The Original Oscar Outrage

Not everything was all sweetness and light during the early half of 1978. One of the greatest crimes against humanity in my eight-year-old opinion was the great rip off that occurred at the Academy Awards. The Oscars is one of the few televised events, besides the Super Bowl, that is aired live on the West Coast. This means the Oscars starts around 5 p.m. Pacific time and is over by 8:30-ish. Even a show that went long was still over by 9 p.m.. So as kids, we always got to watch the Oscars in their entirety when we lived in California. I got to see practically none of the annual ceremony after we’d moved to Miami, since bedtime occurred right about the time Johnny Carson finished his opening monologue.

During Oscar night 1978, my brother and I cheered every win Star Wars scored that night, easily winning all of the craft and the few technical categories. The highlight was Mark Hamill presenting with Artoo and Threepio. Closing in on the major categories, we were disappointed to see Sir Alec Guinness lose Best Supporting Actor. He was Obi-Wan Kenobi for God’s sake! What was wrong with those people? While Star Wars won 9 Oscars that night, an impressive take for 1978, it lost all of the biggies, including Best Director and Best Picture. My brother and I watched slack jawed and in shock when “Annie Hall” won Best Picture. What??? Star Wars was the most popular movie ever! It was the greatest movie ever! Who were these frickin’ morons? My brother and I booed and I think I might have even thrown a pillow at the t.v.. My dad had to tell us to settle down. When we went to bed, we were grumbling about it. When we got up the next morning, we were grumbling. I went to school and every kid in my class was grumbling.

From that night on, I hated the Oscars and cursed Woody Allen’s name forever. I understand many Allen fans consider “Annie Hall” his best film and certainly they could argue that if it hadn’t won Best Picture, none of Allen’s films ever would and a great talent would have gone unappreciated. Some still argue “Annie Hall” really was the better film. I’ve since seen the movie and well, that’s a subjective call. But it’s undeniable that Star Wars is one of the most important and influential films ever made. And when you consider that the Academy couldn’t restrain itself from rewarding the likes of “Titanic” or “Return of the King,” well, it still grates. I figured back then that maybe Hollywood was little jealous of George Lucas and that theory still stands, but there’s a credible theory that the Academy’s vote was split because “Close Encounters Of The Third Kind” was also nominated for Best Picture.

It was a cynical lesson though in the way of the world and its utter unfairness. Today the trophy game is more like a political campaign with the obvious maneuvering, PR games, and the winner often being the result of whichever studio spent the most money on the campaign. It’s more cynical than ever.

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