By Big Chuck D'Imperio
The Daily Star
---- — Well, the 86th Academy Awards are over. And for the record, I did a pretty good job in my Daily Star Oscar picks. I got them all right except one. Cate Blanchett was the spoiler in my clean sweep. Not bad, if I do say so myself.
A lot of people say the Oscars have changed a lot “since the old days,” and for the most part that is correct. When I was a kid growing up, the Oscars show was something that my parents watched. The kids certainly did not. Mom and Dad would sit in their respective easy chairs and turn the show on each year promptly at 8. I can see them clearly. Dad in his recliner, and Mom sitting on the edge of her corner chair probably with a baby in her lap. My siblings and I would wander in and out of the living room to the chastising “hush” and “shhh” coming from each corner chair.
I always thought it was curious that my folks enjoyed the Oscars so much. I can honestly say I can never remember my parents ever going to the movies. Not once. But the show was a “glimpse over the fence” into the backyard of the rich and famous and for that, I guess it has never changed.
In 1965, I actually remember watching the telecast with them at home because the big movie of the year, “The Sound of Music,” had just recently played at the Sidney Theater and we all saw it (kids, not parents).
Bob Hope was the host. He was always the host (14 times). He would come out in his tuxedo and make sly, clever comments about the stars in the audience, and my parents would chuckle at every punch line. It all seems so tame now. He would see Charlton Heston in the audience, for example, and say something like, “Uh, oh. The boss is in the house,” referencing Heston’s role as Moses. Chuckle, chuckle.
This year, host Ellen DeGeneres made a comment that the person in the audience who looked like Liza Minnelli was the best male Liza impersonator she had ever seen. Of course that person was really Liza Minnelli. I thought it was kind of mean. If Bob Hope had said that, Mom and Dad would have chuckled. But then again, Bob Hope would never have “gone there.”
I remember the stars that night in 1965. I was struck at how many foreign actors were up for what I then considered an American award. Of the 20 movie stars up for acting awards, 10 were from the United Kingdom. Plus, Simone Signoret was French and Oskar Werner was Australian. Of the four winners though, three were from the U.S., including New Yorkers Lee Marvin and Martin Balsam and a country girl from the Midwest named Shelley Winters.
At this year’s Oscars, the geopolitical shift was in full evidence, at least in the names of the contenders. Three of the strongest contenders in the acting categories were Lupita Nyong’o and Chiwetel Ejofor (“12 Years a Slave”) and Barkhad Abdi (“Captain Phillips”). Nyong’o, from Kenya, won. Alfonso Cuaron, from Mexico, became the first Latino to ever win the Best Director award.
So, times have changed for Oscar. A little. In 1965 there was no red carpet. This year the red-carpet interviews played ad nauseam as a sort of pre-game run-up to the big event.
In 1965, the Oscar for Best Visual Effects went to the James Bond flick “Thunderball” for its introduction of the Bell Rocket Belt that propelled 007 up and out of harm’s way. The 2014 Oscar in the same category went to the film “Gravity” for its multimillion-dollar replication of a spacewalk at the International Space station thousands of miles above earth.
All in all, I really enjoyed this year’s Academy Awards show. But I couldn’t help but be transported back to watching the same show with my parents in 1965. It all seemed so, well, adult back then. I mean, Bob Hope would never have served pizza to Elizabeth Taylor, Rex Harrison or Jason Robards in the front row.
And lest anyone feel sorry for Liza Minnelli being the brunt of Ellen’s stinging put-down in this year’s opening monologue, take heart. If Liza is nothing, she is certainly a survivor. At the 38th Academy Awards show, Liza was not sitting in the audience. The 19-year old was up on stage singing one of the Oscar nominated songs!
I’ll catch you in two ...
“Big Chuck” D’IMPERIO can be heard on weekdays beginning at 6 a.m. on WDOS-AM 730 in Oneonta, and also on Thursday nights from 7 to 9 p.m. on WSRK-FM 103.9 for his “Oldies Jukebox Show.” You can find him on Facebook by searching “Big Chuck.” He invites you to contact him at email@example.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/bigchuck.