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Your Oscar Cheat Sheet

A how-to guide to be an Academy Award know-it-all

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You only have until Sunday, Feb. 26, to get your Oscar game on--that's just two-and-a-half weeks to become the center of attention at a party where you and your friends watch the world's most insufferable, widely loved awards show.

In an effort to fill your cache with an arsenal of Oscar know-how, we've put together an Academy Awards cheat sheet. But time is of the essence; you have some serious movie-watching ahead.

1. The most important thing you need to do is see The Artist. It is a rock-solid bet to win Best Picture, and BW has been crowing about this gem since September 2011, when it debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The Artist is on track to become one of the least-watched movies ever to win Best Picture. So odds are, you may be the only one at the party to have seen it.

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Bonus Points: You're sure to impress by knowing the name of the Jack Russell terrier who steals the show in The Artist. His name is Uggie, and if I know my Oscars, he's certain to make a surprise appearance at this year's ceremony.

Double Bonus Points: Uggie is nominated for two Golden Collar Awards, given for the best pooches on the silver screen.

2. Make a date to see The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and My Week With Marilyn. The stars of these wonderful films--Rooney Mara and Michelle Williams--deliver wonderful performances. You'll sound appropriately indignant when the Oscar goes to Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady. Say something like, "Well, the Academy loves it when actresses wear prosthetics." When your fellow partygoers turn to you with incredulity, tell them that's the only reason Oscars went to Charlize Theron in Monster and Nicole Kidman in The Hours. If they still aren't buying your argument, say something like, "Well, the Academy has its head up its ass."

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Bonus Points: There are 5,515 voting members of the Academy, which is a lot of heads up a lot of asses.

Double Bonus Points: Actors make up the largest branch (1,183), while makeup artists and hairstylists comprise the smallest (118).

3. There are plenty of this year's Oscar nominees already available on home video--The Help, The Tree of Life--but the two that you definitely need to rent are Beginners, which features a wonderful performance by Christopher Plummer (certain to win Best Supporting Actor), and Midnight in Paris, which I believe is a dark-horse favorite to pull an upset or two, like Best Director or Best Original Screenplay for Woody Allen.

Bonus Points: If you have time, rent Moneyball, too. It will probably win the Oscar for its Best Adapted Screenplay. It's co-author, Aaron Sorkin, won the same award last year for The Social Network.

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4. Make a point to see Hugo in 3D, which is currently playing at discount prices. It's a lovely film and destined to grab some Oscar technical awards, which usually fill the first hour of the ceremony.

Bonus Points: Oscar has been stingy when it comes to 3D. A handful of technical awards were delivered to Alice in Wonderland and Avatar, and Pixar's Up and Toy Story 3 have won best animated feature.

5. Everyone knows that Billy Crystal is a veteran host--this year will be his ninth ceremony. Many people can name a few other past hosts: Steve Martin, Johnny Carson or Jon Stewart. But here are some rather odd hosts who have helmed the Oscar ceremonies: Alan Alda, Michael Caine, Jerry Lewis and Burt Reynolds.

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Bonus Points: Donald Duck was billed (no pun intended) as co-host of the 1958 Academy Awards. Donald is actually an Oscar-winner himself, in 1943.

Double Bonus Points: Other animated Oscar winners include Bugs Bunny, Mr. Magoo, Pepe Le Pew, Pink Panther, Tweety Bird and Winnie the Pooh.

6. The biggest debacle in Oscar history was in 1989, when the broadcast opened with a bizarre musical number featuring an actress playing Snow White being serenaded by Rob Lowe in a disjointed rendition of "Proud Mary." The incident was so embarrassing that Disney studios sued the Motion Picture Academy. A settlement was reached, with the Academy promising that it would absolutely never show clips from that broadcast again.

Bonus Points: The same broadcast featured another embarrassing musical number, featuring some unfortunate warbling from Patrick Dempsey and Christian Slater.

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