It’s the greatest show on Earth, or at least in Hollywood. Today’s Academy Awards will have the greatest audience (one billion worldwide), the greatest stars per square inch, and the greatest run time for any TV show of its kind. Will it be a three hour or four-plus hour show? Your guess is as good as anyone’s.
Though the Oscars are a film and acting competition where the winners stand to make millions, that often seems less important than the pure spectacle of it all. We tune in to see what people are wearing (or not wearing), who’s with who, and who is this year’s designated Oscar train wreck.
But the awards themselves are rich with interesting trivia, strange rules, odd moments and historical tidbits. It may appear to be a smooth-running machine on TV, but the past tells a different story. To give you something to glance at during red carpet commercial breaks, here are some strange and intriguing Oscar facts you may not have been aware of.
15. Three Simple Rules To Winning Best Picture
To even qualify for consideration for a Best Picture Oscar, you need to satisfy a few simple rules. For one, you need to be more than 40 minutes long. Which is a bit strange. You don’t see a lot of 40 minute features anymore. Most clock in 90 minutes plus, with winner Gone With The Wind topping the Best Picture list at a sprightly 238 minutes. You could watch 1956 winner Marty more than two-and-a-half times during Wind’s run.
The second requirement for Best Picture consideration is that your movie plays in a Los Angeles theatre for a week prior to the end of the year. Often, Oscar hopefuls push this rule to the limit, booking one L.A. theatre in December just to qualify. The final rule – and it is a big technical one – is that your picture needs to be 2048 x 1080 pixels in size. In other words, movie screen size.
So, that’s it. Now all you got to do is making a terrific, Oscar-winning movie.
14. The Little Golden Man
Oscar winners tend to take to the stage and remark jokingly on the weight of their new trophy. Truth is, the darn thing is indeed pretty heavy at 8-and-a-half pounds (3 kilograms). Composed of Britannia metal, the Oscar is covered in 24-carat gold.
The bald, golden naked man stands at 13-and-a-half inches (34 cms), and 5-and a-half inches in diameter. Which is just perfect for use as a doorstop or to defend yourself from the paparazzi. But don’t try to sell it: The Academy has first dibs on buying it back should you fall on hard times.
13. The Host With The Most
Comic legend Bob Hope holds the record for hosting the Oscar telecast the most frequently. Bob – who never won an Oscar for his acting – helmed the telecast on 19 occasions. Second place goes to modern era host Billy Crystal with nine Oscar stints.
The list of those who hosted solo only once is very long. Few remember hosts Will Rogers (1934) or even Frank Sinatra (1963). And most of us wish we could forget David Letterman (1995), 1988 host Chevy Chase (‘Hello, Hollywood phonies,’ was Chevy’s opening line) or Seth MacFarlane’s profane 2013 hosting gig. As for the worst hosts ever…
12. The Hosts With The Least
Though it’s only been four years, most viewers still mention odd couple James Franco and Anne Hathaway’s Oscar hosting gig with a combination of anger, embarrassment and, yes, a little sadness. In an attempt to make the Academy Award telecast appeal to a younger audience, these two performers were given the job of making a billion people laugh on live TV.
The fact they weren’t well-versed in comedy or even hosting didn’t seem to give the Academy pause prior to the telecast. Reviews were horrible, with most feeling Hathaway tried too hard for laughs, while Franco didn’t try at all. And any Oscar show where a male host dons a dress for comedic effect is bound to be going in the wrong direction.
11. Great Directing Duos
On a couple of occasions, the Best Director Oscar has gone to a directing team. West Side Story’s co-directors Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise were the first duo to win the award. Robbins – who handled the dance sequence portions on the music – also holds the title of being the only director to win for the one and only movie he was credited with directing. Talk about going out on top.
In 2008, Joel and Ethan – better known as the Coen Brothers – repeated the feat with No Country For Old Men. So who gets to keep the statue? Your mom?
10. Silent But Oscar-Friendly
The Academy Awards didn’t arrive till the end of the silent era (1929), meaning that a whole generation of great silent films never got Oscar recognition. The one exception was the 1929 war movie Wings, which was the first winner of Best Picture. After that, though, the silent movie era gave way to the talkies.
But wait. In 2012, there emerged another silent film winner with The Artist, a drama that was partly a tribute to Hollywood and the golden era of the silent movie. The only dialogue in that flick came in the final scene.
To be fair, there have also been Oscar wins for entirely non-speaking roles – most notably Holly Hunter’s mute woman in 1993’s The Piano.
9. Take Your Oscar Love And Shove It
There’s been a long history of nominees and winners refusing their Oscars or simply boycotting the event. Back in 1936, writer Dudley Nichols refused his Oscar for The Informer because his Screen Writers Guild was on strike. George C. Scott refused his acting Oscar for Patton, repeating his oft-quoted notion that the Academy Awards are a ‘two hour meat parade’. Wow. Two hours? If only the Oscar telecasts today were that short. Or featured meat on parade.
Woody Allen has been a passive-aggressive no-show for all 24 of his nominations and wins. Yet, he did show up on the Oscar telecast in 2002 following 9-11. He was there to honor New York and to tell filmmakers that New York was still open for business.
8. You Suck! You Rock!
The night before the Oscar telecast, The Razzies honor the worst in movies. Over the years, there have been quite a few Oscar winners who have also won Razzies (Laurence Olivier/Liza Minnelli/Kevin Costner/Robert Benigni/Halle Berry). Yet, Sandra Bullock is the only actor to have every won a Razzie and Oscar on successive nights. She showed up to accept her Razzie for her work in All About Steve. And her speech was funny – if a little bitter.
The next night, Bullock won a Best Actress Oscar for The Blind Side.
7. Peaking Early
The youngest recipient of an Oscar is often listed as Tatum O’Neal. She was only 10-years-old when she won Best Supporting Actress for her great part opposite her father Ryan O’Neal in the 1973 period film Paper Moon.
However, the Academy Awards once gave out mini-Oscars to young performers. These Juvenile Oscars honored actors and actresses under the age of 18. In 1935, box office champ Shirley Temple won the first Juvenile Oscar at the tender age of six. Later Juvenile Oscar winners would include Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, Bobby Driscoll and Hayley Mills. The special Oscar was discontinued in 1961.
6. Running The Table
There have been a lot of movies that did well on Oscar night, but none can match the 2004 accomplishments of Lord of The Rings: The Return of The King. That movie, the third and final film in the Rings trilogy, received nominations in 11 categories, including Best Picture. It would go on to win every single award it was nominated for. A perfect 11 for 11. Talk about a sweep.
The accomplishment tied The Return of The King with Ben Hur and Titanic for most Oscar wins, though both of those previous films failed to win in all of their nominated categories. Losers.
5. Being Part of the Oscars
At the first Academy Awards in 1929, all you needed to get in the door was a pricey $5 ticket. These days, the best bet for getting into the Academy Awards without making a film is as a seat filler. These volunteers – who register for the honor months in advance – are required to fill a seat when the original owner has to tinkle or go accept a trophy on stage. Apparently, the Academy doesn’t like it when the camera captures an empty seat.
Another way to be a part of the Oscars is as part of the red carpet crowd – that smiling, screaming mob who greet every actor and actress like they are the Second Coming. For this extras role, you must also register and compose an essay on why you deserve the job. Selection is also based on you looking ‘normal’. Not too weird. Not too beautiful. No one who would distract from the celebrities is allowed.
4. And I’d Like To Thank My Hairdresser…
It’s hard to imagine a ceremony topping four hours would have a time restriction on acceptance speeches. But the Oscars do. Years ago, they instituted a 45 second rule. Once a winner hits that magic number, the walk-off music starts to play. If they keep going, the mic is cut off. This restrictive rule may have been the fallout from winner Greer Garson’s acceptance speech for her work in Mrs. Miniver (1942).
According to legend, Greer spoke for a record seven minutes. Yikes. That’s a lot of family members to thank. Greer was nominated three more times in the next three years. She did not win. One wonders if there’s a connection.
3. And The Longest Oscars Goes To…
….the 2002 Academy Awards telecast hosted by Whoopi Goldberg. Clocking in at an astounding four hours and 23 minutes, this telecast featured several tributes to 9-11, and even a one-time appearance by Woody Allen.
Still, you’d figure someone associated with the show might have noted the growing time and jettisoned one of Whoopi’s costume changes, Halle Berry sobs, or that whole, weird Cirque du Soleil dance tribute to special effects.
For the record, the shortest Oscar telecast was in 1959, clocking in at a breathless one hour, 40 minutes.
2. Winners And Losers
Up until 1989, Oscars were presented with the line ‘And The Winner Is…’. But in 1989, someone decided that was crass and way too competitive. So the phrase was changed to ‘And the Oscar Goes To…’. The change caused 1989 host Steve Martin to quip ‘God forbid anyone should think of this as a competition’.
In 2010, for no particular reason, it was changed back to ‘And The Winner Is’. Nobody seemed to notice. It has since reverted back to the Oscar phrase.
1. Doogie Does The Oscars
A few eyebrows were raised when Neil Patrick Harris was named as this year’s Oscar host. Some complained that Harris (Doogie Houser/How I Met My Mother) was a TV guy. Of course, that didn’t stop Johnny Carson or David Letterman from hosting. And what about TV cartoon guy Seth MacFarlane?
Truth be told, the singing and dancing Broadway star Harris has been wowing folks as the host of award shows for years. His resume includes hosting gigs on four Tonys, and two Emmy Award shows. That’s not to say the actor won’t crash-and-burn James Franco-style at the Oscars. It’s a tough gig for even the most talented.