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The Academy Awards

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Good morning. We are going to look at how the academy makes up its mind, a brief historicaloverview and then we are going to focus on 1989 movie called ‘My left foot’ whichwas an Irish movie directed by Jim Sheridan and Starring Daniel Day Lewis,who won his Oscar for the best actor in the movie.So, the Oscars were not called Oscars in the beginning,they were called the academy awards, even today they are known as the academy awardbut more popularly they are called the Oscars. How did they get the name Oscars?Now there are several legends and several versions about nomenclature or the Oscars; one is that leadingfilm journalist, he felt that the word ‘academy award’ is too heavy, too serious and it intermediates people.So, he just turn around and looked at the statuette, the Oscar atstatuette and he said, so how are you Mister Oscar, he said give it some more human touchand less, make it less intimidating.So, that was the story that is one version.Second version is the great movie star Bette Davis, who was one of the finest female actressof a time and she named it the Oscars, because she had some one very close to her who wascalled Oscars and Oscar and therefore she thought that it is better, it is a more fitting more appropriate name.So, the several versions of the name how the Oscars got the name, butpopularly they are called the Oscars but academically there are still known as the academy awards.Is there are politics?So, this is what we are going to discuss today. The key concept would be politics of awards.See this is always a very interesting area to discuss, awards too have politics; of courseawards are based on merits basis no doubt about it, but then there is a strong undercurrents of politics and that has always being the case for any major award, particularly so for the Oscars.So, Oscars are not always entirely about artistic merits this is important to remember.The studios, when we have already seen who the major players in this were; afterall the Oscars were developed by which studio, any guesses?Student: MGMGood. MGM. The studio executive Louis Mayor,he wanted to position the film industry in a more you know, hard hitting way, in a moreaggressive way and therefore the idea of introducing an award which will bring lot of attentionto the film industry also to the MGM, so it was not purely altruistic reasons there, they instituted the awards.It also is to interesting to note that people who were the beneficiaries;especially during the inception years of the Oscars, they all belong to the MGM studio, something interesting.So, if you want an Oscar, go work with the MGM that was the idea but soon things changed of course.So, by studios played a major part, an important part in positioning its product;and what part of is this so, called positioning.Full throttle publicity, making the product visibility; you have seen it in recent years with Lagan.How was Lagan positioned?It is task to make each and every academy voter,watch the movie; you can always send them the DVD. Earlier times, it used to be thevideo cassette, even a before that they would have especially screening of the movie forthe voters but then things became more and more complex more and more complicate. So,it was fail that is no longer feasible to organize screening for so, many people.So, then people started questioning their products more aggressively, and particularly Lagan;the producers approached each and every academy member, the voting members and ask them toyou know watch the movie, gifted them with the DVD, the video cassette of the film.And ensure that at least the movie got the right kind of visibility and it paid up, because it did get a nomination.And which movie won the best picture award that year?Student: The best foreign movie award?Exactly, the best foreign picture competed against Lagan?‘No men’s land’, and it is a war movie; and you all understandthe importance of war movie as oppose to a movie from India, which is full of colorfulsongs and dances and it is about cricket. So, there is a politics. No men’s land dealtwith a very topical theme which is important to the western world.India’s colonialism peppered the idea of India’s colonialism,peppered with songs and dances, and beautifulitems it may not have been such a big draw with; the academy voters, the members also,they have some kind of a conditioning about for the you know, we are all it is ordinary subjective,we like someone, we do not, we know. It is a canon again let’s talk about the canon.So, sometimes we like some people, sometimes we do not like some people.Sometimes we like a theme; sometimes we do not like a theme.So, there are certain popular themes, which always works well and that is what, we aregoing to look at; what makes the cut with the academy famous.So, a visibility, high campaign and PR;that is public relations play major role in making the product visible and above all, why do all this?Oscars always the spell big money. Even a small movie, if it getseven a minor award, by minor award I mean, we know the top five awards: best actor, femaleactor, male actor, best picture director, best movie. So, those are the major awards.But even if it gets a technical award, you know editing, sound etc. It pushes the movieinto the limelight and it makes it, because in aboard the release pattern is very different.Here we release a movie and if it runs, it is keeps on running, we do not interfere.There they book theatres for a particular period and then it runs, it does well eventhen it has to leave a theatre and it comes back. So, Oscars means they can rereleasethe product; now this time with better visibility, so that Oscars eventually translate into big money.I mean a there is famous story, are you aware of an actress called Ellen Burstyn,Requiem for a Dream? She won an academy award, for which movie?Alice does not live here anymore, directed by Martin Scorsese; his second major movie.Now, she could not for some reasons attend the ceremony, and one of the presenters personallywent to give her the statuette. And she said how does it really matter?And he say, the presenter, the person, a big leading man he had gone to her house gift her the award andhe said, see when you die your obituary will read as the academy winning actor Ellen Burstyndied on so and so. So, that is the difference it makes otherwise your just an actor, butwhen you win the academy award, you become the academy award winning actress.So, it is, it mean something; it is very prestigious, people hanker after it, it influences stars’ commercial prospect.Yesterday, while talking about Coppola we did note that one reasonwhy paramount could not kick him out unceremoniously was, because he won the Oscar for the bestscreenplay for Patton that was one reason why they could just hang on by the skin of his teeth.Reasons other than a studio politics; age and image of the recipients, we are basicallytalking about directors, male and female actors, so age and image of the recipients.Remember, Christopher Plummer when did he win the Oscar?In 2012, right;in which he playsEvan McGregor’s father‘Beginners’,and he is a dying patriot of this particular family.And how old is Christopher Plummer today?Some 84, 85 that means, that he wonhis first ever Oscar at star of, sound of music. And he must give several blockbustersalong the way, but age matters and the academy must have finally realize that this is;if it does not happen now, it may not happen also. So, age and image matter.Image of an actor is extremely important and we will see previous track recalled yes things do matterand what do we understand by previous track record.Student: Al PacinoAl pacino, yes; ‘Scent of a woman’ was his eighth nomination, and after what;Serpico, Godfather part 1 and part 2, Dog Day Afternoon.So, you cannot better that kind of body of work, but he got his Oscar when he was nominated the eighth time.Sympathy factors;give me some example, what could what is sympathy factor?Well, that was the great performance, but of course sympathy must have a role to play.One of the greatest examples that we are often given is how Elizabeth Taylor wonher first academy award; the second was ‘Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf’.The first was for her role as a call girl in ‘BUtterfied 8’. Now, many people feel that she had donea better job in several of her previous films, but by the time of ‘BUtterfied 8’therewere rumors that she is going to die of cancer; in that she is being treated for something very fated,and the academy must have thought a beautiful woman dying much before her time, so why not.And then she came and she received her Oscar and collapsed in the arms of then husband;her husband number four, Eddie fisher. And soon after that she dumped him and married Richard Burton,and then married him again. So, sympathy factors do matters.We were talking about age and image and previous track records; look at Martin Scorsese, why go far.When did he win?Students: 20062006 for ‘The Departed’; a man who had made Mean Streets, Taxi driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas.Many people felt that he should have got the award for Goodfellas, but thenhe did not get it in 1989, he got it in 2006; for a work which was a remake of ‘Infernal Affairs’.Popularity with the industry and goodwill with the industry people is another important factor.There are some people, nice regular all American guys like Tom Hanks.They are popular, they nice guys. Clint Eastwood always gets an honourable mention.So, they are the guys who matter they are popular, and they have lead more or less nice respectableat least on the surface, that kind of life; so that matters, goodwill matters.Box office bankability; now this is extremely important, an actor has to be bankable. Adirector has to be there, their movies have to earn money otherwiseit does not mean anything to the academy.It just means lot of effort, lot of money, lot of investment gone wastebecause for one of thing, and we give it to someone who have never made it before,he is never going to make it big. Just a loop performance, brilliant performance given the Oscar;but you know it does not work like that, there has to be box office bankability for that.Time of the release; this is very interesting.Christmas is supposed to be the best season, because the film remains. And when is the Oscar season?February or March, and if you release your movie during the Christmas season;more and more people you get, more foot falls in the theatres; holidays season, everyonewants to go out, people watch movies and it remains fresh in everyone’s mind for the Oscar season.There are innumerable, honourable examples where the movies got lost becausetheir timing of the release was all wrong.They released the movie in April or May; by next year February it is all forgotten.Student: There are few films; I mean somewho has a very specular debut in the home like, it will acknowledge coming up with some good work.Yes, that happens, for example ‘Roman Holiday’.Audrey Hepburn; so the moments she made her debut, she was seen as this actor who is goingto make it big, but then remember ‘Roman Holiday’ was directed by who?William Wyler;one of the most bankable directors ever, he has a track record, that remains me;I am going to ask, I gave you homework Robert Towne, if you did some research.And who did she star with? Gregory Peck. So, you see; there was questioning, there has to be.So, that means major bankable studios, actors and directors are lending their support to this young lady,and if we give her an Oscar today; fine, you know we do look good and it is also very safe bet,because she is being bank-buddies people. She not making some small debut in some arthouse cinema which no one is going to ever watch, and she is never going to make it big.Now, notable losers round, but you can go on adding to this list, there are too many notable losers.‘How green was my valley’ won instead of Citizen Kane; the best picture,we have already talked about the unfortunate mister Orson Welles. The only good thingI think personally that came out of his Hollywood stint would have been his marriage to Rita Hayworth.He was married to the glamour queen of those times.‘In the heat of the night’ beat Bonnie and Clyde, and now no one remembers ‘Inthe heat of the night’ today; Bonnie and Clyde is iconic movie.Scorsese’s ‘Taxi driver’ was completely ignored, even the actor was not recognized but the actor hasbeen more fortunate than others because he got his first Oscar pretty early in his career.‘Out of Africa’ won over Spielberg’s ‘the color purple’ and Spielberg was extremely unhappy;he has been working with sharks and all kinds of evil monsters, readers of the Indiana Jones etc.,and then he felt that Color purple which all about;gender inequality, racism in America, based on a novel by Alice Walker.It is respectable material, it deserved an Oscar.He was a bankable director, he had proven track record but it did not worked.‘Goodfellas’ of course!Hitchcock never won an award and he was just tossed bone called lifetime achievement award.And he gave the shortest ever speech, you know on the stage; what was it?‘Thank you’that is all he said.Charlie Chaplin? Lifetime achievement award,again the same year when the Godfather was given all it is awards.Richard Burton, the great Richard Burton nominated 7 times never won; and let me tell you, if you lookat Richard Burton, he is one of the greatest, greatest ever anywhere in the world.He can easily rank alongside Marlon Brando and Laurence Olivier; Richard Burton but never.Peter O’Toole never.So, that brings us to the idea of lifetime achievement awards which is pretty much evident in even our system.We know that they arebankable, we know they are hugely popular with the masses; but we do not want, we havethis infradig attitude towards these people, so let us not give them a very popular award.Has Govinda ever won?Student: I think so, but not sure.May be debut, but look it up. Do you think how many of you feel that Govinda is a good actor?Nobody feels that Govinda is a good actor? No? Seriously?I think Govinda is the very good actor.You give him a role and he delivers. But, you see we have an attitude towards certain people.They come from this kind of a background; they do a certain kindof films, they do not speak the way we want them to speak, perhaps all these things do matter.So, perhaps those who cannot get the main stream awards they are given generallya lifetime achievement award Hitchcock’s, Chaplin’s; many more, in our own situationalso you can see when we cannot give an award to someone, we give that lifetime achievement award.So, history of the Oscar awards. It was Louis B. Mayer who established and introducedthe idea of having popular awards. It was like bunch of people coming together and pattingeach other or patting themselves of the back, they are very wealthy people and they felt;okay it is not enough to earn enough money but we also need some token of appreciationfor our arts, so let’s give these awards to each other. So, that was the attitude.And funnily enough the first ever academy awards were announced before hand thatx, y, z is going to win please come and attend the party. So, people knew before, it wasnot like all hyped and suspense was not build up the way it is done today.The first ever academy awards, so again this is the date you should know it as a studentsof film history May 16, 1929. Why it was called ‘Oscar’; several versions about, float about.The first acting award was given to a German actor, Emil Jannings for a moviecalled ‘The way of all flesh’ based on whose novel, Samuel Butler.Janet Gaynor was first female actor and she was awarded for her body of work during the same year,one of her, one of her famous movie was ‘7th Heaven’. Those were the pre-television days;publicity and visibility was not that massive, winners were announced beforehand, howeverWilliam Randolph Hearst, we never get over this guy; we have already discussed him in Citizen Kane.He is the man, who owns several newspapers and magazines, and he felt thatlook this is a tremendous opportunity for garnering publicity for his papers, glamorizingnews, sensationalizing news and hyping up the whole thing; there is money here.He was also on very friendly terms with several female actresses and he felt, this is the very goodway of promoting them; one of his prodigies. So, he did his level best to make the Oscarthe most sorts after prizes and therefore the hype.So any questions, any comments you want to make before we go on?I am going to do a case study ‘My left foot’Daniel Day-Lewis who won; I am betting on my Daniel Day-Lewis this year as well,and he has already won in 2007, in 2008 he won the academy for second performs for yet anotherperformance ‘There will be blood’ Paul Thomas Anderson’s. Now, Paul Thomas Anderson’s‘The master’ is also one of the nominated films. ‘Argo’ is a strong contender,all those people who have acted in. I am still betting on Daniel Day-Lewis’ ‘Lincoln’.So, that makes me to hag back to ‘My left foot’ 1989,and it is often called the year the academic got it almost right.Many preconceived notions, many of the attitudes, prejudices, and misgivings were dispelled;box office, bankability.Yes, we are going to look at it,who were his contenders, who were his rivals, and that will give you enough idea;and why we often say this was the year when the academy got it right.So, nominees for the best picture that year, let us look at the best picture.‘Driving miss daisy’ Warner brothers, ‘Born on the fourth of July’ starring you know who, Universal pictures,‘Dead poets society’ Robin Williams Touchstone,Field of dreams’ Universal,and ‘My left foot’, Granada; a lesser known studio but distributed worldwide by Miramax.Best actress, who won in that year?Jessica Tandy ‘Driving Miss Daisy’.Isabelle Adjani the then companion of Daniel Day-Lewis;she too was the beautiful Isabelle Adjani was also nominated for Camille.Jessica Lange for ‘Music Box’.Michelle Pfeiffer, another unfortunate actor who has never won it, Johnny Depp,‘The Fabulous Baker Boys’, and Shirley Valentine, Pauline Collins.Best actor, male;Kenneth Branagh ‘Henry the fifth’ Shakespearian and British,so two things for which the academy members always had a softest spot for British and Shakespeare;you know that gives you the snob value.Robin Williams ‘Dead Poets society’ another, he is an academician, to serve with love kind of movie right;so it is always, it touches a chord with the members, very sentimental mushy movie.Morgan Freeman; tremendous actor,tremendous performance for ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ also the fact that he was black andaged; he has been acting for quite a while. Tom cruise ‘Born on the fourth of July’Box-office bankability, popularity; thinks of what he had done before that,‘Top Gun’, ‘Cocktail’ and ‘Days of thunder’ all money spinners.Daniel Day-Lewis ‘My left foot’.Now this is the back drop; Golden globe andBafta often give an indication of what is going to happen, this year ‘Argo’ hasboard out several films and therefore chances of Argo getting golden globe are pretty highbut not always, it does not always work that. But it gives you a rough picture.So, ‘Born on Fourth of July’ Tom cruise had already won the golden globe award for playing a paralyzedVietnam Veteran, Ron Kovic’s based on a true story. So, you look at it; it’s a warmovie, it is Oliver stone movie and Tom cruise playing it and what is he playing; a paralyzedVietnam hero, all pluses.Daniel Day Lewis won the New York critics circle,LA critics’ award, and the national society of film critics; we are talking about the canon,these are the canon forming bodies. ‘My left foot’ is also a biopic of paralyzedIrish poet and painter Christy brown; again real life story, again a paralyzed, so itwas build as the battle of the wheel chair, Day-Lewis versus Tom cruise, so battle of the wheel chairs.‘Born on the fourth of July’;now look at the pluses again, it is an anti-war film almost like ‘The deer hunter’ and Oliverstone’s trilogy ‘Platoon’ etc. It is an Oliver stone movie who was extremely hotduring those days, he could do nothing wrong. In spite of his Vietnam trilogy; ‘Platoon’and ‘Heaven and Earth’, Vietnam is a popular theme with the academy and its members.It was a huge commercial and critical success. Oliver stone won the Oscar for the best director that year,and of course The Tom Cruise Factor. And of course Morgan Freeman could not be ignored,widely respected and senior; those are the things age matters, experience matters.And ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ it won the best Oscar for the best picture, and also for thebest actor Jessica Tandy the 80 year old leading lady.P. R Missionary, the public relation missionary for the academy, the bigger the studiowe are talking about; universal studio versus Granada. So, better are the chances when it’sbagged, the movie is bagged by bigger studio. Big pictures gain more visibility and theacademy voters tend to watch more of high profile movies than obscure little movies like ‘My left foot’.So, the movie in spite of its brilliance didnot stand much of a chance, it was the small budget modest movie, Irish movie, made independently.It is belongs to the category of so, called ‘Indie cinema’, Independent cinema notbagged by studios; financed by studios yes, distributed but not fully bagged by studioswhere actors, producers, directors they all have to pitch in for their own, with their own funds etc.Most people who were not even aware of the existence of this movie,the producers of ‘My left foot’ mailed several thousand video cassettes, those were the daysof video cassette to the academy voting members, and of course it was marketed by Miramax,so it is improved it chances. Word about Daniel Day-Lewis; today he is alegend but then he was a still not very well known actor. British actor of Irish ancestry,he is the son of the famous poet Cecil Day-Lewis who was also poet laureate at one point.He lived in Ireland. He has done plenty of theatres, so he was a trained actor, a method actorthat is very important to remember; how method actors, Tom Cruise; plummet and charismaticbut he is not a trained actor, Day-Lewis is very serious and trained method actor.His previous works and they are now this is very important to note. My Beautiful Launderette’directed by,based on a play by Hanif Kureishi and directed by Stephen Frears who later directed‘The Queen’; if you remember Halen Mirren’s, ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ that greatest Stephen Frears.And Daniel Day-Lewis had also acted in Milan Kundera’s ‘The unbearable lightnessof being’; a very difficult role, Czech doctor. And E M Forester’s ‘A room with a view’directed by merchant Ivory, Ismail Merchant James ivory. So, look at his body of work and a range.Only 3 movies not block blusters but which is sufficiently displayed the actor’s tremendous versatility.What was his method?It is about a painter and the writer Christy Browne who is completely paralyzed, he suffersfrom an element called cerebral palsy. The only part of his body that functions is his left foot.So, Day-Lewis went through tremendous preparation for that role.He remained in a wheel chair throughout the shooting of the movie, and would act as irascible as the realChristy Browne would be; because see you look at the circumstances and you understand themoods, the temper, the mercurial temperament of the man, he maintained. He also maintainsbrowns paralytic speech at all the times; because his affliction was so sever, it hadaffected every part of his body, he was barely able to speak and only people who are extremelyclose to him could understand or could comprehend what he actually said. Day-Lewis also practicedpainting and writing with his left foot and that has become the hallmark of all Day-Lewis’s films;when he did ‘The gangs of New york’, he trained as a butcher somewhere for several months.Student: I heard that, apparently he got pneumoniaon set and he refused to take penicillin because at that point of time in 1920, there is no penicillin.He did not want to; that method going too far.Student: It seems beg him to take it.So, Day-Lewis known for getting inside the mind of the character, and he says; “Oneof the things I most intrigued by and, he is talking about his role ‘Christy Brown’ is characters inarticulacy.Christy Brown’s struggle was to express himself and that isthe thing that I am always attracted to in a part”. I have recently written a paperon Day-Lewis’s method and if you watch all his films and there are very few films;he is very choosy, very picky, and very fussy about his films. So, the body of work is extremelylimited, but versatility is astounding. So, you watch movie and you find basicallyhe is interested in those characters which are essentially inarticulate, unable to express themselves.So, why the academy award?Now, academy voters likes British actor that is a given, academy voters also like Biopics that is also givenand there is method here. See, ((Refer Prof)) (35:12), Sergeant York, Patton, Raging BullGandhi, Salieri’s Amadeus, Halen Mirren in ‘The Queen’ and Meryl Streep in ‘The iron lady’ all these are biopics.Student: Ma’am Colin Firth’s ‘The King’s Speech’?King's speech yes Colin Firth’s ‘King's speech’.Oscar has weak, academy has the weakness foractors who play or who portray physical or any kind of disability, afflictions, addictions;think that list is endless, you can always go on adding to the list but my list of memorable performance is includeJack Nicholson in ‘One flew over the cuckoo's nest’, Marlee Matlin in ‘Children of a lesser god’.So, Dustin Hoffman in ‘Rain man’, Pacino in ‘Scent of a woman’,Colin Firth in ‘The king's speech’, and Christian Bale in ‘The fighter’ he is an addict;and goes totally against the type, I mean one year you have watchedhim in ‘The dark knight’ and the next year you are watching him as, you know someonewho has transformed himself beyond belief, beyond recognition. So, Christian Bale isanother worthy method actor. The versatility factor of Day-Lewis;people respected him as actor although they were only 3 movies but people knew that he is aman who can perform, delivered the difficulty of the role. The role was extremely difficultto perform; and voting member said, I saw him doing something I could not do myself, he did.And who said that?One of the greatest and most beloved, leading men of all times, Gregory Peck;he confessed that what he is doing I can never, what he has done I can never do.So, Jim Sheridan the director and Day-Lewis;frequent collaborators, great friends and they have often work together, falling astoundingsuccess of ‘My left foot’, they came together again ‘In the name of the father’; again a biopic of Gerry Conlon,someone who was wrongly imprisoned for Irish bombings in a British Pub, IRA factor.And then ‘The Boxer’, Boxer is again about IRA, and these are thingsthat fascinate Sheridan and Day-Lewis, and being you know having a strong Irish roots,they do frequently this kind of work. So, other works, the notable works of Day-Lewisof course you can keep on adding to the list but then you have, ‘The last of the Mohicans’;a blockbuster, directed by the great Michael Mann. Scorsese’s ‘The age of innocence’based on Edit Wharton’s book novel of the same title; co-starring Winona Ryder and Michelle Pfeiffer.It won several awards, especially for costumes and art direction.Then he did an adaptation of Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’ and ended up marrying a producerthat was Rebecca Miller, Arthur Miller’s daughter. Then Scorsese’s ‘Gangs of New York’which is again a historical, and based on a film sorry, a novel, and won his secondOscar for ‘There will be blood’ which was followed by lacklustre ‘Nine’ whichwas a musical adaptation of Fellini’s ‘Eight and half’.I want you to look at his movies; The last of the Mohicans, The age of innocence,The crucible and Gangs of New York, also There will be blood. Now all these are essentiallyAmerican characters played by an Irish man, great American heroes, great American characterplayed by a British Irish person; that itself tells you a lot about his range and versatilitythat when it comes to and then ‘Lincoln’ of course, it does not get more American than Lincoln,and he gets to play Lincoln ‘the ultimate American hero’.So, starting fromFenimore Cooper’s Hawkeye in ‘The last of the Mohicans’ which is all about physicality,and then ‘Lincoln’ which is mostly about inward struggle; a typical struggle of a manwho is trying to change something around him, and his struggle with the society and struggle within.And you would be perhaps interested to know that in one of the American university’sthere is a core module for a film studies course, entirely devoted to, and it is a corecourse to Daniel Day-Lewis and American history because his contribution towards understandingof American history is unparallel.As a method actor, now I will quickly summarizewhat I have been trying to say about method, since for the past several classes we havebeen talking about De Niro, Brando, Pacino. So, Orson Welles famously said,‘I have always made fun of method but I use a lot of things that are taken from it’,so method has something to offer. Originally, it is a contribution by Russian theatre directorStanislavski, so it was called ‘Stanislavski method system’.In the US, it was basicallypopularized by the exponents of the group theatre in Newyork city and later on by peoplelike Lee Strasberg; and Lee Strasberg is almost the godfather of method acting, he has coachedthe likes of Nicholson, Pacino and Robert De Niro. He has also acted in ‘The Godfather’, second part;he is one of the dons and, ‘And justice for all’ again with Pacino,Pacino always regarded him as a father figure. Stella Adler is another practitioner of method acting.The method is simplistically put; it means that the actor’s main responsibilitywas to