Whodathunkit? — The Three Best Things You WANT To Know About the 82nd Annual Academy Awards

Filed in Gather Writing Essential by on March 6, 2010 0 Comments

On The Best Of Everything, I detail what’s The Best about pop culture — and snap and crackle culture, for that matter.  One way I do that is through the Whodathunkit!? process…

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It‘s time to once again fulfill the terms of my probation and do some public good, in the form of Whodathunkit?!, the only blog post anywhere in any universe written by anyone which focuses not on the same-old-same-old stories that everyone else tells you about a major event, but on the things you really want to know about a major event. Let other blogs talk about fashion, and make fun of James Cameron’s hair, and speculate on how many times Jack Nicholson will be shown on camera despite the fact that he hasn’t made a movie in 32 years, and despite the fact that he’s essentially played the exact same role in everything since he did The Shining.

Others can talk of such mundanities. I won’t mention those things at all, other than to mention that I’m not going to mention them, which really doesn’t count as “mentioning” them, at least not in my book. (My book being “The Great Big Book Of Things That Don’t Count.“)

Instead, I focus on the stuff you really want to know about the major events in our lives, major events like the 82nd annual Academy Awards, conventionally called “The Oscars,” or, called that at least until we get around to shortening that name because today’s modern society doesn’t have time to stand around saying things like The Oscars, or Headline News: we need to condense those lengthy, time-consuming, productivity-destroying titles into tidy little acronyms like HLN. In fact, just typing the words “The Oscars” has taken up so much time that now I’m annoyed and behind schedule for the rest of this post, so someone in society should get around to shortening that name a little in order to get me, and society, back on track.

I suggest calling them “O’s.” Not The O’s or anything — that’s still to long. Just O‘s. Unless, of course, Oprah has copyrighted that letter. In world where McDonald’s can copyright the word Smiles, anything is possible.

If Oprah has copyrighted the letter O, then scrap my plans to call The Oscars simply “O’s” and instead, let’s focus on what we’re all going to do when Oprah quits messing around and declares herself queen of the world. (I have dibs on move to Mars, which I’ll do because I can’t stand it when Oprah, each year, announces that she’s going to lose weight and then is shown on TV all over the place cooing over a Sweet Potato.)

I might just move to Mars now. Let’s see Oprah be queen of a planet that has no breathable air and is littered with our no-longer-functioning probes that really are nothing more than radio-controlled cars we’ve blasted into space!

This time, Whodathunkit?! begins with a question that may or may not have an answer, as the three things in any Whodathunkit!? are always things I think up off the top of my head — I have no time to plan these posts or outline them; I’ve barely got time to type the words The Oscars in this go-go world of ours where for some reason my cell phone has to be connected to the Internet even though I only use my cell phone at times when it would be inconvenient to have a laptop with me, like when I’m driving, or when I’m cooking dinner, so why would I use the Internet?

Although, now that I think of it, I really would like the ability to read Wondermark while I’m sitting at a stoplight. If I could squeeze that in, I might have more time to do things like type out the words The Oscars. I’ll have to give this some thought.

In the meantime, here’s your 82nd Annual Oscars Whodathunkit?!:

1. Has there ever been a movie which was set at the Academy Awards, and which itself won an academy award? That’s the question that popped into my head as I sat down to write this. Because if there’s one thing that Hollywood loves more than movies like The Blind Side (which sends the perfect Hollywood message, the perfect Hollywood message being “Black people can do really well as long as there’s a well-meaning white woman showing them how“) it’s movies about Hollywood itself. Virtually any reference to Hollywood will win over the people in Hollywood and have them raving over how great the show or movie is, even if the show or movie is really not very good at all and even if, in fact, nobody watches that show or movie other than people in Hollywood.

(See, e.g., Shrek 2 and Thirty Rock.)

So I wondered: Have there ever been any movies which themselves were set at the Academy Awards? And then I wondered If there were, wouldn’t that be a lock to win an Academy Award? And then I wondered If that happened, would that bring on “the singularity,” which is the moment when people will stop having a separate existence from their computers and instead will merge with them to become a sort of collective, always-living consciousness, evolving to a higher state of existence?

That “singularity,” by the way, is a real thing, in the sense that real people believe that it might really happen. You can even read about it on the website devoted to selling you books about the “Singularity.” But you don’t need to read about it, because I’ve told you everything you need to know about the Singularity, which is that if you believe it, then someday we’ll all become computerized cyber people existing only as bits and bytes and maybe photons (those are a thing, I think) and other ephemera instead of these clunky bodies we drag around and feed sweet potatoes to nowadays.

And you don’t need to read about the Singularity because it can’t happen, and here’s why: Who’s going to take care of the computers? Have you ever seen a computer that can make it through even a day without somehow crashing? So once we build this matrix and upload our consciousness into it, who will be responsible for keeping the hard drives running?

I’m not going to stay behind and do it. That’s for sure.

Unfortunately for my burning question, searching for movies in which the plot involved the Academy Awards is very difficult — you’re likely to end up on a site in which The New York Times urges teachers to incorporate the Oscars into classroom lectures, which will then lead you to further despair about the state of our society, which will then cause you to remember that many people today eat organic foods, and that organic foods are, in a nutshell, generally deadly poisonous, so maybe there’s hope for the future after all, “hope for the future” meaning “the kind of people who think that the Oscars are appropriate class room material are unlikely to end up running the world or having any lasting significance [fingers crossed]“.)

Instead of just relying on what someone else posted on the Internet — and, remember, according to the Singularity, someday we’ll all be posted on the Internet, and presumably linking up will be the hot new sexy trend, with people warning that when you link someone else you link every person they’ve ever linked — I had to do some thinking and reading, namely, reading a list of all 81 Best Picture winners and thinking about whether they sounded as though they were set at the Academy Awards.

And the answer is… can you believe that “Amadeus” won Best Picture? The 80s were a strange and wonderful time when craze after craze swept America: upturned collars, Australia, you name it, but no craze was more weird or greater than the brief Mozart Mania we as American went through, a craze perfectly summed up in this knockoff mash-up video:

Based on that, though, I’d say someone should get on the ball and begin writing a movie about the Academy Awards, and, for good measure, work in something about the Singularity. That’s pretty hot right now, too.

2. Whatever You Do, Don’t Challenge the Supremacy of the Thundercats gelflings Na’Vi. The Academy allows filmmakers to campaign for their films, as you may or may not know. (You know that if you are an Academy member, a filmmaker, or the kind of geek who reads Variety even though you’re not involved in show business in any way.)(I’m none of those things. I just know about the campaigning because I know lots of things, things I know as a result of spending all my time googling weird questions that pop into my head instead of, you know, working.)

You can campaign, it seems, by billboard:

I know, that was not a billboard campaigning for Best Picture. But it is a great billboard, isn’t it? I imagine the accident rate on that highway went up exponentially when that ad was first displayed.

Or you can campaign by sending DVDs to the voters in the Academy — because, I’m sure, the members of the Academy otherwise wouldn’t get around to watching your movie, right?

Or you could send out four-color brochures, as The Color Purple and Out Of Africa did back in 1986 — getting criticized and also getting 22 nominations between them.

What you can’t do is email anyone, and you especially can’t email people a comment that may be deemed to be derogatory of Avatar a/k/a “The Greatest Motion Picture Ever Made And F-You If You Disagree Because It Made a Zillion Dollars In The Time It Took Me To Type This.

Apparently, the Academy has a rule– apparently, the Academy has rules (!)(?)(;)(?) — that says that a campaign cannot promote one film by disparaging another. And that rule has resulted in one of the producers of The Hurt Locker being barred from attending the award show because, according to the Academy, the producer’s email violated the rule against disparaging other films.

Or, so they say. Because you can look up the rules — they’re available online, as everything and everyone will one day be — and the rules don’t seem to say anything about how you can promote your film or whether you can disparage another film.

So whence came this rule, that an ad for one film shall not disparage another? Doesn’t every ad promoting a film as the best disparage another film as not the best? There can only be one best, as this blog repeatedly reminds people, and if your film is the best, then other films are by definition not the best, and are inferior to your film.

So is there a rule? Or did the Hurt Locker producer get Na’vied — a verb I just made up to cover a situation in which a person uses an unfair advantage they have to kick someone else out of their spot?

And also, why bother emailing when you can have billboards, like this?


3. You can’t sell an Oscar. One thing I did find out from reading those rules is that nobody can sell an Oscar. The rules provide that:

Every award shall be conditioned upon the execution and delivery to the Academy by the recipient thereof of a receipt and agreement reading as follows:

Gentlemen: [NOTE: That's SEXIST! But it's also the way the official agreement is worded.]

I hereby acknowledge receipt of Academy Regulations for use of the Academy Award® [NOTE: YES, THAT "R" IS IN THE ORIGINAL AGREEMENT.] statuette and the phrase “Academy Award(s)” in advertising. In consideration of the signing of a similar agreement by other Academy Award nominees, I agree to comply with said regulations.

I understand that on (date) I may receive from you a replica of your copyrighted statuette,
commonly known as the “Oscar®,” as an award for (category) – (film title). I acknowledge that my receipt of said replica does not entitle me to any right whatever in your copyright, trade-mark and service-mark of said statuette and that only the physical replica itself shall belong to me.

In consideration of your delivering said replica to me, I agree to comply with your rules and regulations respecting its use and not to sell or otherwise dispose of it or any other “Oscar” replica I have been awarded or have received, nor permit it or any other “Oscar” replica I have been awarded or have received to be sold or disposed of by operation of law, without first offeringto sell it to you for the sum of $1.00. You shall have thirty days after any such offer is made to you within which to accept it. This agreement shall be binding not only on me, but also on my heirs, legatees, executors, administrators, estate, successors and assigns. My legatees and heirs shall have the right to acquire any “Oscar” statuette replica I have received, if it becomes part of my estate, subject to this agreement.

I agree that if I have heretofore received any Academy trophy I shall be bound by this receipt and agreement with the same force and effect as though I had executed and delivered the same in consideration of receiving such trophy.

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(Signature of Recipient)

So, to be more accurate — you can only sell an Oscar® if you first give the Academy a chance to buy back the statue for a buck and they don’t take you up on that. But you can leave it to your kids — who then can’t sell it, either.

But if you can’t sell an Oscar without first offering it to the Academy, then how can you explain this piece in The New York Times from a few years ago? The answer is that before 1950, the Academy didn’t bother to have people agree to this at all; since 1950, the Academy first began asking, then requiring, that recipients agree not to sell the statuette.

The Academy is reported, in that piece, to aggressively try to stop people from selling Oscars even when they have the legal right to do so — and some of the actors and directors help by buying up the Oscars and returning them to the Academy. (Steven Spielberg apparently has kicked in $1.5 million — or 0.0000000001% of his income — to help with this.)

Why would you want to sell an Oscar? Maybe to make some money off the memorabilia if it’s left to you by the stars — as one assistant did. Or maybe to just take a cruise: Harold Russell, the only Oscar winner ever to sell his own statue, reportedly did so in order to finance a cruise his second wife wanted to take. He netted $50,000 for his award back in 1992.


Read Last Year’s Oscar Whodathunkit?! here.

Read all The Bests… related to movies here.

Here’s an alphabetical listing of every single thing I’ve ever discussed on this blog. Neato!

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I'm, in this order, a husband, father, lawyer, writer.I'm working at keeping the weight off.I need another 15 minutes of sleep in the morning.I wish they'd rerun my favorite TV shows on Saturday night.I'd li

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