45 Seconds and Out: When The Hot Topic at the #Oscars is Suicide

Last night, when Graham Moore accepted his award for Adapted Screenplay, he spoke movingly about his own teen-age suicide attempt:

“Alan Turing never got to stand up on a stage like this and look out on all these disconcertingly attractive faces…. when I was 16, I tried to kill myself because I felt weird and I felt different, and I felt like I don’t belong… so I would like this moment to be for that kid out there that thinks she’s weird or different or she doesn’t fit in anywhere – you do.  Stay weird, stay different, and when it’s your turn [to shine], please pass this same message on.” (http://oscar.go.com/video/2015-awards-ceremony-highlights/_m_VDKA0_4756q5vd)

Earlier in the evening, director Pawel Pawlikowski, Poland’s first Oscar winner, powered through the cut-off music, while talking about the suicide of (?) his son.

“Sunday’s Oscar ceremony featured two historic moments. One was Poland’s first Oscar: Ida, the black-and-white movie about a nun traveling through ’60s Europe, won for Best Foreign-Language Film. The second came when Pawel Pawlikowski, the movie’s dapper director, took the stage to accept the award.

Pawlikowski launched into a seemingly never-ending stream of thank-yous, prompting the inevitable swell of play-off music. The director sped up his speech but kept on going, and then … the music stopped. That’s right: Pawel Pawlikowski, hero of our times, went up against the music that dispensed hundreds of directors, actors, and producers before him, and won. The audience erupted in cheers, and several later awardees, inspired by his example, fought the music as well.”

Oscar has a long history of controversies up on the stage, the first most famous, of course, being the Sasheen Littlefeather controversy when Marlon Brando, refusing his own Oscar, gave his acceptance speech spot to an American Indian activist to make her point about the mistreatment of native Americans; the Alcatraz protest was just going on at the time, I believe.

The Native American actress Sacheen Littlefeather attended the ceremony in Brando’s place, stating that the actor “very regretfully” could not accept the award, as he was protesting Hollywood’s portrayal of Native Americans in film.  Littlefeather read a portion of a lengthy statement Brando had written, the entirety of which was later published in the press, including The New York Times. “The motion picture community has been as responsible as any,” Brando wrote, “for degrading the Indian and making a mockery of his character, describing his as savage, hostile and evil.” (http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/marlon-brando-declines-best-actor-oscar)

This was, in part, why the Academy instituted the limits on acceptance speeches – that, and the rambling, incoherent incessant speeches that are sometimes indulged in – now that it’s a television show, the object of the exercise is to keep things moving.  But when someone uses their 45 seconds of podium time to make a personally-important statement dear to his or her heart – and often pertinent to the making of the film being rewarded – when is it appropriate to cut a speaker off without being rude and inconsiderate?  Or, on a live, international broadcast, does that even matter?

And suicide is the perfect subject to discuss this over – what is more important than life and death, when one chooses death over continuing pain and suffering of life, for pain and suffering is a huge part of life.  And depictions of pain and suffering is big bucks in the movie business very often – and how often over the years since 1945 have Holoocaust stories won the Best Documentary Oscar?  And I haven’t seen it, so I don’t know, but I have the impression IDA is, itself another story of survival after the Holocaust.

Suicide and Survival

These are the two options faced by every potential suicide; I know, I’ve been there.  I’ve read that nearly every survivor of jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge look back and are glad for survival and regret having made the attempt in the first place.   The Oscars are supposed to be a celebration, a self-congratulatory exercise in self- and mutual-congratulation.  What space do serious subjects have, in a celebratory evening of recognition and acknowledgment of artistic achievement?

Personally, I think everything; no one and nothing exists in a vacuum (“No man is an island”), and what affects one of us, or a segment of a population, ultimately affects us all.  It is right and proper, fitting a just, in a glamorous public moment, to take that moment in reflection, not only of achievement but of conditions and circumstances around us that propel us to communicate, to create, to make art that touches peoples hearts, minds and souls.  When the object initially is to touch peoples’ hearts, why is it expected, given even just 45 seconds on the international podium, to pay respects to the people and topics that propel us forward in the first place?

Or maybe it’s just a me-thing, and the “real”world HAS no place in the narcissistic world of entertainment self-congratulation?
Nah.  Take the stage, take the time, make your moment count for something.  THAT matter;  a speech at Oscar time can have as much influence and effect when see by millions, live as it happens, as the film (expecially a non-feature, nonfiction piece that few will actually sit down and watch) itself.

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The #Oscars: It’s About Having a Place in History

Once you’re nominated for an Oscar, you and your film have a firm place in cinema history; it may be a small corner of the universe, but as we learned in BIRDMAN  or (The Unexpected Virtue of Whatever), it’s about fully inhabiting the corners of the universe you find yourself in, and we’re all still trying to find ourselves.

At The Heart of Culture

Earlier today, I tried to speak about why the Oscars are so singular, so significant, how the Oscars stand out in a crowded field of entertainment award shows.  Movies have been at the center of American culture for a full century now; the awards themselves are closer to their centennial than anyone born before the turn of the century is to theirs.  I was thinking that not seeing the actual ceremony is secondary, because my primary interest has always been, not even who’s going to win, but who’s going to have that place in history, who’s going to be able to get up and go to work every day with the name-tag “Academy Award Winner”.

I’ve been stumbling into a project databasing the Academy Award nominees and winners; everybody knows how many acting awards anybody has, but I wonder who are the people in Hollywood who have been associated with the most Oscar-winning movies and Oscar-nominated films.  How many nominees who don’t make it have an Oscar-winning film in their portfolio?  Disney WON the most awards, but I wonder if there’s a tally for who is associated with the most award-winning films?

And once you’re in that league, once you’re in that catalog, over the long-term, it’s as close to immortal as we’ve learned to become.  Writing is nice, but motion pictures preserve and present so much more.  In the short-term, being awarded an Oscar can mean very little, or can even be a detriment; it gets hard to success after success sometimes.  But in the long run, it’s all about the company you keep, and in the film world, being an Academy Award winner is like ascending among the angels, being touched by immortality, even sometimes divinity (think Elizabeth Taylor, or Meryl Streep).   Being a nominee, then, while not quite angelic is certainly a seraphic experience; you still partake of the immortality, if only to a more limited degree.  You’ve made the list, and that, to me, would be the point.

Late in the ‘90s, I was living in New York and hanging with a theatrical crowd, taking classes, doing showcases and occasional productions in the basement of the same building as the Actors Studio, called The Raw Space.  We gave ourselves/each other awards for good work, for a couple of years.  The second year the Frankies were given out, I was nominated as co-producer of a one-man performance piece, and as actor.  The most exciting moment for me was seeing myself on the list of possible nominees;  that meant more to me than any of what was to come.  I was totally jazzed.  The fact that I went from consideration to nomination hardly registered, and being winning co-producer with my teacher and director, Steven Thornberg was almost an afterthought.

I’d mad the list.  Somewhere.  Not a very wide-ranging list, but I made the list anyway.  And when you’ve gone so far as to be eligible for consideration for an Oscar, to a nomination, you’re on that list for good.  And that’s excitement enough for any person, man, woman or child (well, maybe not “enough” for “everyone”, but tell me – would you rather see your name on list of Names Under Consideration for an Oscar, or would you prefer to go bungee-jumping?  For me, it’s no contest.

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#Oscars Backstage Livestream released

20:10 and John Legend and Common have one, for “Glory”, from SELMA.

20:20 Lady Gaga wrapping up her performance, the audience as shown from the Livestream is totally with Lady, as is Miss Julie Andrews.

  • Original Score – Alexandre Desplat, The Grand Budapest Hotel

The next Oscar goes to

  • Original Screenplay – Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  • Adapted Screenplay – Graham Moore, The Imitation Game

Updated Current Standings, as of 7:30pm PST, 2 hours into the broadcast:
The Great Budapest Hotel – 4 (and a half, splitting Production/Set)
Whiplash – 3
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – 2
– 1
Interstellar – 1
Selma – 1
American Sniper – got its first one

20:43 Alejandro G. Iñárritu wins as Best Director, for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

ABCDisney backstage commentator: Eddie Redmayne is “almost a given” for Best Actor.  we’ll find out, won’t we?
Then the subject of Best Actress Julianne Moore comes up.  We’ll find out.

Commentary: I have to say – that was a huge upset. We had a feeling Birdman was going to take down a bunch of the big awards but, for Wes Anderson and ESPECIALLY Richard Linklater to lose their shot here, if very disappointing. Inarritu did a magnificent job but, this is upsetting.

I’ve been watching the blog at http://www.slashfilm.com/2015-oscar-winners/ to get the quickest, most reliable updates all evening, and I am grateful to my fellow bloggers.  I didn’t find it such an upset; the directing achievements this year are so incredible, each one struggling to overcome particular obstacles (filming over 12 years in one case, filming as if to present the film as a single cut in another).  The Mexican directors link (last year was Alejandro Cuaron, for Gravity); it’s a different kind of foreign upsurge than Fellini et al in the ‘60s.

  • Best Actor – Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

And we’re down to the two final awards, with four minutes to go before overtime.  Used to be, back in the day, the broadcast would start at 8:00pm on the east coast, and sometimes go past midnight before delivering the last award.   Doesn’t happen so much these days.

  • Best Actress – Julianne Moore, Still Alice (presented by last year’s Best Actor winner, Matthew McConaughey)

Congratulations to the Best Actor and Actress of 2015, Eddie Redmayne and Julianne Moore.
I’ve loved her in nearly everything I’ve seen, and she is very deserving of this award, and Eddie I just saw last night, in Jupiter Ascending.  I guess I’m just good luck.

21:04  Sean Penn is a surprise (?) presenter.  And the Oscar for Best Picture goes to BIRDMAN or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).

Our congratulations go out to Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher and James W. Skotchdopole for their achievement.

The final count for #Oscars 2015 is as follows:
The Great Budapest Hotel – 4 (and a half, splitting Production/Set)
Whiplash – 3
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – 4
– 1
Interstellar – 1
Selma – 1
American Sniper – received its one award.


Well, that was an interesting experience.  What are the bets I’ll be doing it again, next year?

I kind of got distracted, and didn’t find the ABCDisney ceremony highlights until after the broadcast.  All the things I didn’t get to see are up for viewing now:


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#Oscars in the Blackout

I’m sitting here scanning the hinternets for updates on the #Oscars, and thinking about last year.

Last year, when FROZEN was nominated, Idina Menzel’s performance was up on the ‘nets almost before the song was done.
I just realized WHY – that was an ABCDisney product they were hawking, so they gave up the clip to promote their own movie.

They have no such tie-in this year, I guess, so they’re not as friendly with the snippets of the broadcast this time around.

18:45 Neil Patrick Harris is flying around the hall in his tighty-whiteys in a tribute to BIRDMAN, not HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH.  Same thing with James Franco in his year; they couldn’t have him come out without his arm, a la 27 HOURS, but he never even put in an appearance with the Ginsberg glasses, another outstanding performance from Jimmy that year, in HOWL.  A bit too edgy for the old coots in the Academy?  Or the old coots at ABCDisney?

18:49 And now we’re off into the technical realm, with

  • Sound Mixing – Whiplash

Congratulations to Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley.

  • Sound Editing – American Sniper

Congratulations to Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman on their achievement.

It’s always gratifying when you make a prediction and it comes true.  It’s always gratifying to see 12 years of work pay off THIS big.  Congratulations!

  • Best Supporting Actress – Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

19:04 and we’re moving right along

  • Visual Effects – Interstellar

Felicitations, congratulations and a hearty “that’s great” to Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher

Current Standings:
The Great Budapest Hotel – 2
Whiplash – 2
Interstellar – 1
American Sniper – got its first one

  • Animated Short Feature – Feast

Hearty congratulations go out to Patrick Osbirne and Kristina Reed.

  • Animated Feature FilmBig Hero 6 – Winner

A certain Hollywood mother (who hadn’t been out to see any movies except with her kids) got her wish.
Neil Patrick Harris said, “If you’re at the Oscar party with the people who made The Lego Movie, now would be a good time to distract them.”

Congratulations go out to Don Hall, Chris Williams and Roy Conli.

And we’re back to the feature film awards, with

  • Production Design – The Grand Budapest Hotel

Production Design: Adam Stockhausen and Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock.  You did a lovely job.  Thank you.

  • Cinematography – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

19:27 And Birdman gets its first award of the night.  Congratulations, Emmanuel Lubezki,

Updated Current Standings, as of 7:30pm PST, 2 hours into the broadcast:
The Great Budapest Hotel – 3 (and a half, splitting Production/Set)
Whiplash – 2
Birdman – 1
Boyhood – 1
Interstellar – 1
American Sniper – got its first one

19:45 and WHIPLASH wins its third award of the night, as we get on to the more “prestigious” awards

  • Film Editing – Whiplash

Our next shout-out goes to Laura Poitras, Dirk Wilutzky and Mathilde Bonnefoy for

  • Documentary Feature – Citizenfour

After Laura Poitras received encrypted emails from someone with information on the government’s massive covert-surveillance programs, she and reporter Glenn Greenwald flew to Hong Kong to meet the sender, who turned out to be Edward Snowden.

I didn’t know much about this one going into tonight’s awards, either.   I know I’d heard about it, I know my friends must have spoken to me about it repeatedly, but it didn’t register, until now.  That’s one of the things about these non-feature films, an award can put a spotlight that wouldn’t be there otherwise.

20:08 I just gained access to Oscars Backstage livestream from ABCDisney.  Unexpected, but appreciated.  I suppose.

John Legend just won, I hear.

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#Oscars Tonight: and the Award goes to:

And the Oscar Goes To
Thanks to http://www.slashfilm.com/2015-oscar-winners/ for the visual assist.

17:56 First winner of the year, first one out of the gate is J.K. Simmons, for WHIPLASH.

18:08 And the first big winner among the films is THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, winning for Costume and Make-up.

Congratulations to Milena Canonero for Costume Design, and Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier for their make-up and hairstyling.  I was not enamored of THE GRAND BUDAPESH HOTEL, I avoided it once, snubbed it once and then went on in, the third time around.  Word of mouth had been not been as good as I’d originally thought, it was pretty to look at, but insubstantial as a dance, lovely to engage in, enchanting while it’s going on, but nothing left to hang on to when it’s over.  So it’s entirely appropriate that the look and feel of the film should get the first awards tonight.


18:16 The next Academy Award goes to Poland, for Best Foreign-Lanugage film, for IDA.

18:25 Word on the Facebook is that Clint Eastwood has just arrived.  Glad to be missing this one.

18:28 Now they’re doing the short films.  The Summerfield Theater here in Santa Rosa has been very good over the past few years of showing the shorts and animated films every year, but over the past few years, I’ve only ever been able to afford to go to one, so I no less than nothing about the short films this year.

  • Live Action Short Film – The Phone Call
  • Documentary Short Subject– Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

Congratulations to Mat Kirkby, James Lucas. Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry on your night of nights!

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What I Would Tell The Academy If I Were Up On That Stage: #ShameOnYou

I graduated high school and went off to college in 1970, so the 1971 Oscars were the first in a long line of broadcasts I probably didn’t see.  I may have found a dorm lounge to watch it on, but all I know is I continued to watch the films and the results, if not the shows themselves.  Syracuse University had an excellent film program that ran Tuesday and Thursday (?) or all three days, and I got to see many of the current films and many classics during my undergraduate years.

But I didn’t actually own a television of my own again until 1982 or 1983, so the actual show was remote to me, if the competition and the politics weren’t.  Richard Burton’s first nomination for Best Actor was for a film released the year I was born, a religious film released the year I was baptised, THE ROBE (his first nomination had been the year earlier, for Best Supporting Actor, in MY COUSIN RACHEL) . 

The Robe (1952)
Beckett (1964)
The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (1965)
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolff? (1966)
Anne of a Thousand Days (1969)

–  and that includes nominations over three consecutive years, and all before the decade of the 60s was over.

Equus was his final nomination, but he lost out to Richard Dreyfus, for GOODBYE GIRL.  There is no justice; it’s just a contest, after all, and people vote more often than not for whom they want to win (thus the repetitive occurrence of sentimental favorites, as often happened over the years, particularly as the Academy membership outaged the audience increasingly over the years).

For decades, I believed that Burton was nominated posthumously for his final performance in Nineteen Eighty-Four – but now, the internet (well, wikipedia) says I’ve got it wrong, and Burton was never nominated for his final performance; his seventh nomination was his original for Supporting Actor, not for Best Actor in his final outing.

And I’d carried my umbrage proudly all this time – 7 nominations, 3 in a row, and never an award for being one of the best screen actors of his generation.  This is an outrage.  I wanted to so badly to get up on that stage and wag my finger:

I would like to thank the Academy for the honor of being up on this stage, but first I have to ask, “What were you thinking?”  Richard Burton was nominated yet never seen fit to stand up on this stage and say, “Thank you”?  Why?  Because you didn’t like him?  Because he DRANK? Or because he was better than you?

Thankfully, that fallaciously based fantasy never came true; I never got the chance to chastise the academy for their snub.  But I was very gratified, when I read Richard Burton’s Diaries (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13594027-the-richard-burton-diaries); I hadn’t needed to fantasize about doing it, it turns out Marlon Brando did it for me – yes, that Marlon Brando, he of Sasheen Littlefeather – went before a European award ceremony on Burton’s behalf when Richard couldn’t attend, and blasted the American Academy of Arts and Sciences for their persistent snub of this truly talented actor.

I hadn’t stood up and cheered, that time, but it brought a satisfied smile to my face.

Take that, Academy.

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The ceremony has begun, and I’m not there.

17:53 Here is the link to the list of winners, as they are announced.  So far, there are none.  23 minutes and counting.


17:56 First winner of the year, first one out of the gate is J.K. Simmons, for WHIPLASH.

18:08 And the first big winner among the films is THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, winning for Costume and Make-up.

Congratulations to Milena Canonero for Costume Design, and Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier for their make-up and hairstyling.  I was not enamored of THE GRAND BUDAPESH HOTEL, I avoided it once, snubbed it once and then went on in, the third time around.  Word of mouth had been not been as good as I’d originally thought, it was pretty to look at, but insubstantial as a dance, lovely to engage in, enchanting while it’s going on, but nothing left to hang on to when it’s over.  So it’s entirely appropriate that the look and feel of the film should get the first awards tonight.


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