I had the special opportunity last evening of attending a preview screening of a new documentary from Turner Classic Movies, AND THE OSCAR GOES TO... (2014).
The screening was held in the Samuel Goldwyn Theater at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. It had been a number of years since I last attended a screening at the Goldwyn Theater, so the chance to see a film there was a treat in and of itself.
The evening began on a fun note when I realized the gentleman standing next to me in the check-in line was Oscar-winning actor-dancer George Chakiris! I attended a tribute to Chakiris at UCLA just a couple of months ago.
I also enjoyed the chance to say hello to several other classic film bloggers from the local area, plus Lara of Backlots who came all the way from the Bay Area to attend the screening!
It was also nice to have the opportunity after the screening to briefly say hello to TCM's Ben Mankiewicz, who provided a live introduction to the documentary, and "Second Looks" guest host Illeana Douglas. It was just announced that Douglas will host a tribute to Jerry Lewis at the TCM Classic Film Festival this spring. I told her I hope TCM will bring her back to host more "Second Looks" films, as it was a terrific Friday Night Spotlight series.
AND THE OSCAR GOES TO... is a 90-minute documentary by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman. As the title reflects, I think the program could most closely be described as a history of the Oscars as an awards show rather than focusing deeply on the nominees and winners.
Given those available to sit for on-camera interviews, the documentary also has a strong focus on the shows and winners of more recent decades.
The aspects I particularly enjoyed, given my interest in "classic era" Hollywood, were the sections on the early history of the Academy and glimpses of favorite actors such as Loretta Young and Robert Montgomery, who I was delighted was chosen to appear in the documentary's final scene.
One of the most interesting segments of the film dealt with Frank Capra helping to save the struggling Academy in the mid-'30s with a pledge that the Academy would not take positions in political or labor disputes. I felt it was thus an unfortunate irony that the documentary chose to spend a significant amount of time on political protests at the awards ceremonies, rather than on the films which were honored. Similarly, repetitive shots of industry audiences reacting at awards shows struck me as a missed opportunity to spend more time focused on the Academy's rich history.
The documentary has many enjoyable moments, with a highlight being Hermione Gingold's hilarious acceptance on behalf of writer S.J. Perelman. I especially appreciated segments focusing on the cinematography of award-winning films such as RAGING BULL (1980) and SCHINDLER'S LIST (1993).
Another of my favorite moments was a lovely comment by writer-director Phil Alden Robinson (FIELD OF DREAMS), who said that he felt the "real Hollywood" was what he experienced the morning after an awards ceremony, sitting with a cup of coffee, working in a dusty soundstage. He was quite eloquent and drew applause from the audience.
Here's a promotional video about the documentary from the TCM website:
AND THE OSCAR GOES TO... premieres on Turner Classic Movies Saturday, February 1st, the opening night of the annual 31 Days of Oscar festival. I'll be sharing additional details about the month's TCM highlights in a separate post closer to the 1st. TCM has a special microsite devoted to the Oscar festival.