Why We Stay Up Late for Oscar (Documentary Review: “And The Oscar Goes To”)

Feeling let down by last week’s lackluster Academy Awards? A wonderful 2014 documentary reminds us why we love the movies and honor the individuals who bring them to us.

SnapShot Plot

Notwithstanding how likable and talented Neil Patrick Harris is and how impossible a mission it’s become to do anything but under-achieve to a global audience of billions who slavishly tune in to the annual Academy Awards show, I turned off the TV feeling, well, cheated in some vaguely profound way. I mean, let’s face it; the show has become almost as unfathomable as the industry it purports to celebrate each year, especially when you consider the gross hyperbole that is the Hollywood publicity machine. And yet . . . the connection we as human beings feel to that amorphous entity known as the cinematic experience can indeed only be captured in a single word: Profound. Without belaboring the point or dissecting the various factors contributing to my sense of malaise (take your pick: a protracted and bloated production; interminable red carpet coverage; fashion police-state politics; a lack of multicultural nominations; the predictable bias toward themes of triumph-over-adversity etc.), I realized that what I was missing was that old-fashioned feeling of wonder that was associated with Hollywood. I missed those Oscar broadcasts that – glamorous as they were – nonetheless seemed more celebratory and less cynical than they’ve become of late.

To the rescue . . .  And The Oscar Goes To is a documentary produced for Turner Classic Movies last year, which traces the history of the Academy Awards from its humble roots in 1927 to the global industry into which it has morphed. Narrated by Angelica Huston and featuring tons of old and new archival footage as well as deeply personal interviews with Hollywood luminaries such as Helen Mirren, George Clooney, Jane Fonda, Ellen Burstyn and Benicio Del Toro, just to name some, the film manages to cover the entire breadth of the motion picture industry, in good times and bad. It offers not only a timeline of the technical developments within movie-making, but illustrates the social and political history of the country refracted through the lens of Hollywood, in particular the labor movements of the 30’s, the shameful Blacklisting during the Cold War, and the struggles of the Black community to gain acceptance and recognition in a White-dominated entertainment field.

 

 

Parting Shot

This film is as much entertaining as it is informative. It shows so many Oscar moments that either bring a tear to the eye or a laugh from the gut, sometimes both at once. It offers many rare, back-stage moments with winners and losers, underscoring their collective humanness when all is said and done. To paraphrase poor Sally Field’s much maligned Best Actress acceptance speech in 1985 for her performance in Places in the Heart, I liked it….I really liked it! Mercifully, this speech was not included in And The Oscar Goes To, which is why I’ve generously provided it below for your viewing pleasure. In fact, having just looked at it again after all these years, it’s really not as awful as it’s reputation has made it. To me, it represents a truly grateful artist who’s simply letting her sincerity show. And that, after all, is exactly what I’ve been missing for some time now.

 

Featured Image Courtesy of:  http://www.oscars.org/oscars/ceremonies/1963

YouTube Trailer Courtesy of:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12SBCNxB8yY

Sally Field Acceptance Speech on YouTube, Courtesy of:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_8nAvU0T5Y

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2 Comments

  • Norma says:

    I’m deeply grateful for your kind comment, Piera, and just so happy that we can share this continuing conversation over our mutual love of the movies!

  • Piera Accumanno says:

    Norma,

    I respect all your movie choices; however, the best thing about your recommendations is the way you lovingly, and sometimes humorously and cleverly, write about the subject. I don’t we need the movies at all — just your commentary will do.

    Piera

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