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Good Oscars and Bad Oscars

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Once again it's the Oscars' time to be in the world spotlight. In my youth I worked in Hollywood's motion picture industry and was a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. We worked hard but it was also great fun. Glamour was the word. I remember 1951 as the most exciting year for the Oscars. Three powerful and gifted women were competing for the Best Actress award. Gloria Swanson, a cinematic goddess, was up for her starring role in "Sunset Boulevard." Icon Bette Davis was in competition for her classic appearance in "All About Eve." On the younger side, Judy Holliday starred in "Born Yesterday." Only one could win the coveted Oscar. I voted for Swanson, although I greatly admired all three. Unforgettably, Holliday won.

Remember your favorite motion pictures through all the years? Maybe Gregory Peck for Best Actor in "To Kill a Mockingbird" in 1963? Sidney Poitier in "Lillies of the Field" in 1964? Or Elizabeth Taylor in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" in 1967? Occasionally the Oscars can be highly controversial. As, for example, when "Brokeback Mountain" -- a groundbreaking film about two gay men in love -- did not win Best Picture. It deserved to win. Or, in 1999 Gwyneth Paltrow was gorgeous in "Shakespeare in Love" yet wasn't by any means Best Actress. On the other hand, Tom Hanks fully deserved his Oscar for Best Actor in "Forrest Gump" in 1995. However, Elizabeth Taylor did not earn hers for "Butterfield 8" in 1961. She was caught by illness in London, the press seemingly over-reported it, the situation reached crisis stage. But "Butterfield 8" was, sadly, a routine piece of film instead of a major or even very good one.

Over the years Oscars have often seemingly represented diverse views within the Academy. For example, in 1997 "Around the World in 80 Days" won for Best Picture. It didn't deserve it. On the other hand, think of those years when an Oscar matched superlative work on the screen. One such occasion came with Biilly Wilder's "The Lost Weekend" taking a sharp look at alcoholism. But a classic moment when the Oscars parted company from sheer reality occurred in 1942. Ingrid Bergman and Humphey Bogart starred in perhaps the most memorable movie of all time, "Casablanca." They didn't win Oscars. There's another classic occasion when an Oscar for Best Actress went to the Best Actress, yes, in the wrong year. In 1942 Joan Fontaine was given Best Actress for "Suspicion." The Oscar should have been given her the preceding year for "Rebecca," a classic performance that will rightly belong to her forever as long as movies are made.

The Oscars are inevitably immense fun plus merchandizing genius. Personally I've greatly enjoyed knowing Oscar, along with Snow White, Bogart and Bacall, Trigger and Garbo. Onward and upward with cinematic art.