Saturday, 16 February 2013

The road to the Oscars

Hello, my pals and gals!
So, one week before the Academy Awards, I decided to make a post to explain just what these Awards are, why they're such a big deal, who got them, who should've gotten them, the general gist. First things first, the video up there is my tribute to the Oscars. Because, despite the fact that they can and have been unfair, predictable and biased, their glamour enchanted generations and the emotion of getting an Oscar, or rather, watching your favorite get one, has yet to be equaled.

Academy what?

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was founded in May of 1927, by Louis B. Mayer, of MGM. In its original board of directors, there prominent names such as Harold Lloyd, Mary Pickford, Cecil B. DeMille, Jack Warner, Irving Thalberg, and its first president: silent star Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. It is currently presided by producer Hawk Koch, who worked as an assistant director in a number of movies, among which "The Way We Were" (1973). Among its presidents, there are some well-known names: Gregory Peck, Frank Capra, Jean Hersholt and Bette Davis, who was only in the job for 2 months before resigning. The Academy's job is to stimulate the industry of moviemaking in the United States and, secondarily, in the world.

Douglas Fairbanks, Sr, the first president
of the Academy. 
Contrary to popular misconception, the Academy doesn't only present the annual Academy Awards, known as Oscars. They also present a series of three non-competitive Awards, known as the Governors Awards: The Irving Thalberg Award, to outstanding producers ; The Honorary Oscar, to honor a person with lifetime achievements and contributions to the film industry and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, for a motion picture person who made outstanding contributions for humanitarian causes. The Academy is also responsible for multiple fellowships and financial stimuli for young students and filmmakers who, they feel, will contribute to the improvement of the industry in the future.

The Academy Award itself is as old as 1928. The original Awards consisted of the following categories: Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Production Design and Best Screenplay (this category would be broken down into Original and Adapted in 1940), plus a number of categories that have since been discontinued. The newest category was Makeup and Hairstyling, introduced in 1981.

The Oscars are fascinating for the amount of charm and glamour they have been able to maintain throughout the decades. This may come from the fact of them being a lot more well-known to the average person (by average I mean not inclined to having cinema as a profession or hobby) then other awards, such as the César, the BAFTAs and the Palme D'Or. The Oscars are the ones that make the most difference box-office-wise to a picture. Thus the undeniable desire to win an Award that most people in the film industry harbor. This desire, consequently, leads to the glamour associated with it.

Oscar giants, coincidences and oddities

The record for most awards won for a single picture is currently held by three pictures: Ben-Hur (1959), Titanic (1997) and The Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King (2003), each with 11 wins. The record for nominations for a single film is also with Titanic (1997), and All About Eve (1950).

Kate's first win, at 26...
Katharine Hepburn holds the record of most wins by a single performer. (No, I will never get tired of saying that.) She is one of the Oscar giants, who are personally responsible for many of the Oscar milestones. She is one of the two actresses who had two consecutive wins. Kate has single-handedly won more Awards than entire families of artists, such as the Fondas, the Garlands and the Hustons, who each had at least three members in the industry. She was also the first and only actress to get 3 Awards in the Best Acting category, for The Lion In Winter (1968). She beat her own record in 1981, with "On Golden Pond". No other actress has ever gotten three or four awards in the main category, but Meryl Streep and Ingrid Bergman have gotten two in the main category and a third for Best Supporting Actress.
...and her last win, at 74

Katharine's records don't stop there. She has the longest time span between her first and last nominations, 48 years. She also happened to win both her first (Morning Glory, 1933) and her last (On Golden Pond, 1981) nomination. She does not have the highest number of Academy Award nominations (Meryl Streep has the record with 17, as opposed to Kate's 12), but she does have the highest nomination-to-movie ratio, with 3.6. In layman terms, after Kate starred in two or three movies, she could be more or less sure she'd be nominated for her performance on the next. For forty years (1963 to her death in 2003), every Oscar she was nominated for, she won. Katharine Hepburn is, without a doubt, the most accomplished performer in history, Oscar-wise.

Mirroring Kate's four, the directing record is also of four Awards and it's held by Kate's good friend John Ford. Coincidentally, he shares another of Kate's records: He was one of the two directors to win two consecutive Awards. The two consecutive wins are, funnily enough, exactly mirrored in a third category: for male performers, and Spencer Tracy, Kate's longtime lover, is one of the consecutive winners. Apparently, she's a fan of Academy Award record-holders. More power to them!
Walt Disney with Mickey Mouse

Edith Head is the female all-time record-holder. She has won 8 Academy Awards for costume design and was nominated 35 times, spanning 29 years. The all-time record-holder for anyone resides with animation pioneer and all-around genius Walt Disney, who won a whopping 22 Academy Awards. He also holds the record for most nominations for a single person, with 59. Hard to believe, but considering he was the greatest and most celebrated animator in history, and analyzing his fantastic body of work, completely fair and understandable. He also holds the record for most consecutive awards, with 10; and most nominations in a single year, with 5. There's even a wikipedia list for all the Awards he won. He is the most accomplished individual, Oscar-wise, who ever lived.

Peter O'Toole has a lot to be angry at the Academy about: While he has the second highest number of nominations for a male performer (losing only to Spencer Tracy), he has never won; holding the record for most nominations without a single win: eight in total.

An interesting anecdote: While no actor has ever won Best Actor for a debut performance, 5 actresses have won the main category for theirs. They are Julie Andrews, Shirley Booth, Barbara Streisand, Marlee Matlin and Audrey Hepburn.

The snubs

This is the bad part of the Oscars. Despite the fact that the Academy Awards are a world-renowned and respected form of recognition for the motion picture industry and its artists, they have been widely criticized for ignoring valuable talent throughout their history. The “snubs”, as they are called, are artists who have never been recognized by the Academy Awards, and are considered by most film specialists as deserving of such recognition. The Academy itself uses the Honorary Awards as a mechanism to apologize to those stars, but these are usually taken less seriously than their competitive counterparts. There are numerous unrecognized performers, directors and writers of questioned worth, but some of them have such obvious talent that letting them die or retire without an Award is a travesty that cannot be forgiven.

All things considered, the Academy Awards are still a thrilling part of being a movie fanatic. Watching your favorite win is a thrill I can't explain, and watching them lose is a disappointment, but it's all a part of loving cinema. The Academy will never please everyone, but so far, it has been doing a pretty good job at bringing attention to some of the best in cinema and praising those who deserve it.

I'd like to close this post with a video: In the Oscars' 75th anniversary, 58 past winners reunited. Among the attendees was the oldest winner alive, Luise Rainer, who has just turned 103.  They were presented after a thrilling entrance to the sound of Tara's Theme and a moving speech by Olivia DeHavilland. This video, I feel, represents the essence of the Oscars. In the end of the day, we're all - and they're all - adorers of cinema, who want to tribute it in the best way they can.

So long,

Thursday, 14 February 2013

February 14th: A day to remember

Hello, my pals and gals and welcome to the best day of the year!

Exactly one year ago, at 11 p.m., I sat down in front of my TV screen and watched Casablanca for the very first time. It was my first movie pre-1960, it was my first black and white movie, and it was the beginning of a wonderful journey I inadvertently embarked in. And to be quite honest, I still don't know what hit me.

It was a wonderful year. All things considered, it was the best of my life. I made so many new friends, I discovered so much about myself, I had the inspiration I needed to do more and I changed my routine to the point that it's unrecognizable. 

I think anything that starts being this big a part of your life inevitably teaches you lots of things. The effect is even greater if you think about what you saw and apply it to your own life, which is something I've always made a point of doing. I've learned priceless lessons from these films, these stars and these stories and I decided to celebrate this wonderful occasion by writing a list.

The Most Marvelous, Surprising, Valuable, Interesting and Exciting Things I Learned From Classic Film:
A list by Marcela

1. Appreciate what you have (It's A Wonderful Life, 1946): With this Frank Capra masterpiece, I was confronted with the idea of the world without me. We are not necessarily always conscious of the effect we have in other people's lives and we are not always appreciative of the gifts life has given us. In watching "It's A Wonderful Life", I learned that one must appreciate and cherish even the little parts of our lives we've deemed irrelevant or taken for granted, because we'll never know what tomorrow may bring and we can never imagine what we'd be without them.

2. I was born in the right decade (Inherit the Wind, 1960): I always had the idea that I was born in the wrong decade, because of my lifelong preference for the aesthetics of the past. But after I watched Inherit The Wind I got the final assurance that my place is in 2013. I have no question that the movies, music, fashion, etc, of the past are still, in my view, superior to those of today; although the ideals, politics, philosophies of the present show an evolution that I quite appreciate.

3. A little laughter goes a long way (I Love Lucy, 1951-1957): I Love Lucy is the funniest show in the history of television and I have underestimated the value of gratuitous, instant laughter before. The guy who said "laughter is the best medicine" definitely had it right. Sometimes it's not worth it to push yourself to work harder when things aren't going well - sometimes it's better to give yourself a laugh break. Lucy is just the little gal who can do it.

4. The art of misjudgment (Bette Davis, 1908-1989): When I first saw Bette Davis and when I first learned about her life I immediately judged her incorrectly. I thought of her as an emotionless robot, who couldn't possibly experience the feelings most people experience. But as I got further into her personality, I realized she was a woman with a past of struggle, a woman who could give and receive love and who cared about the people in her life in a way that I was too limited to understand. Her struggle with her daughter is a touching and moving tale. She was strong, but ultimately, the loss of love was her downfall.

5. Relationships are two-way streets (Adam's Rib, 1949): I used to think that when I went into a relationship I would have to make all kinds of concessions, give up everything I cherished the most for the sake of my relationship, because this is just what men require of us and that made be reluctant to engage in a romantic relationship. After I saw Adam's Rib, I was presented with the type of relationship I want for the future. A man who can match me par by par. A man who will challenge me in the same way that I will challenge him. A man who will not be superior, or inferior, but equal in every sense of the word. And, plus, don't tell me they weren't a lot of fun.

6. Real altruism expects nothing (Mrs. Miniver, 1942): My favorite scene of Mrs. Miniver is when the German soldier enters her house and asks for food and something to drink. Not only is it a powerful portrait of wartime conditions, but it is also a testament to Mrs. Miniver's character. She, despite being behind the barrel of a gun, does her best to help the solder who is clearly in a much poorer shape than what a human being should have to endure. Mrs. Miniver is, in itself, a movie about altruism and war, and how even in those circumstances, real altruism expects nothing in return.

7.  The road most traveled is not necessarily right for me (Greta Garbo, 1905-1990): I've never been one to take the road most traveled, to live the lifestyle most people are living. And, with that, I can relate to Greta Garbo. She left her fiancé at the altar, when realizing her mistake that the "normal" course of a woman's life was not the one she identified with. So, she was then filled with courage to pursue the lifestyle that would truly make her happy despite the judgement from the public eye.

8.Work for the life you want, not for the life you have (Woman of the Year, 1942): I can put the lesson I learned from this movie in a simple sentence: I am not a world-renowned professional. I am not anything spectacular. But, I need to work and focus as much as if I were such things. Because then, this will be the only way such goals can be achieved. I can't work for the life I have, I need to work for the life I want.

9. Trust myself (Katharine Hepburn, 1907-2003): Inspiration is the most powerful force in the world. You can never understand what it feels to be inspired to change your life by someone until you actually feel it in your bones. When I most needed inspiration, as if out of magic, she was there. She gave me the ideal, the motivation, the determination; she showed me the possibility that everything I want can be real if I just trust myself, trust my judgement, trust my fitness to be in this world as the person I wanna be. I'll never forget her.

10. "We'll Always Have Movies" (Classic Cinema in General): We all have bad days. We all have fights, bad grades, busy periods, and we all need something to cling to. All I need to do is remember that movies are there. Movies are always gonna be there. Whenever I have a bad day, I can remember movies are there, and I will never be alone as long as they're there. The thought alone makes me feel better.

So long,

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Synesthesia: Music and Movies

Hello, fellas! (first time I didn't greet you as pals and gals... feels wrong!) I finally had my first week without tests since class started in December! And I will celebrate with a private screening of Adam's Rib with air-conditioning and chocolate. But before I engage in my personal definition of heaven, I would like to share with you guys a lighthearted post, just in case anyone is in need of some relaxation. And who isn't?

I wanted to share some of my favorite songs taken from classic films. In chronological order:

1. Cheek To Cheek - Top Hat (1935)

2. Smile - Modern Times (1936)

3. Tara's Theme - Gone With The Wind (1939)

 4. Somewhere Over The Rainbow -The Wizard of Oz

5. As Time Goes By - Casablanca

6 You'd Be Hard To Replace - The Barkleys of Broadway (1949)

7. They can't take that away from me - The Barkleys of Broadway (1949)

8.  Singing In The Rain - Singing In The Rain (1952)

9. Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend - Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1952)

10. Bye Bye, Baby - Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1952)

 11. La Vie En Rose (Edith Piaf) - Sabrina (1954)

 12. I Love Your Funny Face - Funny Face (1957)

13. Moon River - Breakfast At Tiffany's (1961)

14. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious - Mary Poppins (1964)

15. Without You - My Fair Lady (1964)

Since this is a movie song list, I put Audrey's version here. But go listen to Julie's. There's nothing wrong with Marnie's voice, but Julie Andrews as Eliza Doolittle is as good as it gets.

16. Edelweiss - The Sound of Music (1965)

17. The Hills Are Alive - The Sound of Music (1965)

18. Climb Every Mountain - The Sound of Music (1965)

19. The Sound of Silence (Simon and Garfunkel) - The Graduate (1967)

20. Don't Rain on My Parade - Funny Girl (1968)

So long,