Trivial Matters #32 – The Evolution of the Oscars nomination record

As I mentioned in my trivia for the upcoming 89th Academy AwardsLa La Land, after setting a record by winning all seven Golden Globes for which it was nominated, leads the pack this year with a whopping 14 Academy Award nominations. This ties the record for most nominations at the Oscars, so I thought I’d tell the story of how this record evolved, and which films set it along the way to 1950’s Everest, All About Eve, as well as films that tied the record in between.

  • 5: At the first Academy Awards in 1929, there were only 12 awards to give, four of which were immediately retired. And Frank Borzage’s WWI love story Seventh Heaven picked up the most nominations, and also tied for the most wins with Sunrise (three).
    • In Old Arizona (2nd)
    • The Patriot (2nd)
  • 6: The Love Parade set a new record at the 3rd Academy Awards, but despite being my favorite of the Best Picture nominees that year, it didn’t win a single Oscar. This would be the last time to date that a film set the nominations record but did not win Best Picture.
  • 7: The godawful Cimarron, the Best Picture winner at the very subpar 4th Academy Awards, was one of the two first films to receive multiple acting nominations (the other was A Free Soul). It also won the most awards of the evening, picking up three.
  • 8: The record held for four years, until Mutiny on the Bounty scored eight nominations (including three for Best Actor, in the last year before supporting categories were introduced) at the 8th Academy Awards. Alas, it didn’t fare too well, becoming the third film, and last to date, to win Best Picture and nothing else.
  • 10: The Life of Emile Zola raised the bar at the 10th Academy Awards, but came away with only three awards. If you’re noticing a trend of the big nominees failing to win many awards, that’s about to end.
  • 13: The year was 1939, widely considered the best year in the history of American cinema, and the 12th Academy Awards‘ ten Best Picture nominees reflected that. But against all logic, even with films like Wuthering Heights and Goodbye Mr. Chips and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and The goddamn Wizard of Oz competing, the Academy bestowed 13 nominations and 9 Oscars, both a record, on the ridiculous Gone with the Wind. Sorry, I’m still upset about this one, all these months later.
  • 14: No film tied Gone with the Wind‘s record for the next decade or so (though a few films came close, with Mrs. MiniverThe Song of Bernadette and Johnny Belinda scoring 12 nominations at their respective ceremonies), but it was beaten by All About Eve at the 23rd Academy Awards. These nominations included four female acting nominations, a record that has never been matched to this day, although none of them were successful. The film came away with six awards, including Best Picture.
    • Since then, the record has been tied twice, by Titanic in 1997 and La La Land in 2016.

And now, as a treat for those who have stuck with me, here is the progression of the record for most competitive Oscar wins (and those who tied it along the way):

  • 3: Again, we have to start at the beginning, at the 1st Academy Awards. As I mentioned above, Seventh Heaven and Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans each came away with three Oscars.
    • Cimmaron (4th)
    • Cavalcade (6th)
  • 5: The record stood until the 7th Academy Awards, when It Happened One Night swept the Big Five (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay). Interestingly, every time a film has won these five awards (as regular readers or anyone who has ever talked to me knows, there have been three), they have never won a single other Oscar.
  • 8: Again, I have to deal with Gone with the Wind, so let’s make it quick. In addition to its eight competitive awards, it also received two special awards.
    • From Here to Eternity (26th)
    • On the Waterfront (27th)
  • 9: This time it took a while for the Academy to lavish so much love on a single film…Gone with the Wind‘s record stood for 19 years, until Gigi scored 9 Oscars at the 31st Academy Awards in 1958. But it didn’t last long…
  • 11: At the 32nd Academy Awards, William Wyler’s epic Ben-Hur won 11 of its 12 nominations, losing only Best Adapted Screenplay.
    • Since then, only three films have received 10 or more Oscars: West Side Story received 10 at the 34th Academy Awards, while Titanic and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King tied Ben-Hur‘s record at the 70th and 76th Academy Awards, respectively.

Trivial Matters #31 – Regarding the 89th Academy Awards Nominees

It is that time of year again! Today the Academy announced the nominees for the 89th Academy Awards, with nine films in the running for Best Picture of 2016. As I mentioned in my New Year’s post, I have seen so few films from the past year I was certain none of them would be nominated for the big prize…and, indeed, none was. So, I enter Oscars season totally bereft of predictions for Best Picture and, since Inárritu didn’t direct anything this year, I have nothing for Best Director, either.

77290-004-94E6E6AB.jpgSo even though he’s not nominated and is dead, I’m predicting William Wyler.

But anyway, as is the custom here at Oscars and I, here is some trivia that leapt out at me regarding this year’s slate:

  • La La Land is the third film to be nominated for 14 Oscars (following All About Eve [1950] and Titanic [1997]). It would have to win 11 Oscars to tie the record set by Ben-Hur (1959, out of 12 nominations) and later tied by Titanic and by The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003, out of 11 nominations).
    • It’s the first film since American Hustle in 2013 to be nominated for the “Big Five” awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay (Original). If it wins all five, as it did at the Golden Globes, it would join It Happened One Night (1934), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), and The Silence of the Lambs (1991) as the only films to do so.
    • If it does not win Best Picture, it will hold the record for most nominations without winning the top prize–currently at 13, set by Mary Poppins in 1964 and later tied by Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), and, of all damn films, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008).
  • No film not nominated for Best Picture received more than one acting nomination.
  • Of the Best Picture nominees, only Hacksaw Ridge was not nominated for its screenplay. As recent years have shown, this puts it at a significant disadvantage.
  • Arrival has no acting nominations. The last film to win Best Picture without any acting nominations was Slumdog Millionaire in 2008 (the eleventh film to do so).
  • Except for Mel Gibson, all of the nominees for Best Director are first-time nominees in that category (two, Damien Chazelle and Kenneth Lonergan, have been nominated previously for writing).
  • La La Land has six more nominations than the next-most nominated films (Arrival and Moonlight, with eight apiece). This ties the record for largest gap between the first- and second-most nominated films, set by Forrest Gump in 1994, with 13 nominations to 7 each for Bullets Over Broadway, The Shawshank Redemption, and Pulp Fiction.
  • Meryl Streep, with her 20th acting nomination, could tie Katharine Hepburn for most acting wins (though all four of Hepburn’s were in the Lead Actress category, while Streep’s first win was Best Supporting Actress for Kramer vs. Kramer). Nicole Kidman and Jeff Bridges could join the roster of performers to win in both Lead and Supporting categories.
  • If Fences wins Best Picture, Denzel Washington, a two-time Best Actor winner, would become the sixth person in Academy history to win for acting and something else…following Laurence Olivier (producing), Barbra Streisand (original song), Michael Douglas (producing), Emma Thompson (writing), and George Clooney (producing).
    • And if he wins Best Actor, he would not only join Daniel Day-Lewis as the only male actor to win it three times, but would also be the fourth person, after Mary Pickford (Coquette [1928]), Laurence Olivier (Hamlet [1948]), and Charlize Theron (Monster [2003]), to win an acting award for a film that he also produced.

That’s all that comes to mind now…I’ll post more as I think of them!

An Oscars and I New Year’s Eve

Hello, it’s the end of 2016, and the first thing I’m thinking right now is I am even more behind than usual when it comes to preparing for the Oscars. A quick glance at the Golden Globe nominees is usually a good way to gauge how the Academy will divvy up its picks, but as is my wont, I have not seen all that many films from the current year. In fact, I’ve seen just five. Here, then, is Oscars and I’s official ranking of 2016 films, with the almost certain knowledge that none of them will pick up a nomination for Best Picture:

  1. ‘Til Madness Do Us Part, dir. Wang Bing (shot in 2013)
  2. Zootopia, dir. Byron Howard & Rich Moore
  3. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, dir. Gareth Edwards
  4. I.T., dir. John Moore
  5. Hail, Caesar!, dir. Coen Brothers

I should say: Rogue One was not a good film at all…not just because of the CGI desecration of Peter Cushing, but because it was lazily written, sloppily directed, poorly paced, and overall just felt like the filler that it is. It is only so highly ranked because a) I saw very few movies, and b) the two below it are just awful. I initially placed I.T. at the bottom, because it is almost unwatchably bad, but decided to put it ahead of Hail, Caesar!, which is bloody terrible, because it was made by the Coen Brothers, which makes it all the more disappointing.

maxresdefault.jpgThey got this shot by showing George Clooney the dailies.

So, of the five films I’ve seen from this year, three were bad-to-awful. It doesn’t bode well for this awards season, especially after the Academy awarded Spotlight the top prize last year, indicating they’ve lost their damn minds. Hell, maybe Rogue One will get a Best Picture nod…as usual, it’ll get all the technical nominations, and without a Mad Max to compete with, maybe it’ll take them (however undeservedly). And Zootopia will doubtless score Best Animated Feature.

But I wanted to dedicate this post to the New Year’s Eves of Oscars Past, and think about the Best Picture nominees down the years that have at least addressed this only-important-in-movies holiday. There have not been many.

image.aspx.gifSadly, ignored by the Academy. Really thought de Niro would pick up his third Oscar for this one.

As far as I can tell, two Best Picture winners have heavily involved New Year’s Eve in their narratives. The second, 1960’s The Apartment, is sadly one I have not yet seen…and if I continue Oscar and I’s slow pace, expect my review of it sometime in the year 2029. But I do know the basic plot, and I can say its treatment of New Year’s Eve as some magical night where all the people who forgot to obtain the Love of Their Life at Christmas are given another chance. In a way, it led us to 2011’s New Year’s Eve, which I also haven’t seen, and you can expect my review of that sometime next never.

The first, which I covered…damn, two years ago…is Cavalcade, the winner of the 6th Academy Awards for 1932/33. It opens on New Year’s Eve 1899, with a ridiculously prim and proper English couple such as only Noël Coward could imagine coming home at midnight and optimistically predicting a wondrous and peaceful 20th century. It’s supposed to be ironic, I guess, but the whole film is just so full of stiff-upper-lippedness–especially when it condenses the First World War into an almost jubilant montage that doesn’t scar its participants in any way whatsoever–that it just flops through its overlong runtime like a salmon trying to make it to a fishing hole across a frozen lake.

In my review, I mentioned I could only obtain a grainy copy of the film that looked like it had been re-recorded several times, with subtitles in Portuguese that not only could not be turned off, but oftentimes directly contradicted the dialogue in English. This is because Cavalcade is the only Best Picture winner never to be officially released on home video.

Unknown.jpegAnd if we’re accepting suggestions to add to that list…

I suppose my favorite New Year’s-themed film has to be The Poseidon Adventure, a raucous film from the early 1970s disaster boom that also gave us The Towering Inferno and Earthquake. In this one, an ocean liner gets hit by a rogue wave and flips over, and it’s up to Gene Hackman and Ernest Borgnine to save the day. It did win an Academy Award, for the almost impressively awful song “The Morning After”, and also received a nomination for its original score.

Unknown-1.jpegBecause Academy rules dictate that John Williams must receive at least one nomination per year.

And speaking of Best Original Score at the 45th Academy Awards, it was to be the only Oscar Charlie Chaplin ever received, for his film Limelight (which had actually been released 1952 but, due to a technicality, was not eligible for the Oscars until 1972). And even though it predated the Oscars, there’s also that almost unbearably touching New Year’s Eve scene in his 1925 classic The Gold Rush:

So unless ships are flipping upside down or there’s gold in them thar hills, it seems that New Year’s Eve is a pretty barren holiday when it comes to great films. That’s something someone can work to correct in 2017 and beyond…the Oscars deserve a win on this date. In any event, I’m off to see if I can eat 12 grapes in thirty seconds to portend prosperity in the coming year. And since I’m eager to go and start the obligatory drinking (since I rarely touch the stuff any other time of year…I may try this “beer” thing I keep hearing about), here’s another scene from The Gold Rush:

Happy 2017, everyone!