Academy Awards

Do you feel like your life is four hours too long? Do you need an outlet for your Avatar depression? Do you like it when famous people wear ribbons? Are you prepared to clap for Michael Jackson? You're in luck! It's the 82nd Annual Academy Awards!

Chart by Darren Whitworth.

Winners of the 81st Academy Awards, weighted - by wins and how much we gave a shit.

Just The Facts

  1. An award for excellence in the art of film given out by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
  2. The most expensive televised masturbation each year outside of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest and The Apprentice.
  3. Awards are given out according to Academy votes, Ouija board consults, Magic 8-Ball results, bribes and the orders of the inscrutable Xenu
  4. Utterly meaningless.

THE HISTORY

Yeah, baby. Lower and slower...

In 1929, a collection of some of the biggest names in cinema gathered together in a little room and held a private dinner. Films had been developing as an art form and, more importantly, business in recent times. After a few playful experiments in "having more than one scene" and "being more than three minutes long," the movies had already outgrown boardwalks, penny arcades and nickelodeons. With serious filmmaking and serious film criticism firmly established the good people of Tinseltown decided it was high time for a hearty pat on the back.

Brainchild of Louis B. Mayer and attended by Douglas Fairbanks, John Barrymore and Mary Pickford, the original ceremony amounted to a fancy dress party at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Thereafter, by radio or television, and in some of California's most prestigious theaters, the Academy Awards (read: Oscars) have gone out across the country and across the world.

Every year, Hollywood dances around and pretends that it cares about art and then, come summer, the greenlight a $100 million Weekend at Bernie's remake starring Amy Adams and Optimus Prime.

THE AWARDS


Not pictured: genitals, ratings.

The big five awards which compromise a grand slam for films which win all of them are Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Actress (these days usually Best Male Actor or Best Female Actor because some feminists have some fucked up priorities) and Best Screenplay (one award for adaptations and one for original works). The last film to complete the grand slam was The Silence of the Lambs (remember when Hannibal Lecter and Snidely Whiplash were different characters?).

The 81st Academy Awards raised eyebrows amongst mainstream critics and the entire internet for snubbing The Dark Knight in its nominations for Best Picture. Come on, The Reader? Seriously? The debate about the Academy preferring prestige pictures that nobody saw versus popular movies that kind of blew was a sore point with the public, and as with all things it took Batman to achieve any measure of justice.

For the 82nd Academy Awards, some changes were made. Instead of the traditional five nominations, the Best Picture category would be increased to allow 10 nominations. When asked about the impetus behind the move, spokesmen replied, "Well, we won't say it was because of Batman, but it's not NOT because of Batman." Additionally, the continuing gravy train of animated films swelled to a record number of eligible films this year, moving the nominations for Best Animated Feature from three to five. The movie Up also became only the second animated film to be nominated for Best Picture. The inference, then, is that Batman must really, really love Pixar.

The science of filmmaking, however, is celebrated separate from what is considered the "real" Oscars, usually a week or two earlier. These technical awards or "nerd Oscars" receive little fanfare but honor advances in digital technology, new cameras, and new techniques. So basically, just like in high school, the math and AV clubs get the shaft while the attractive ones get the glory.

THE BROADCAST

As long as the Super Bowl but lacking the full-contact violence or commercials selling beer and tits, many find the Oscars hard to get through and it's a painfully common joke that the show goes on forever and gets longer every year. In addition to the routines performed by the host (usually a little monologue, introducing all the presenters) viewers can expect performances of that year's Best Original Song nominees, some original musical numbers, a few clip montages and, famously, a roll of the departed actors, directors, cinematographers and others who have died since the previous year's broadcast. The dead person with the most applause is the winner.

Hosting the Oscars comes with prestige on its own. Sometimes a host sputters and dies on stage (David Letterman, Chris Rock) and sometimes the act of their hosting the Oscars becomes a tradition to itself (Bob Hope, Billy Crystal).

But not for this guy. Oprah-Uma my ass.

The Oscar acceptance speeches get a lot of play every year on the news and entertainment channels. Some of the more memorable speeches have passed into television history. George Clooney's speech inspired an episode of South Park. Cuba Gooding, Jr. refused to let the orchestra play him off. Sally Field had her infamous "you really like me" speech that continues to haunt her and Adrian Brody lip-locked Halle Berry who had given an emotional, borderline babbling speech the year prior. Marlon Brando famously sent a Native American to accept his award, delivering a screed against the white man in lieu of an actual acceptance speech. One of the most famous speeches was Tom Hanks, accepting for Philadelphia, thanked his high school drama coach, inadvertently outing him as gay. The speech even inspired its own sub-par movie, In and Out.

Should you find yourself lucky enough to win an Oscar, you'll wish you had read these:

If Oscar Acceptance Speeches Told the Truth

Tom Hanks' Real Oscar Acceptance Speech

Rough Drafts of Past Oscar Acceptance Speeches

If Oscar Acceptance Speeches Were Truthful

BEATING YOUR OFFICE OSCAR POOL

% Make friends with the gay mail clerk in the office to hedge your bets on categories like art direction and costume design. If you are absent a gay friend or girlfriend try not to fall for the old trick of thinking only the most elaborate costumes and sets will always win. Rookie mistake.

% The categories outside the grand slam are where the pools are won or lost. Make sure your picks for the technical/nerd categories (sound, sound editing, special effects, makeup, animated short and feature) are solid. Check some blogs. Note that effects makeup (e.g. orcs) is not in the special effects category.

% Remember that among films of similar technical, cultural, or artistic merit, acclaim will always win out. Five minutes on Rotten Tomatoes will go a long way towards completing your pool's grand slam.

% Don't forget that there are professional odds-makers who pay attention to this sort of thing, like betED.com. Always double check your picks against the odds-makers.

% Pay attention to the other awards shows. The Golden Globes are a good indicator of how things will go but it's not always a 1-1 match so keep an ear out for SAG, WGA and DGA news. Checking each film's imdb or Wikipedia page should help you keep track of all the awards a show has racked up, including a lot of press awards that don't make the news.

% Don't even worry about the editing category. Just pick something.

If you need more help making your picks, consult these articles:

Cracked's Oscar Rundown (Part One) 2006

Cracked's 2007 Oscar Rundown

HAROLD J. RUSSELL

Harold Russell signed up for the Army the day after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Right away, that is a badass thing to do. A hard enough man to become an Army instructor, Russel's hands were blown off while filming a video about holding bombs. At the hospital he was fitted with two claws, like Woody Harrelson in Kingpin. Unable to participate in regular service or produce training films for the military any more, Harold instead became the subject of an Army promotional film about recovering veterans. His charisma on camera led to his immediate casting in the William Wyler movie The Best Years of Our Lives as Homer Parrish, a soldier who lost his hands in service to his country. For some reason he was really great at this.

The Best Years of Our Lives is beloved to this day by critics and Russell's performance is a large part of that. Although he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor nobody in the Academy seriously believed he had a shot in hell; it was just a token nomination, after all. So they gave him a special Oscar, like they gave Walt Disney for Snow White (that Oscar had come with seven smaller Oscars; the Academy wisely vetoed giving Russell a hook-handed Oscar). It was an expression of everything good about film and everything good about phony baloney award shows. About an hour later Russell showed how phony baloney they were by winning the Best Supporting Actor award.

If it were us, we would've become James Bond villains.

Perhaps the historical Oscar upset, Russell was the first of only two non-professional actors to win an Academy Award and the only man to win two awards for the same performance. We like to think the Academy was too scared not to give him a second award.

TIPS FOR WINNING YOUR OSCAR

1. Do a war picture, preferably a World War II movie. This includes Holocaust films.

2. Be really young. Fresh performances make an impression, especially during slow years, increasing your chances for an upset.

3. Be really old. The chances of the Academy honoring you go up if they think you're going to die soon.

4. Learn from the now-bygone Miramax. The Weinsteins aren't on as firm ground as they once were but they wrote the book on burying voters in money and caviar to buy their Oscars.

5. For actresses: try to play an ugly woman, rape victim, iconoclast who stands up to patriarchal society in the form of a corrupt corporation. If possible, be Katherine Hepburn.

6. For the fellows: soldier, slave, genius, mentally challenged. The corollary to this rule is known as the "Tropic Thunder Clause."

You never go full retard.

For more help in bagging "the Golden Dude" read these articles:

How to Win an Oscar

How to Win Your Very Own Oscar

THE AMPAS

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is composed of some 6,000 professionals across 63 countries. While the annual awards may be the best known facet of the organization this group of actors, writers, comedians, directors, set dressers, makeup artists, and composers also oversee other efforts in film preservation and celebration. This includes a series of theaters that offer special, rotating screenings of moving pictures, such as the Samuel Goldwyn Theater. The Academy also pioneers film restoration and conservation efforts and maintains a massive film archive comparable to that held by the American Film Institute and the Library of Congress. Naturally, this archive includes the greatest film of all time, Sylvester Stallone's Cobra.

THE GODDAMNED RED CARPET

The golden age of Hollywood gave the then-New York-associated gossip columnist a wet, dark place to mold and fester. The Oscars are the night when all the stars come out, also known as a feeding frenzy. The Red Carpet has grown from the fifty feet from the street to the door into a gauntlet of people with microphones, becoming an event in itself for many people who own funny cat sweaters. A few years ago time on or near a red carpet meant tangling with Joan Rivers and her malignant gut-spawn. Currently hibernating in the warm earth for seven years, Rivers has been replaced by Joey Fatone and Lisa Rinna. This is what is known as a "lateral move."

WHO ARE YOU WEARING?!

MORE CRACKED ON THE ACADEMY AWARDS:


20 Moments That Would Have Improved Great Movies- Six Puerto Rican youths were killed in a drive-by today...

Lost in Translation: 20 Baffling Foreign Movie Posters- Not one of our Photoshop contests because you couldn't make this shit up.

8 Humiliating Japanese Ads Starring Oscar Nominees- Beeyuhgouuuur.

5 Careers Destroyed by the Post-Oscar Curse- I forgive you, Coppola.

Next Year's Oscar Nominees (If the Strike Doesn't End)- Based on a true story.

If Juno Was 10 Times Shorter (and 100 Times More Honest)- You know you can almost see Diablo Cody's business on last year's broadcast. Just saying.