There was a time not so long ago when journalists got up at the crack of dawn to go to the Motion Picture Academy where, at its Samuel Goldwyn movie theatre on Wilshire Blvd., if you were one of them, you’d be among the first non-Academy associated humans to get a white typewritten paper list of Oscar nominees that you’d either phone into your publication or rush back to the office to write about for tomorrow’s edition. There wasn’t a lot for TV reporters to film, except perhaps a bunch of p.r. representatives lingering from the side aisles waiting to pounce on anyone within earshot in all sorts of nefarious ways.
Oh, maybe there was also the dull Academy president announcing the major nominees in front of a red velvet curtain and a larger than life backdrop of a fake Oscar but I wouldn’t swear to it. What I do remember is when I first got here and started covering it, even the presidents lingered, and often nefariously. In Hollywood, everyone lingers – sometimes nefariously and sometimes not – but almost always for too long. It’s one of the many pitfalls of the business.
Anyway, back to the bygone era of the very early eighties that I refer to. It was a time very early in my career when I was an actual show business journalist. Clearly, I’m not as good as I thought because I can’t remember if there was even an actor standing next to the Academy president announcing said nominees or if the prez even or always read them.
What I do remember is that I was very young and very excited to be there. Though more exciting than that was the list the Academy compiled for you stapled to the back pages of the nominees. It totaled up the list of nominees by studio, individual credits and according to how many times, if any, the person(s) had been nominated and/or won before. Why was that exciting? Because there was a time not so long before that when not even this detailed list was provided and a reporter had to navigate the perilous waters of going back to the office and inevitably getting some minute detail of the past or present wrong.
What do you mean fill in name of current nominee never got nominated? How dare you forget that short film they produced when they were 32 that no one ever heard of! I will never read you again! Or –
We fill in name of studio got six nominations this year and not seven – clearly you’re in the tank for fill in name of chief competing studio. We’re pulling all of our ads! Though my favorite was –
You know, fill in name of nominee was NOT the youngest (or oldest) nominee for best sound. In 1938, fill in name of nominee was co-nominated for best documentary and they were 22 (102). That’s a full eight months younger! How dare you! Don’t you know ANYTHING????
Ahh, how times have changed. Or have they?
There will inevitably always be something to complain about when award nominees and recipients are concerned. Especially with the granddaddy (mommy?) of all – the Academy Awards. It’s not that this year’s Oscars are not so white. It’s that, well, they are never fair. Or even-handed. Or even…much of anything except iconic.
What you discover as you get older is that this is the case for far too many or our icons. Oh, don’t go thinking I’m on a downer and you don’t want me passing it over to you. Nothing iconic is quite what it seems to be. The Statue of Liberty is older than it looks up close, the Mona Lisa is smaller and most Las Vegas curtains are tacky and made of Mylar. Not to mention…well, you get the picture.
This is not to make excuses for the silly omissions on this year’s list or to say that this and many other show business, in fact all business, organizations, need to be more inclusive – nee color blind, gender blind, age blind and…well, you get the picture. Again. Of course, they do.
But accepting all this to be true or not true and simply dealing with the facts, explain on a macro level:
- How can The Martian land seven nominations including best picture, actor and screenplay, and yet its director Ridley Scott is completely ignored?
- How is it that Carol gets six nominations, including, best actress, supporting actress and screenplay, and for best picture it receives nary a mention?
- How can I, as a lover of all kinds of movies, watch both of the above films and not understand why they were nominated for much of anything because both generally bored the hell out of me???
Therein lies your answer.
This is all a strange conglomeration of opinion, circumstance, institutional prejudice and chance. And, as Oscar-winning screenwriter William Goldman so famously posited many decades ago in his seminal book Adventures in the Screen Trade, when it comes to the motion picture field: NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING.
And yet…we all want a piece of the pie, don’t we? We all want to be recognized, and counted, or at the very least, to feel included.
I’ve often read the not so subtle putdowns of the millennial generation and how they need an award for everything. Often this is attributed to mis-parenting and a vaguely sort of overly permissive, socially liberal baby boomer culture.
Well, perhaps. But I don’t think so. Like all the rest of us, they just want to feel included in the inside game and valued in some way.
Awards and nominations are one way to feel this. But there are others. Lots of them.
Which is not to say I won’t be watching, dishing and live tweeting the Oscars when they air, Sunday. Feb. 28 right here at notesfromthechair.com.
And give up show business?? Oh, I don’ t think so.