nd the shock occurs on a Sunday night, March 19th, 2000, when a ragpicker holds in his hands 52 authentic Oscar figurines, those that perpetually shine, plated in gold, the kind of which are made telescopes and NASA’s Geostationary satellites. We could say, as Baudelaire said of the ragpicker (“Chiffonier”) poet: “Here is a man in charge of collecting the remains of a day in the capital”; if we wanted to make it sound like poetry, of course. But, did not happen thus: in the Korean neighbourhood of Los Angeles, on a Sunday afternoon, the 52 Oscar man calls the TV Channel to live his stellar moment of glory.
The Oscar’s statuette, a blazon, a standard and trophy conquered in the fight for the brightness, colour, fantasy and the thrust of promised life: all that… in the trash bin.
LONG LIFE TO THE UNCLE OSCAR?
This year the Oscar awards ceremony reaches its 91st edition. On the brink of the devastating and unexpected Wall Street Crash, on May 16th, 1929, the annual festival of cinema was celebrated for the first time, at a private dinner at Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles: a group of seventh-art lovers decided to become an Academy of Sciences and Cinematographic Arts, and organized a private dinner with 36 banquet tables, that was attended by 270 people and tickets costed $5. A hotel where, even today, one can stay, emulating Marilyn Monroe, who made this luxurious building a residence of her for two years.
Since the first edition, more than 3,000 statuettes of the much valued “Oscar” have been manufactured. As for the name, there is a hypothesis that explains why the statuette looks like it does -anthropomorphic, as we all know- similar to the uncle of the executive secretary of the Academy, who, precisely, was named Oscar. Another hypothesis points out that it was Bette Davis who gave her name to it, in honour of her first husband, Oscar Nelson.
Whatever the origin of the name may be, what we know for sure is that the first Oscar statuettes were made of gold-plated bronze, but after a short time the bronze was replaced by the British alloy, a kind of pewter made of tin, antimony and copper. During the Second World War, they were made with painted plaster and, upon finalizing the episode of military horror, all of them were changed again by those of 24-carat gold plated metal.
But many of the Oscars had a flaw: they shone brightly first, though the brightness faded over the years. This has been corrected thanks to the modern technology of Epner Technology, a manufacturer of the main tools of NASA. A method that, according to the company, guarantees the brightness for a lifetime. If you do not lose the statuette, of course.
HUMANS ALL TOO HUMAN: JUST LIKE LOSING A TOTEM
Can you forget an Oscar in the bathroom? Yes, indeed: Meryl Streep, in 1979, who had just won it as Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Kramer vs. Kramer. Fortunately for her, someone found it and gave her back. Exactly the same thing happened to Colin Firth with the one won in the category Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for The King’s Speech. As for Matt Damon, he lost the Oscar for Good Will Hunting original screenplay after his New York apartment was flooded. When he returned home, the prize had disappeared.
Angelina Jolie gave the prize to her mother, Marcheline Betrand, and when she died in 2007, it was never found among her belongings. Whoopi Goldberg’s was robbed from her mail after she sent the Oscar to be cleaned, because he had lost its brightness. A few days later it was found in a bin (what fixation with bins!) at the Ontario airport, and it was returned. Now she is the one who personally supervises its cleaning at home.
Even more curious is the case of Marlon Brando. Not only did he lose the Oscar he had won for On the Waterfront, but when he was awarded for The Godfather, he did not go to collect it, sending in his place Sacheen Littlefeather, an activist of the civil rights of the Native Americans. As the actor himself claimed, he never received the statuette at his home.
Brando is not the only star that has not attended the ceremony to pick up a prize. Katharine Hepburn, who also won 4, did not come. Though, afterwards, she exhibited them nearby her fireplace. Woody Allen has never attended the ceremony despite having won 4 times the Oscar because, he says, it coincides with the day he goes to his club to play the clarinet with the band. However, after the 11S attacks, Allen did go to the ceremony to give a moving speech, introducing the tribute that the Academy gave to the city of New York.
There are also artists that, instead of losing the Oscar, they recovered it damaged. This was the case of Simon Egan, co-producer of The King’s Speech, who left the award to his daughter and, after playing with it, showed many bumps.
The zenith, perhaps insurmountable, of the iconoclastic behaviour against the sacred image of the Oscar, is to receive the totem while being in bed. In 1946, Joan Crawford was distinguished for her role in Mildred Pierce. Today still we still ask ourselves if she was really ill -as argued- or if it was a strategy for the Academy’s jury to be sympathetic and reward her, since she had never won the much longed for Oscar. There are many who say that she spent the whole night embracing the statuette. What is absolutely true is that, in the year 2000, 55 statuettes were robbed, and the ragpicker recovered only 52. Three Oscars have never appeared.
THE ARRIVAL OF THE NETWORKS: A REAL PYROTECHNIA
The ceremony has evolved a lot over the years. From the initial dinner, private, to the current glamour of the Dolby Theatre, with the red carpet, the very careful staging and worldwide television coverage. At the same time, the price of the tickets has also changed, and a lot! From $5, dinner included, to the $750 that costed the additional tickets that the nominees could buy, according to the post of actress Viola Davis on her Instagram account last year.
But there is another way to attend the show. The organization wants the seats to be always full and, for this reason, it enables 150 seat filler people, whose mission is to immediately occupy any seat that is empty if its occupant leaves the room. To apply to one of these coveted places, you need to send a detailed curriculum along with a photo and, if selected, dress elegantly but without eclipsing the stars, and not relating in any case with them.
The ceremony is organized with careful planning, which limits the time of gratefulness speeches, so that the evening does not get too long. However, when Julia Roberts was awarded Best Actress for her role in Erin Brockovich, she said: “Since I do not know if I will be back here, I will take the time to thank for the award to whom I you want”. But, despite her good will, she forgot to thank the person who inspired the film, the true Erin Brockovich.
On the other hand, there are moments when the script goes away. As happened in 2013, when actress Jennifer Lawrence played a double role. First, because she wore the most expensive costume in the history of the Oscars up to that time, a design of Dior in pink, a mermaid dress made in French brocades valued at 4 million dollars. And, second, since she fell to the ground with this dress when she was heading to the stage to pick up the award for her Best Actress role in Silver Linings Playbook.
The following year, the presenter, Ellen DeGeneres, realized that the ceremony was overshooting and asked for a few pizzas so that the assistants would palliate the wait. And she, together with the dealer that had brought them and Brad Pitt as a volunteer, distributed them to the public. That same night, the presenter collapsed Twitter with the most intricate selfie in history, with Ellen herself, Bradley Cooper, Brad Pitt, Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts. In a few seconds, this tweet surpassed the one that had the previous record: Barack Obama embracing his wife Michelle on the day he assumed his second term as President.
We’ll see what will offer the ceremony this coming Sunday.