Tag Archives: Academy Award

Americana: Academy Awards

The Oscar statuette is 13.5 inches tall and weighs 8.5 pounds. Except for some slight streamlining of its base, it remains virtually unchanged since it was first handed out in 1928. Uploaded by reviewsinhd.com.

It was the boss of MGM, Louis B. Mayer, who came up with the idea. Like Andy Hardy – “Let’s put on a show!” He got the other studios to buy in on the idea, and the first Academy Awards presentation debuted on May 16, 1929.

That first ceremony drew 270 people for a brunch that costs $5 per ticket. Now, valet parking would be insulted with a $5 tip. The Oscar statuette made its appearance at that first show, and save for some minor streamlining of the base, is essentially the same today as back then. Wings won the first Best Picture; but then, if you know movie trivia, you probably knew that.

The Oscar show has been hosted by a wide variety of actors and comedians over the decades. The recent ones you know, but some of the earlier hosts included Will Rogers (1934), Frank Capra (1936), Fred Astaire (1951), and Jerry Lewis (1957).

Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker. Uploaded by lightstalker.org.

Because of the success of the Oscars, each entertainment medium gives out awards to pat itself on the back. The Tonys, the Grammys, the Emmys, various Critics awards. Shoot, everyone who puts out a 25-cent picture magazine in Nashville has some kind of Country Music award. But only one is a title that comes as close to British peerage as we have in this country. “May I introduce John Smith, John Doe, and Academy Award Winner Jane Doe.”

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Directors: The Coen Brothers

With movies like The Big Lebowski in their past, the Coen brothers' pictures are almost like cult films. But you don't get Academy Awards for Best Picture - as they did for Fargo and No Country for Old Men - if you're directing cult movies. Uploaded by msnbcmedia1.msn.com.

I have both brothers down as Directors, because they’ve shared those duties, though until recently only Joel Coen received directing credit. Brother Ethan typically received credit as producer, the brothers shared writing credits, and they also edit their own films, using the pseudonym Roderick Jaynes. They are informally known in Hollywood as “The Two-Headed Director.”

You’d almost consider their movies as cult films, except cult films don’t win Academy Awards. But there’s no question that certain of their pictures have achieved cult status, most notably The Big Lebowski. And the brothers have developed a loyal following. From their first movie, Blood Simple, in 1984 to the upcoming (as I write this) release of the remake of True Grit, there’s a special buzz among movie lovers when “a new Coen Brothers movie is coming.” For me, it’s the writing, which is inevitably memorable. O Brother is one of the most quotable movies of all time.

True Grit will be their 15th movie. Some have already received recognition as Great American Things: Raising Arizona (January 31, 2010), O Brother, Where Art Thou? (June 5, 2009 – 2 nominations ), and Fargo (July 16, 2009 – 7 nominations, won Best Picture). Among their other outstanding films: Miller’s Crossing * Barton Fink – 3 nominations * The Hudsucker Proxy * The Man Who Wasn’t There – 1 nomination * No Country for Old Men – 8 nominations, won Best Picture * A Serious Man – 2 nominations.

Book/Film: The Grapes of Wrath

The novel was published in 1939, and earned John Steinbeck the Pulitzer Prize for Literature. The movie followed the next year, and earned 7 Academy Award nominations. Uploaded by john mariani.com.

The Grapes of Wrath is the moving story of the Joad family, Okies forced from their farms due to the crop failures brought on by the Dust Bowl. Tom and the family make the pilgrimage to what they’ve been led to believe is the promised land — California. But when they arrive, they find that there are too many migrants, and too few jobs.

Uploaded by kclibrary.lonestar.edu.

Published in 1939, The Grapes of Wrath earned John Steinbeck (Great American Things,¬† October 24, 2009) the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1940. That’s the year the film version debuted, directed by John Ford and starring Henry Fonda as Tom Joad. As often happens in adaptations, the movie had a slightly happier ending than the book. Part of that can be attributed to the natural inclination of film producers to want audiences to leave happy; part is likely due to the fact that Ford and executive producer Darryl F. Zanuck were more politically conservative than Steinbeck.

The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, and won two. The American Film Institute’s original “100 Years…100 Movies” named it the number 21 film of all time. As for the book, Modern Library honored it as the tenth-best novel of the 20th century.

Music: Aaron Copland

Copland used American musical idioms in such popular works as Rodeo, Fanfare for the Common Man, and Appalachian Spring.

Though certainly not the first American composer whose music captured the national mood, Aaron Copland created ballets, popular works, and film scores that earned him the unofficial title as “The Dean of American composers.”

Copland weaved such true American musical idioms as jazz and folk into his compositions, and audiences loved him for it. He looked to these forms to liberate our classical music from the influence of Europe. He loved the European masters, of course – he spent a great deal of time in Europe and Asia, immersing himself in the music of the world. But he felt it was time for America to establish its own musical identity.

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His first composition to achieve iconic status was the ballet Billy the Kid (1935). It incorporated cowboy tunes and folk songs, and is still one of his most popular and widely performed pieces. Similarly, another ballet with a western theme, Rodeo (1942), also blended recognizable folk tunes with a Copland flair. Especially notable was the “Hoedown” section near the end. (Beef – it’s what’s for dinner.)

That same year, Copland composed one of the most instantly recognizable and loved pieces of American music, Fanfare for the Common Man. Written as America was gearing up for World War II, it accomplished Copland’s goal to create a national morale booster.

Copland later arranged his most famous ballet into an orchestral arrangement – Appalachian Spring. Originally written for 13 instruments, it incorporated the Shaker hymn “Simple Gifts” in a beautiful and inspiring American classic. It earned him the Pulitzer Prize (Great American Things, February 19, 2010).

Copland also wrote film scores, most notably Of Mice and Men (1939) for which he received an Academy Award nomination, and The Heiress (1949) for which he won the award.