Arts & Entertainment
Opinion: The Academy Awards may be just for show, but for those snubbed by Oscar, the pain is real
Some things are less impressive the closer you get to them. Academy Awards ceremonies, for example. I covered two of them in the mid-1990s, when I was a U.S.-based newspaper correspondent. What I remember most is not the glitz and glamour and fashions that are often mentioned when the topic turns to Oscars (which, this year, are presented early next month). No, what I recall is the extent to which this is a made-for-TV event. Those big Oscars near the red carpet are just hollow props, and when you look on the other side of what TV cameras show you, most things appear fake and flimsy. There’s probably a metaphor there for Hollywood itself. Back then it was a low-tech event, too: winners’ names were handwritten on boards in the media room — which was, incidentally, far from the big room chocked with film stars that you see on TV. Still, it was fun, in a silly kind of way. And it was possible (if you ignored the rules) to do some VIP mingling. A distracted Robin Williams almost trod on one of my feet, and I did spy Bruce Springsteen taking a smoke break.
Some may say the real interest is in the winners; the truth, though, is that there are many more nominees who go home empty-handed. And for those painfully awful few moments while the camera is on them, everyone must try to look as if they don’t care. Some manage this better than others. For exquisite awkwardness it would be hard to top Frank Capra’s embarrassment in 1934 when he mistakenly, if understandably, thought he had won the Best Director award. After all, the announcer, Will Rogers, had said: “Come on up and get it, Frank.” So Frank did, as his family and friends cheered. He pushed past crowded tables, muttering his thanks. He waved so that the guy with the spotlight could see him. And then he saw the real winner: Frank Lloyd. As Lloyd accepted the award (for “Cavalcade”), Capra endured cries of “Sit down!” as he slunk back to his seat, feeling, as he said later, “like a miserable worm.” And yet, in some ways, he was lucky. His humiliation was not captured live on TV, as the Oscars ceremony was not televised until 1953. Today, of course, such a faux pas would be up on YouTube within minutes.
Still, there are worse things than being nominated and not winning. Not being nominated at all, to start with. On that front we are right behind one of the most famous female figures in showbiz: Miss Piggy has coped with yet another Academy snub with admirable restraint and dignity.
As we expect some of Miss P’s quotes to generate worldwide publicity, I should stress here that we cannot guarantee the verisimilitude of our scoop. One insurmountable problem with telephone interviews is that you’re never 100 percent sure exactly who is on the other end of the line. Then again, if it sounds like a pig and talks like a pig, well, it probably is… worth publishing.
The thing about awards shows is that there are always more losers than winners. For every gleeful winner looking stunned, there are a handful of also-rans doing some of the best acting of their lives, trying to appear pleased for someone else.
The Oscars, as they are best known, have a credibility problem. They are famous for egregious omissions. “Citizen Kane,” for example, still tops many polls of best film ever, but missed out on a Best Picture Oscar. Alfred Hitchcock never won an Oscar for his directing; Charlie Chaplin, Alan Ladd and Greta Garbo couldn’t get gongs for their acting. The Marx Brothers and Errol Flynn never even snared a nomination.
Walter Brennan, however, is in exalted company. Along with Jack Nicholson and Daniel Day-Lewis, he is the only man to have won three Oscars for acting. Walter Who? The only ones who know his name these days are Trivial Pursuit buffs with a special interest in 1930’s movies. Meryl Streep, meanwhile, also has three acting Oscars and is nominated again this year, although Cate Blanchett is the hot favorite.
But Miss Piggy is a glaring omission from the shortlists and, probably, also the red carpet on the night. There are always, always, shameful oversights in what is rather a mysterious voting process, by members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.the group was founded in LA in 1927, with only 36 members and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. as the first president. The body that now has close to 6,000 voting members.
There is nothing above-the-line in the Academy’s consistent shunning of Muppets. Yes, a ditty from a Muppets movie won the Best Original Song Oscar two years ago. The song was “Man or Muppet.” Man? Shamelessly sexist. And yet another slap in the snout to Miss Piggy.