton. He chooses not to attend and instead stays home and watches a ball game on the other channel.

1972:

Native American Sacheen Littlefeather surprises viewers by attending to reject Marlon Brando’s second Oscar won for The Godfather on his behalf. t “He very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award. And the reasons for this being are the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry,” she says. She is actually not a political activist herself but a small-time actress who later appears in Playboy magazine.

1973:

In a famously impromptu remark, host David Niven comments on a streaker who disrupts the ceremony:  “Isn’t it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?

1974:

Robert De Niro wins his first Oscar playing Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II. Marlon Brando played the same character in 1972’s The Godfather. It is the only time two actors have won Oscars for playing the same (fictional) person.

Tatum O’Neal becomes the youngest ever person to win a competitive Academy Award (Best Supporting Actress – Paper Moon). She is ten (she turned nine during filming).

1978:

Annie Hall beats Star Wars for Best Picture. Director and star Woody Allen begins a long tradition of not attending the Oscars (choosing to perform jazz music elsewhere on Oscar Night instead). He finally attends in 2002.

British actress Vanessa Redgrave (Best Supporting Actress: Julia) is audibly booed after she attacks opponents of her documentary film, The Palestinian as “Zionist hoodlums”. She also attacks former President Nixon.

1979:

Jane Fonda (Best Actress: Coming Home) uses sign language during her acceptance speech to highlight awareness of deafness. It is her second Oscar: she also won for Klute in 1972.

1981:

Robert De Niro wins his second Oscar for Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull. The timing is awkward as the new President, former actor, Ronald Reagan has just been shot and wounded in an assassination attempt. His attempted assassin John Hinckley was reportedly inspired by Scorsese and De Niro’s 1976 film Taxi Driver and a desire to “impress” his teenaged co-star Jodie Foster (she is not impressed).

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1982:

Katharine Hepburn wins her fourth and final Oscar for On Golden Pond. No other actor, male or female, has ever won four Oscars. Cate Blanchett later wins one for playing Hepburn herself in The Aviator in 2004.

Hepburn’s co-star Henry Fonda becomes easily the oldest ever Best Actor winner at 76. Too ill to attend the ceremony, his daughter and co-star, Jane Fonda collects the award on his behalf (he dies a few months later).

Screenwriter Colin Welland shouts “The British are coming!” following the success of Chariots of Fire this year. In fact, the next decade will prove a very lean one for British cinema, although Gandhi does win Best Picture in 1983.

1984:

Sally Field wins her second Oscar for Places In My Heart. “I haven’t had an orthodox career, and I’ve wanted more than anything to have your respect,” she says. “The first time I didn’t feel it, but this time I feel it, and I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!” Seen my many as overly sentimental, Field’s speech is often misquoted as: “You like me, you really like me!”

Mar 26, 2000; LOS ANGELES, CA, USA; NORTH AMERICAN SALES ONLY 72nd Academy Awards: OSCARS 2000. Best supporting actress ANGELINA JOLIE. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Chris Delmas/ZUMA Press. (©) Copyright 2000 by Chris Delmas

1991:

Whoopi Goldberg (Ghost) becomes only the second black actress to win Best Supporting Actress.

1992:

Silence of the Lambs wins in all of the “Big Five” categories: Best Film, Actor (Anthony Hopkins),  Actress (Jodie Foster), Director (Jonathan Demme) and Adapted Screenplay. This is the only the third time this has ever happened (the previous films were 1932’S It Happened One Night and 1975’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest).

Rumours abound that Jack Palance read out the wrong name during his announcement of the Best Supporting Actress winner Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinnie) In fact, though a surprise result, Tomei undoubtedly won. That said, Palance did seem to be in a somewhat “tired and emotional” state as he announced the award.

1993:

Couple Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon use the Best Film Editing category as a political opportunity urging the government to let HIV-positive Haitians being held at Guantanamo into the US.

1994:

“Oh, wow. This is the best drink of water after the longest drought of my life.” Steven Spielberg (Best Director: Schindler’s List) finally wins. Schindler’s List is the first black and white film to win Best Picture since The Apartment (1960).

1995:

Tom Hanks wins two Best Actor Oscars in consecutive years for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump, a feat not achieved since Spencer Tracey in the 1930s, He delivers highly emotional acceptance speeches both times, inadvertently “outing” a high school teacher as gay in the first (a moment which later inspired the Kevin Kline film In and Out) and in the second stating “I feel like I’m standing on magic legs.”

Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction) loses the Best Supporting Actor Oscar to Martin Landau (Ed Wood). Lipreaders can see Jackson clearly says “shit” on hearing the announcement from 12 year old, Anna Paquin. Jackson is unrepentant afterwards, arguing he deserved to win.

1999:

George Clooney, Nick Nolte, Ed Harris and many other actors refuse to stand or applaud Elia Kazan’s Lifetime Achievement Oscar. The On The Waterfront director testified to the notorious House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1952

2002:

Halle Berry (Monster’s Ball) becomes the first black winner of the Best Actress Oscar.

2003:

Filmmaker Michael Moore (Best Documentary: Bowling For Columbine) provokes a mixed reaction with an attack on President George W. Bush: “We live in the time where we have fictitious election results that elects a fictitious President. We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons…Shame on you, Mr. Bush, shame on you. And any time you’ve got the Pope and the Dixie Chicks against you, your time is up.”

Adrien Brody (Best Actor: The Pianist) kisses actress Halle Berry on receiving his award.

2004:

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King becomes the third film to win eleven Oscars. The others are Ben-Hur (1959) and Titanic (1997). All About Eve (1950) and Titanic remain the most nominated films (14 each). The Return of the King is the only fantasy film to win Best Picture (no sci-fi film has ever won it) and only the second sequel (the first was The Godfather Pt II in 1974).

2007:

Martin Scorsese finally wins (Director: The Departed) after years of being overlooked. “Could you double check the envelope?” he quips.

2010:

A showdown between Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker and James Cameron’s Avatar. The Hurt Locker wins Best Picture. Bigelow becomes the first woman to win Best Director (she and Cameron were married between 1989 and 1991).

2012:

The Artist is the first black and white film to win Best Picture since 1993’s Schindler’s List. Contrary to popular belief, it is not technically a silent film. Wings, the very first Best Picture winner, remains the only silent winner in this category.

Christopher Plummer (Best Supporting Actor: Beginners) becomes the oldest ever performer to win a competitive actor Oscar. He is 82.

Meryl Streep wins her 17th nomination (and her third win) for The Iron Lady joking: “When they called my name, I had this feeling I could hear half of America going, ‘Oh no. Come on… Her, again?’ You know. But, whatever.” No actor has ever been nominated as many times as Streep has: Katharine Hepburn won four times but was only nominated a still impressive 12 times. In 2018, Streep received her 21st nomination for The Post. Her other two wins were for Kramer Vs Kramer and Sophie’s Choice.

2013:

Daniel Day Lewis wins his third acting Oscar for Lincoln. Only five other actors have achieved three Oscar wins: Katharine Hepburn (who, as previously mentioned, won four), Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson, Walter Brennan and Ingrid Bergman.

2014:

John Travolta messes up his introduction to a performance from Frozen by Idina Menzel: “Please welcome the wickedly talented, one and only Adele Dazeem,” he says.

2016:

The Oscars are widely criticised for a lack of racial diversity in the nominations.

Leonardo DiCaprio finally wins Best Actor for The Revenant.

2017:

In an embarrassing cock up, La La Land is briefly announced as Best Picture, instead of the actual winner, Moonlight. The mistake – which seems to have resulted from veteran actor Warren Beatty being given the card revealing La La Land actress Emma Stone’s Best Actress Oscar in error, and Beatty and Faye Dunaway’s understandably confused reaction – is only corrected after two minutes (“There’s a mistake. Moonlight, you guys won best picture…This is not a joke. Moonlight has won best picture”) by which time the La La Land team are midway through their acceptance speech.

Casey Affleck wins for Manchester by the Sea despite widespread controversy over sexual harassment allegations. Actress Brie Larson, an advocate of sexual assault victims, presents the award to Affleck, but seems unhappy with the result.

2019:

Comedian Kevin Hart steps down as host of the Oscars after controversy emerges over a slew of allegedly homophobic tweets he sent in the past. It is decided the Oscars will not have an official host for the first time since 1989.

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The Oscars: myths, legends and statistics

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Four score and seven years ago (or thereabouts) the Oscars burst onto the world. With this year’s ceremony fast approaching, let’s take a look back at the highs and lows of Academy Award history…

1927: World War I based thriller Wings wins the first ever Best Picture Oscar. It is the last silent film to win until The Artist wins in 2012.

1933: In a scene reminiscent of the early scenes of Zoolander, comedian Will Rogers opens the Best Director envelope and says “Come and get It Frank!” Unfortunately, there were two directors called Frank nominated in that year. Frank Capra was half way to the podium before Rogers clarified that it was Frank Lloyd, director of Cavalcade who had won, not Capra. Happily, Frank Capra wins for Mr Deeds Goes To Town in 1936. In future years, the awards are always announced in a heavily scripted way, to avoid such a cock up happening again.

1941: How Green Is My Valley beats Citizen Kane, subsequently the most critically acclaimed film of all time, for Best Picture.

1968; A tie in the Best Actress category! Barbara Streisand wins for Funny Girl. Katharine Hepburn also wins for The Lion In Winter (her third).

1970: George C. Scott wins Best Actor for Patton. He chooses not to attend and instead watches a ball game on the other channel.

1972: Native American Sacheen Littlefeather picks up Marlon Brando’s Oscar for him to promote Native American issues (it is Brando’s second. This one is for The Godfather). She is actually not a political activist herself but a small time actress and later appears in Playboy.

1973: David Niven remarks of a streaker at the ceremony that “the only laugh that man will ever get is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings”.

1974: Robert De Niro wins his first Oscar playing Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II. Marlon Brando played the same character in 1972’s The Godfather. It is the only time two actors have won Oscars for playing the same (fictional) person.

1980: Robert De Niro also wins his second Oscar for Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull. The timing is awkward as President Reagan has just been shot. His attempted assassin John Hinckley was reportedly inspired by Scorsese and De Niro’s 1976 film Taxi Driver.

1981: Katharine Hepburn wins her fourth and final Oscar for On Golden Pond. No other actor, male or female, has ever won four. Cate Blanchett later wins one for playing Hepburn herself in The Aviator in 2004.

1992: Rumours abound that Jack Palance read out the wrong name during his announcement of the Best Supporting Actress winner Marisa Tomei. In fact, this is impossible: only one name is ever on the card, the name of the winner. Marisa Tomei in fact thoroughly deserved to win for My Cousin Vinny (even though it was a surprise result). That said, Palance did seem to be in a somewhat “tired and emotional” state as he announced the award.

1995: Tom Hanks wins two Best Actor Oscars in consecutive years (a feat not achieved since Spencer Tracey in the 1930s) for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump. Both times he delivers excruciating acceptance speeches inadvertently “outing” a high school teacher in the first (a moment which inspired the Kevin Kline film In and Out) and in the second stating “I feel like I’m standing on magic legs.”

1995: Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction) loses the Best Supporting Actor Oscar to Martin Landau (Ed Wood). Lipreaders can see Jackson clearly says “shit” on hearing the announcement (from 12 year old An Paquin). Jackson is later unrepentant, arguing he deserved the award more than Landau.

2003: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King becomes the third film to win eleven Oscars. The others are Ben-Hur (1959) and Titanic (1997). All About Eve (1950) and Titanic remain the most nominated films (14 each).

2012: Meryl Streep wins her 17th nomination (and her third win) for The Iron Lady. No actor has ever been nominated as many times as she has. In 2014, she won her 18th nomination for August: Osage County. Her other wins were for Kramer Vs Kramer and Sophie’s Choice.

2013: Daniel Day Lewis wins his third acting Oscar for Lincoln. Only five other actors have achieved this: Katharine Hepburn (who won four), Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson, Walter Brennan and Ingrid Bergman.

Trying to guess who will win this year’s Best Picture Oscar? Why not let the past be your guide?

Sixteen of the last fifty Best Picture winners were based on true stories (for the record, I am counting The French Connection as “true” but not Shakespeare In Love). This, of course, means that around 68% of the last fifty Best Picture winners were entirely fictional. The most recent “real life” winners were and 12 Year’s A Slave.

Comedies hardly ever win the Best Picture Oscar. Only around five of the last fifty Best Picture winners were comedies. Annie Hall, Forrest Gump, The Artist, Shakespeare In Love and American Beauty. And some would dispute that American Beauty or Forrest Gump are comedies.

Nearly half of the past fifty Best Picture winners had either a British director, lead actor or actress, a British setting or has other heavy British involvement.

No science fiction film has ever won Best Picture. Gravity, Avatar, Star Wars and A Clockwork Orange were all nominated but didn’t win in this category.

Only two sequels have ever won. The Godfather Part II (the first Godfather film also won) and the third Lord of the Rings film.

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Great Oscar disasters …explained!

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Every year since 1928, the American Academy has awarded a Best Picture Oscar to the movie deemed to have been judged “Best Picture”. Sometimes they have got it right (Casablanca, The Godfather, Slumdog Millionaire). Sometimes they have got it wrong. Hugely dramatically wrong. Here are some of the worst foul ups and some possible explanations for them…

1941: How Green Was My Valley beats Citizen Kane.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley is bad. It’s just that Citizen Kane is supposed to be the greatest film ever made. The young Orson Welles’ performance in the lead role as Kane himself is peerless as is his direction. Witness Kane’s convincing transformation from a charismatic young idealist into an embittered old man. The innovative use of light and shadows. The scene in which Kane’s marriage declines from untroubled romance into weary silence in the space of a few shots. Citizen Kane transformed cinema forever. Why didn’t it win?

The simple answer is that by basing Kane on the real life newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst (who was still very much alive in 1941), Welles assured the film’s critical and commercial failure. The journalist’s quest to uncover the secret of “Rosebud” (the name of Kane’s childhood sledge and the character’s last word) in the film alluded to Hearst’s own private nickname for his mistress’s (ahem) private part.

Hearst was hugely powerful and buried the film amidst hostile reviews just as Rupert Murdoch would do if a similar film were made about a thinly disguised malevolent Australian TV and press baron today. The genius Welles who had read the complete works of Shakespeare before he was ten, ended his days as fat as a house and lending his distinctive voice to Transformers: The Movie. As well as probably the best beer commercial voiceovers in the world.

But critically he had the last laugh. It’s difficult to think of William Randolph Hearst these days without inviting thoughts of Citizen Kane.

And to be fair, for all its technical excellence, Citizen Kane is hardly a natural crowd-pleaser. It might not have won anyway.

 

1976: Rocky beats Taxi Driver (and a few other things).

1976 should have been a classic year. Sydney Lumet’s Network was a powerful critique on the media portraying a news programme’s cynical exploitation of one of its presenters when he suddenly has a breakdown and announces he’s going to kill himself on air. All The President’s Men saw Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as real life Washington Post journalists Woodward and Bernstein as they uncovered the Watergate scandal. Taxi Driver saw Robert De Niro deliver one of the finest performances ever committed to film as a Vietnam vet driven mad by insomnia and loneliness comes close to assassinating a presidential candidate.

But 1976 was the United States’ bicentennial year. the Academy are a conservative bunch and were keener to reward a film endorsing the American dream than one about Watergate (in an election year)  or one about Vietnam vets. This why Rocky beat all of these films, despite being clearly the worst of the lot.

1979: Kramer Vs Kramer beats Apocalypse Now.

Actually for all Apocalypse Now’s classic status, I’m less sure this was such a bad call. Kramer is actually an excellent and extremely powerful film while Apocalypse Now does rather go on a bit and – let’s face it – doesn’t end properly. Besides, the much more conservative Vietnam film The Deer Hunter had already won the previous year.

1989: Driving Miss Daisy beats Born on the Fourth of July (1990 Dances With Wolves beats Goodfellas).

Driving Miss Daisy was a ludicrously safe choice which barely even begins to discuss the issues raised by the civil rights struggle of the 1960s. Even worse, the Oscars opted for Kevin Costner’s picturesque western snooze fest the following year, thus snubbing Goodfellas, probably the best film of the entire 1990s.

1994 Forrest Gump beats Pulp Fiction.

The Oscars got everything wrong this year snubbing the most iconic and watchable film of the decade in favour of a film which a) portrays the entire anti-Vietnam movement as a bunch of sneering wife beaters b) suggests women should marry young and be good housewives or they’ll descend into drugs, promiscuity and prostitution c) spends a good half hour showing Forrest running across the US in a bid to win the Best Cinematography Oscar…which it didn’t win anyway! And d) is scared to mention the AIDS virus by name. In 1994. A full year after Tom Hanks had appeared himself in the Oscar winning Philadelphia which is all about AIDS.

Even worse: the one Oscar Pulp Fiction did win (Best Original Screenplay) should actually have probably gone to Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Samuel L Jackson’s response on losing the Best Supporting Actor Oscar (visibly mouthing “Shit”) says it all.

2006: Crash beats Brokeback Mountain.

Were the Academy attempting to show their liberal credentials by awarding a film about racism? Or were they just being homophobic? Or were they just idiots? Who knows? Either way Paul Harris’s Crash must rank amongst the weakest Best Film winners ever. It’s barely any better than the David Cronenberg car crash fetish film of the same name.

The name is fitting though: the choice was a disaster.

 

How to win an Oscar

Are you a film actor? Would you like to win, or at least be nominated for, an Academy Award? Well, you’re probably cutting it a bit fine for this time round.  But if you want to be considered in the future, perhaps try one of the following:

Play a real person.

The Oscars always like this. It doesn’t matter if it’s someone instantly recognisable (the Queen, Margaret Thatcher, George VI, Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, Edith Piaf, Truman Capote, Ray Charles) or not (Erin Brockovich, John Nash in A Beautiful Mind, Harvey Milk, Ron Kovic) playing a real person living or dead definitely gives you an edge.

Do an accent.

Meryl Streep isn’t the only one to have benefitted for doing accents other than her own. This often goes hand in hand with playing real people (see above). It need not be an overseas accent either: even Colin Firth did a bit of a funny accent in The Kings’s Speech.

Doing an accent sometimes even leads to Oscars when the accent is bad. Witness Sean Connery’s inconsistent Irish brogue in The Untouchables or Michael Caine’s bizarre accent in The Cider House Rules. The effect works less well if the film in silent (The Artist).

Don’t win too often.

Tom Hanks won two years in a row (for Philadelphia and Forest Gump) but this is rare. Generally, the Academy is more likely to favour you gradually. Meryl Steep and Jack Nicholson won each of their three Oscars apiece during different decades. On the other hand, if you are felt to have had a near miss one year (like Colin Firth for A Single Man or Kate Winslet several times) you are more likely to win at the next one.

Be British.

This is statistically likely to favour you perhaps because of the perceived gravitas the accent is thought to imbue (rightly or wrongly).

Be very old or very young.

The Oscars like a novelty like Jessica Tandy or Anna Paquin in The Piano. This has been less true in recent years though.

Avoid scandal.

Russell Crowe’s phone throwing tantrum probably cost him a second Oscar for A Beautiful Mind. Avoid belittling or attacking the Oscars too. They won’t thank you for it.

Play someone with something wrong with them.

It doesn’t matter what. Autism, blindness, dementia, madness, a stammer. All go down well with the Academy.

Finally…combine as many of the above as possible into one performance…and Oscar glory will be yours!(Just remember to thank us in your speech…)

 

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