America Loves Competitions, Wacky Acceptance Speeches

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Sacheen Littlefeather refuses Marlon Brando's Godfather Oscar in 1973.Photo: Corbis


As Oscar night approaches, New York film critic David Edelstein and Hollywood producer Lynda Obst are discussing the race. Check back through the weekend for more.

From: Lynda Obst

Sent: Friday, February 23, 2007 2:18 PM

To: David Edelstein

Subject: RE: Overcoming Obamamania

Dear David:

We spend all this time brooding over what’s the best performance, the best movie — because we love to. We pick the purest vodka, the finest wine, our favorite football team, the most marbled steak, the fattest tomato; we love to root, to choose and then to triumph or be deflated, to be right or to be angry. This is a way that we participate in the global Zeitgeist and map the undercurrents of the culture and how we individually track with it. Are we Crash or Brokeback people? But it doesn’t mean our obsession with the winner diminishes other performances. It’s true that it’s an honor to be nominated and the greatest ride of your life, yadda yadda. But without winners, there would be no wacky speeches, no cheering, no betting pools, no fun.

The wide-open Best Picture race: We are a town divided. People like The Departed and think it feels like a best picture, but I sense no real passion for it. They love Sunshine, but when, of course, has a comedy ever won? At this point, it’s about how the votes split. The actors, the largest branch of the Academy, will like both. Anything can happen; The Queen could even “crash” the winner's circle. I sensed a little nervousness in a Babel producer at the Obama reception, but that could have been the appropriate humility and fear.


I have seen the foreign films, but not the shorts. It’s either Water or The Lives of Others, a terrifying, brilliantly directed thing that made its German director, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, a hot Hollywood property.

This innovation of Laura Ziskin’s to put a Webcam backstage to catch the “spontaneous reactions” of the winners may be great for Oscar.com, but it’s definitely tragic for us TV fans. Now that I think of it, weren’t the Oscars — with Sacheen Littlefeather refusing Brando's award, Jack Palance doing one-handed push-ups, the stunning and unforgettable “You like me, you really like me” — the first reality TV?

Off to the parties tonight, where I gather the usual “No one will be surprised if …; no one will be shocked if …; tumblers will fall to the ground if …; limousines will crash if …; entourages will disperse if …; people will fall to the ground in their gowns in shock if …” for tomorrow.

Lynda

Earlier:
Oscar Loves Real People (When They're Interpreted by Famous Actors)
When Are They Going to Award the Believable Behavers?