And the Oscar Goes To... (2014 TV Movie)
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The documentary took us through the early days of the Academy Awards through to the 21st century, though more recent years seem to have been left out. I think the latest clip was in 2010 announcing The Hurt Locker as best film.
Lots and lots of clips of past Academy Awards, including hosts Whoppie Goldberg, Bob Hope, and Billy Crystal; past winners -- Hattie McDaniel's heartfelt speech after winning for Gone with the Wind, Michael Moore winning for Bowling for Columbine, Jane Fonda for Klute, Sasheen Littlefeather accepting for Marlon Brando (Godfather), "Good Will Hunting" stars Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, Henry Fonda's win accepted by Jane Fonda; Dustin Hoffman, Ruth Gordon, Marlon Brando (the first win) and many others. There was a discussion of the McCarthy era and the blacklist; and footage from backstage, where the press and photographers meet the winners.
So I'd say they packed a lot into 90 minutes. Also, there was a look at some of the classic stars announcing the awards: Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Jimmy Stewart, etc. Narrated by Angelica Huston.
*** 1/2 (out of 4)
Very good documentary taking a look at the history of the Oscars. That's pretty much the only plot description that this thing needs as the 90-minute running time is all about the big event. We learn about the very first awards and how it came to be. We learn about various rule changes that have taken place over time. We also get to hear from countless winners as they talk about what it's like getting up there to give a speech but we also get to hear from the other side in what it feels like to lose. Just about every topic is covered including some winners who started controversy, the smaller categories that most people don't care about and there's even a list of people who never won the award and it's just as impressive as the list of winners. AND THE Oscar GOES TO... is a very entertaining look at the end, which is full of interviews with current winners but I thought this was the least entertaining thing. Do we really need to hear from Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg again? Yes, it's always great seeing these two but we've already had so many other documentaries about their films and careers. I thought the most interesting moments were the ones dealing with the older footage that we don't get to see as often. This includes Hattie McDaniel's acceptance speech for GONE WITH THE WIND and various clips of Bob Hope hosting the event. The stuff dealing with the legends of Hollywood who are no longer with us are clearly the best moments of this and it makes you wonder why these full shows (and the AFI tributes) aren't available for viewing.
A movie buff's popcorn flick, "And the Oscar goes to..." includes the ceremony's many hosts, beginning with black-and-white footage of Bob Hope; the quintessential Oscar Night host, Hope had the style, wit, and humor to which later hosts could only aspire. With unflappable good taste, Hope seemed effortless, while others often tried too hard with mixed results. Whoopi Goldberg, however, did provide some priceless moments as host, especially her "African Queen" comment while garbed as Queen Elizabeth I. Johnny Carson and Steve Martin brought back some smiles, but other hosts are remembered with a grimace, and the sight of James Franco and Anne Hathaway was allowed to pass without comment.
Director-writers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman have inter-cut brief historical segments amongst the clips and interviews. Evidently, the Academy's original purpose was to combat unionization; but once the Academy renounced political and labor involvement, the board of governors turned to the celebration of movies as an art form, and the Oscars were born. The film also touches briefly on the 1950's black list and includes Lilian Hellman's pointed on-air comments. The spotty history of honoring African-American artists is an all-too-brief flash of clips, and a discussion of gay performances and openly LGBT actors seems to end before it begins. Epstein and Friedman are intent on avoiding controversy and focusing on nostalgia and light interviews with former nominees and winners.
Oscar winners such as Cher, Ellen Burstyn, Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, and Helen Mirren among others discuss the experience of being nominated, waiting tensely in the audience, losing gracefully, and winning graciously. Helen Mirren offers some of the best insights about the inner conflict when artists compete for awards. However, despite the occasional revelations, the film is little more than a nostalgic introduction to a subject that could have filled several hours. Perhaps, if successful, "And the Oscar goes to..." could be the introductory episode in a series that explores Oscar politics and campaigning, studio power and influence, and the Oscar's increasing value to star salaries and movie grosses. A passing glance at overlooked artists (Cary Grant, Greta Garbo, Alfred Hitchcock, Deborah Kerr, Peter O'Toole) and bypassed films (Singin' in the Rain, The Searchers) could have filled an entire documentary. The extended discussion of Martin Scorsese's directorial technique on "Raging Bull" only emphasized Oscar's sometimes bizarre choices; the winners that year over Scorsese and "Raging Bull," Robert Redford and "Ordinary People," were barely mentioned. As one interviewee said, the Oscars is one big night of glittering celebration among countless days of hard non-glamorous work in grungy surroundings. However, that one-night ceremony is an event to enjoy and discuss over the next morning's coffee. The award's ephemeral fame fades quickly, and few can name last year's winners, although the vastly entertaining "And the Oscar goes to..." will help viewers remember many more of them.
Industry main-stays like Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, George Clooney and Helen Mirren also share space with costume designers, cinematographers, editors, make-up artists, and many others for a look at what makes the art form the art form... in 90 minutes. If this had been longer, and looked at even more in-depth at the history, it might actually have been great instead of just... good. It is good, it has enough depth and history through the films that made the Oscars the Oscars to justify its existence (and of course getting clips like the Sacheen Littlefeather 1973 Godfather speech, or Jane Fonda's win for Klute, or the Damon/Affleck jubilant win for Good Will Hunting is always fun to see). I just wish it didn't skim over certain parts of Hollywood history like how the industry changed when the studios collapsed in the 1960's (there is some stuff on the blacklist though, if only briefly).
Let us not try to say the movies are any more important than they are. And the Oscars are a celebration of these not terribly important things. But, at the same time, let us not underestimate how important the movies really are. They bind us as a culture, connect us to other cultures and define generations. Sometimes they even change the way we look at the world.
And we get some great classic moments (Charlie Chaplin) alongside some more modern moments (Affleck and Damon, Diablo Cody). I almost wish I had started watching them sooner...
Originally, the Oscars did not have much prestige. But they immediately began to reflect changes in society. By the second year, they were chronicling the advent of sound in films.
But this documentary does more than present historic milestones. If you are really a lover of film, you may--like me--feel tears welling up a few times, with the many clips of past stars who are no longer with us. And clips of films that have meant something to you during your lifetime.
Cinema is an art form and we cherish the films that remind us of past events in our lives. Ands films that became memories we love to recall. It may be "Casablanca", "Gone with the Wind" or "Schindler's List", but there are probably films that can elicit an emotional response from each of us. Knowing that so many of my favorites are gone is enough to get me started. William Holden. Audrey Hepburn. Fred Astaire.
This film does more than document the ways in which films reflected the issues of their times (issue of race, gender, HIV/Aids, blacklisting). It captures the magic, the aura and the traditions of cinema. And it celebrates those who gave us so many wonderful memories.
It was nice to see an older Hollywood that had more class: i.e. when Clark Gable accepted his award for "It Happened One Night" he was gracious to his co-star and his director (calling him "Mr. Capra").
The low point to me was the over-exposure of Jane Fonda and Cher, the latter sounded impaired when she couldn't pronounce Marvin Hamlisch's name. Fonda is--to be kind--one of the most polarizing figures and unapologetic for her radical past. It was extremely difficult to watch her.
Of course, there was the predictable rant about "blacklisting" of Communist-leaning celebrities. They showed Lillian Hellman's speech during which she excoriated Senator McCarthy for the Hollywood blacklist. Miss Hellman doth protest too much. For those of you who have not been completely indoctrinated, Senator McCarthy had nothing to do with the Hollywood blacklist--this was done by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Both Senator McCarthy and Richard Nixon were used as the focal point by the left for years, probably because they were onto something about the infiltration in our government by Communists (see Alger Hiss). Do you want to know about true blacklisting? I read an article about the late Ron Silver who, after he spoke at the 2004 Republican National Convention in defense of George Bush and the War on Terrorism, stated that his phone stopped ringing about potential film roles. Blacklist indeed.
While the film isn't perfect, it is enjoyable and gives you many nice little vignettes about the film and the craftspeople who make movies.