Monday, February 28, 2011
Did you know that Oscar is a Latino?
While movie fans may think the coveted statuettes presented at the Academy Award ceremonies tonight are as American as apple pie, they're actually closer to carne asada.
It turns out that when MGM's art director Cedric Gibbons, an original Academy member, was selected to supervise the design of the trophy, he found himself in need of a model.
Gibbons was introduced by his then-wife Dolores del Rio to Mexican film director and actor Emilio "El Indio" Fernandez. Although initially reluctant, Fernndez was finally convinced to pose nude to create the statue. He thus became the first film buff.
This bit of trivia is by way of introducing the subject of the day: The Academy Awards, a subject about which I know not so much.
I know this, however. On Academy Awards day, the womenfolk of my family descend on my den like seagulls on a landfill to watch the entire broadcast, from the first anorexic actress slinking down the red carpet to the last endless thank-you speech. I stand dutifully by with wine (which I pour) and food (which I serve), silently efficient like a bit player in "The King's Speech."
I've always been a bit blas about the Oscars. Maybe it's because I was born in Hollywood and have spent most of my life nearby. Familiarity breeds indifference over time. Let's face it, not everyone in Pasadena goes ga-ga over the Rose Parade every year.
Or maybe it's because I've met many people who possess Oscars, Emmys, Grammys, Tonys and the like. Some are larger than life. But most are talented people who simply work hard and do their jobs well. The difference between us and them is that while we may get a raise, they are rewarded with thunderous applause dressed in tuxedos and gowns on worldwide television.
Then there's the overkill factor. By the time we are subjected to the Golden Globes, the Peoples' Choice Awards, the MTV Awards, the Critics' Choice Awards, the Writers' Guild Awards, the Directors' Guild Awards and the Screen Actors' Guild Awards, among others, the results become predictable. The Academy Awards becomes a spectacle, not a drama.
What I really dislike about awards shows, and the Academy Awards in particular, are the acceptance speeches. Sure, there have been some genuine moments over the years. But put an actor on live TV without a script and chaos lurks. They often end up embarrassing themselves, the Academy and on occasion the human race.
Let's dump the thank-yous entirely. That means we would miss a lot of tearful tributes to parents and spouses and children and agents along with the occasional political rant, which mostly serves to alienate rather than educate.
The only acceptance speech I ever enjoyed came from Roberto Benigni (Best Actor for "Life is Beautiful" in 1999) who said, "I feel like now really to dive in this ocean of generosity. This is too much . . . I would like to be Jupiter and kidnap everybody and lie down in the firmament making love to everybody."
Unfortunately, most fail to rise to this standard.
While we're at it, let's quit fooling around with the Ellen DeGenereses and Hugh Jackmans and return Billy Crystal to his rightful position as permanent host. He's done it eight times and each one was a gem.
And let's dump the Best Song category, which officially died in 2005 when a happy little ditty called "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" won the Oscar. Can you name the last three award winners? Neither can I.
Jettison a few categories like the best foreign documentary under 30 minutes that no one will ever see and we're getting somewhere.
The whole show could be wrapped up in two hours or less.
And I'd get my den back.
Robert Rector is a former editor with the Pasadena Star-News and Los Angeles Times.