East Anglian links to the Oscars - and who do we think will win this weekend?
PUBLISHED: 13:00 23 February 2019 | UPDATED: 09:28 25 February 2019
Will Lady Gaga be recognised for her performance in A Star is Born or will Glenn Close win her first ever award? Our arts editor gives his views on this year's Oscars.
At times you could be forgiven that there are more awards ceremonies than eligible movies – a quick scan of the internet reveals at least 50 top flight film festivals, professional organisations or critics awards – but, at the end of the day, there is only one award that the public really cares about, only one that actually persuades people to part with their hard-earned cash and go and see a film, The Oscar.
Oscar is 90 years old this year and remains the gold standard by which film art is measured.
The BAFTAs have risen in influence, Cannes’ Palme D’Or is a revered art house seal of approval and Toronto Film Festival’s audience awards are a good barometer of commercial success but The Oscar is the trophy that everyone still wants to win.
The famous statues, sculpted by George Stanley from a design sketch by MGM art-director Cedric Gibbons, were first presented on May 16 1929 in a short 15 minute ceremony as part of a private dinner party hosted by daredevil actor Douglas Fairbanks. At that first ceremony 15 statues were given out, honouring actors, directors and other film-making professionals for their work during the 1927–28 period.
The Oscar statue itself – or to give it its rather pompous official title The Academy Award of Merit – is made of gold-plated bronze and depicts a knight rendered in Art Deco style holding a crusader’s sword standing on a reel of film.
No-one is allowed to sell an Oscar. After 1950 a contract was drawn up requiring the recipients of an Oscar (or their heirs) to sell the award back to the Academy for a nominal $1 fee, should they ever wish to relinquish it. It can no longer be sold on the open market. In December 2011, Orson Welles’ 1941 Oscar for Citizen Kane (Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay) was put up for auction, after his heirs won a 2004 court decision contending that Welles did not sign any agreement to return the statue to the Academy. On December 20 2011, it sold in an online auction for $861,542.
The look of the Oscar has remained more or less unchanged for the best part of a century – the only alteration being a streamlining of the base after the Second World War.
Due the metal shortages during the war years, the gold-plated bronze Oscar was replaced with a painted plaster-cast. Whether plaster or metal, the naming of Oscar has been the subject of fierce debate over the years.
One biography of Bette Davis, who was president of the Academy for a time, claims she named the Academy Award ‘Oscar’ after her first husband, band leader Harmon Oscar Nelson. Another claimed origin of the name came from the Academy’s executive secretary, Margaret Herrick, who, when she first saw the award in 1931, said the statue looked like her Uncle Oscar.
One of the earliest mentions of the term ‘Oscar’ dates to a 1934 Time magazine piece about the 6th Academy Awards while Walt Disney thanked the Academy for his ‘Oscar’ as early as 1932. One of the reasons that The Oscar maintains its currency is that it is voted on by the industry. Unlike the many critics awards or the Golden Globes, which is voted on by the faceless ‘foreign press’ working in Los Angeles, The Oscar is voted on by the people who make the movies – or made the movies as retired workers still have voting rights. A 2012 survey by the Los Angeles Times found that 54% of active Oscar voters were over the age of 60.
There’s something democratic about awards being voted on by your peers. Nominees are nominated by popular ballot by different branches of the industry – actors vote for acting categories, directors for directing, writers for best original and adapted screenplay awards and so on.
Once the nominees are settled then each category is voted on by the entire academy. In Britain BAFTA operates a similar policy but because the Oscars have a much higher profile, their currency is stronger. An Oscar win has much more clout than a BAFTA win, a Golden Globe or a film festival prize.
Industry pundits have long been of the opinion that although prize-wins look good on film posters and DVD covers, the only award that really puts bums on seats is The Oscar.
In 1992 Clint Eastwood won Best Picture and Best Director for his last great western The Unforgiven co-starring Gene Hackman who also won Best Supporting Actor. The film had been and gone in cinemas by the time Oscars came around but a limited Oscar ‘reminder’ run turned into a full-scale re-release because so many people wanted to see it – either again or to catch up with a ‘must-see’ Oscar movie that they had missed.
This year has been described as the most open Oscar race for years. Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s emotional re-make of A Star Is Born was an early front-runner but has been over-shadowed in recent weeks by Roma, the much-hyped Netflix arthouse movie which has already won an armful of festival and critics awards and more recently by the Freddie Mercury bio-pic Bohemian Rhapsody which has overcome decidedly mixed reviews to win voters hearts, thanks largely to Rami Malek’s outstanding performance as the Queen frontman. Also coming up from behind is Green Book, this well regarded film featuring Viggo Mortensen as an Italian-American hustler earning some money driving Dr Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), a highly educated black musician, round America’s deep south during the 1960s.
This film is gaining a lot of love from voters and this is another feature of the Oscars that some find endearing and others infuriating – it can be very sentimental. Because the awards are based on peer voting long serving actors can be rewarded for lesser films but with everyone knowing that this is a lifetime achievement award (Paul Newman in Color of Money) or compensation for being unfairly overlooked the year before (Judi Dench in Shakespeare in Love). This year Glenn Close is odds on favourite to win Best Actress for The Wife, not only because it is an excellent performance in a powerful role but because her win at The Golden Globes brought home the fact that although she had been nominated many times over the years she had never won a major award before. The feeling is that this is her year.
The Oscar ceremony is broadcast on Sky Movies during the early hours of Monday February 25.
East Anglia’s Oscar links
Suffolk and Norfolk may appear to be a long way from the razzamatazz of Hollywood but East Anglia has contributed in a significant way to the success of several Oscar-winning movies.
Orford resident Mat Kirkby won the award in 2015 for best live action short for The Phone Call, which stars Sally Hawkins and Jim Broadbent.
Shakespeare In Love (Best Picture 1998) was partly filmed at Holkham beach and Holkham Hall found itself the centre of a famous menage-a-trois in The Duchess (Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction 2008)
Norfolk-born Olivia Colman is up for Best actress Oscar for her role as Queen Anne in the surreal comedy-drama The Favourite.
Iris – the story of Iris Murdoch and fight against dementia was partly shot in Southwold and won Jim Broadbent a best supporting actor Oscar in 2002 and acting nominations for Judi Dench and Kate Winslet.
Christopher Plummer gained a Best Supporting Actor nomination in 2018 for his work at Elveden Hall, near Bury St Edmunds, for Ridley Scott’s John Paul Getty drama All The Money In The World.
Lavenham’s Guildhall had a starring role in Stanley Kubrick’s multi-Oscar winning period drama Barry Lyndon which starred Ryan O’Neal. The film won Oscars for Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction in 1975.
Here are the Oscar nominees in the major categories and our predictions* for the likely winner
A Star Is Born
Christian Bale - Vice
Bradley Cooper - A Star Is Born*
Willem Dafoe - At Eternity’s Gate
Rami Malek - Bohemian Rhapsody
Viggo Mortensen - Green Book
Yalitza Aparicio - Roma
Glenn Close - The Wife*
Olivia Colman - The Favourite
Lady Gaga - A Star Is Born
Melissa McCarthy - Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Best supporting actor:
Mahershala Ali - Green Book*
Adam Driver - BlacKkKlansman
Sam Elliott - A Star Is Born
Richard E Grant - Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Sam Rockwell - Vice
Best supporting actress:
Amy Adams - Vice
Marina de Tavira - Roma
Regina King - If Beale Street Could Talk*
Emma Stone - The Favourite
Rachel Weisz - The Favourite
Alfonso Cuaron – Roma*
Yorgos Lanthimos - The Favourite
Spike Lee - BlacKkKlansman
Adam McKay - Vice
Pawel Pawlikowski - Cold War