February 26, 2007
Here’s a quickie on the Oscars. No, I am not going to complain about The Departed because Martin Scorsese is an acquaintance of mine—my wife is the godmother of his little girl—and his wife, Helen Morris, a very good friend. What I will complain about is the past. Scorsese should have won with Raging Bull in 1980 and with GoodFellas in 1990. It was about time the Academy gave it to him, but it was in order to right past wrongs.
And speaking of past wrongs, did you know that Double Indemnity, the greatest of Billy Wilder’s classics, lost to Going My Way, a Bing Crosby soap? That John Ford’s best ever western, The Searchers, never won, although big John did get four Oscars for other, lesser movies. Alfred Hitchcock never won an Oscar, nor did—get this—Orson Welles. Nor Howard Hawks. Worse, Michael Powell, of Red Shoes fame, never even got close.
Is it possible that The Third Man was considered inferior to Oliver, a dumb and unmelodic musical of the Sixties? Yes because Carol Reed won an Oscar for Oliver and was ignored for The Third Man. Titanic edged out L.A. Confidential, which is like Barbara Streisand beating Ava Gardner in a beauty contest. What ever happened to taste?
Never mind. Prizes and awards depend on whims of insiders, nothing more, nothing less. Certain themes are sacrosanct, such as disabilities. Hence Daniel Day Lewis in My Left Foot and Geoffrey Rush in Shine. The Academy also has intellectual pretensions. Shakespearian and Mozartian themes have won the biggest prize, as has a Shakespearian actor like John Gielgud in the ridiculous Arthur.
And the greatest musical ever, Singing in the Rain never won a thing. That’s Hollywood for you, folks.