Academy Award History, Part Three: 1929-1931

Academy Award History, Part Three: 1929-1931

Norma Shearer, Best Actress 1931
Norma Shearer, Best Actress 1931

MGM’s Irving Thalberg’s claim that “talking pictures [were] just a fad” proved to be wrong as 1929’s The Patriot became the last silent film to be nominated for 82 years (you’ll just have to wait if you don’t already know). 1930 marked the year that Hollywood fully embraced full sound pictures. It was the year that the Academy changed the name of the top prize to Outstanding Production, a change that would hold until 1940. It was also the year that there were two Academy Award ceremonies. The 2nd Annual Academy Awards were held on April 30 followed by the 3rd Annual on November 5. The former was for films released August 1, 1928 – July 31, 1929, while the latter was for films August 1, 1929 – July 31, 1930. One reason for doing this was because audiences were confused when awards were being given out to films that were nearly two years old. The Academy wanted to “catch-up” by awarding films that had been recently seen by the audience. The other reason for the quick turnaround was to quiet a controversy that had risen up at the second awards. For the first two Academy Awards ceremonies, the winners were chosen by a committee. This did not cause a problem at the first awards when everyone who won seemed to deserve it. But at the second ceremony, when all of the awards went to films that had been produced by members of the awards committee, Hollywood was not happy. Read more

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Sexism in Survival Situations: What We Have and Haven’t Learned from Steven Spielberg

Sexism in Survival Situations: What We Have and Haven’t Learned from Steven Spielberg

Like many movie fans, especially those who grew up in the 70s and 80s, I awaited the release of Jurassic World with both excitement and apprehension. I really wanted to love this movie, but I was worried that it wouldn’t live up to expectations. After watching it, I was still left split. I liked it, but I was disappointed. It looked like a Steven Spielberg film and, at times, felt like a Steven Spielberg film, but this was no Steven Spielberg film, even if his name is listed as “Executive Producer.” Below are six takeaways from the movie that show what current filmmakers and their audiences learned and failed to learn from watching Spielberg, especially his fantasy/monster/family films, over the past three decades. Read more

Academy Award History, Part Two: 1927-1929

Academy Award History, Part Two: 1927-1929

Mary Pickford, 1916
Mary Pickford, 1916

Just what is “The Academy”? The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was founded on May 4, 1927. Prior to the Academy, the various branches of the motion picture industry had their own individual guilds and unions (as they still do) but no collective organization where they could all meet and discuss issues in the industry. As actress Mary Pickford put it, the Academy “is our open forum where all branches can meet and discuss constructive solutions to problems with which each is confronted…The producer, star, featured player, cinematographer—in fact, every individual can come into the Academy with any problem or proposal and feel that all barriers are leveled, that in this open court his voice carries the same weight as that of any other person, regardless of position and standing.” The first meeting and banquet was held one week later on May 11. 300 guests attended and 230 joined the Academy for a fee of $100, or a little more than $1300 by today’s standards. Read more