Thursday, February 24, 2011

On the Oscars

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This Sunday brings us the 108th Annual Presentation of the Academy of Movies’ Oscars Show, and while the level of feverish celebration that greets this event every year can only be matched by the overthrowing of a dictator or the discovery of a great new free porn site, it has occurred to me, as I wade through the virtual swamp of ignorance that is the internet, that nobody – not a single living person – has any understanding of the history behind this prestigious award. When I take your hand, as I now do, and lead you back through Oscar’s rich and misty past, I hope that when I refer to you all as a pack of gibbering morons that you will take it in the spirit of education in which it is intended.
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Oscar! Where Did He Get His Name?
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Good question! Sort of pedestrian, but basically fine. An improvement, at least, over “What’s a Oscar!? Duh duh duh!! [FART]!!!” which is how I imagine this process would have gone had I not taken your hand earlier. Oscar, the award, was so dubbed because a young man named Hugo “Oscar” Gernsback thought there should be an award given annually to the finest motion pictures of the year, and that the award should be called an “Oscar”. Supposedly, it was this idea that led Gernsback to be nicknamed “Oscar”, which he'd also apparently had since his early childhood, so, admittedly, there’s a certain amount of temporal illogic at play here. Perhaps time travel was involved. That may sound crazy, but let's not rule anything out.
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Oscar! Why Does it Look Like That?
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Look like what? Like a man?? Such stupid questions...but okay, the Oscar statue as we know it (see above) does not represent the Oscar's appearance for the vast majority of its existence. For most of that time, it looked like this:
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You can't really tell in that picture, but essentially it used to look like a cock. Not intentionally! I want to make that very clear! The man who designed the original statue was named Paul LaForge, typically the designer and artisan of knick-knacks, tsotchkes, heirlooms, and porcelain doll-babies. He was approached by Devonshire P. Hollywoodland, then our nation's first King of the Movies (first and only, as Congress decided it was a useless office the following year) one sunny day in 1903 or whatever because Hollywoodland had seen an ad in the Los Angeles Times for LaForge's business, which read:
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Extry! Extry! Finest statues! Nicely sculptured! Can make sculpting materials look however you please! Will give your wife more to clean!
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Tasked with developing a prototype of the newly invented Oscar statue (tasked by Congress, those fucking hypocrites) and taken with LaForge's confidence, Hollywoodland contacted the small-businessman via telegram, which said "Today is your luckiest of days! Design our new Best of Motion Pictures 'Oscar' statue and should you succeed you will be rich! Rich, I tell you! PS - Don't make it look like a penis." LaForge accepted the job readily, and expanded his workforce by threefold (up to nine) and told them to mass produce as many Oscar statues as they could in a week. Naturally, these craftsmen had one question before beginning, which was "Should it look like a penis?" Reportedly, LaForge's response was "I can't remember. I think so." And so, blissfully unaware, those nine men began work on hundreds of Oscar statues, all of which looked like a penis (the same penis, though, to their credit).
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Oscar! What Happened Then?
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Well, LaForge shipped all his dick trophies to Hollywoodland's office, who, when he opened the box, just about had a shit fit, but by then, what could he do? The Oscar ceremony was set for that night! This was badly planned, all around. No one's denying that. You'd think that somewhere between Gernsback coming up with the idea and the first Oscar ceremony, some of these kinks could have been worked out, but remember, this was 1903 -- things moved pretty fast back then.
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Anyway, so everybody who won an Oscar that year took home something that looked like an erect penis, covered in gold. Many a fainting spell was tended to, many a monocle had to be replaced. Somehow, the statue design was not corrected until 1979, when Kramer vs. Kramer won all those awards, because nobody wanted to offend Meryl Streep.
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So Who Won the First Oscar?
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Electrocuting an Elephant (d. Thomas Edison), from which many people trace the Oscars' tendency to reward unchallenging, middlebrow stories of hardship and triumph. And there's not a hell of a lot of difference between Electrocuting an Elephant and Gandhi, when you get right down to it..
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Is There Any More to the History of the Oscars?
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No, that's pretty much it.

11 comments:

Bryce Wilson said...

Bravo.

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

Why are you taking my hand? Are you a stranger in paradise?

Peter Nellhaus said...

You would think it would occur to somebody to make Electrocuting an Elephant 3D?

bill r. said...

Bryce - I hope you learned something.

Ivan - I'm taking your hand in order to lead you to the paradise of Oscar knowledge. So in a way, the answer to your question is "Yes"!

Peter - It's ripe for a remake. Ii see Ben Foster in there somewhere.

Ryan Kelly said...

This... changes everything.

Greg said...

By the way, I still call them "Dick Trophies." Always have.

bill r. said...

Ryan, I'm sorry you can't handle having your mind blown wide open.

And Greg, "dick trophy" just makes sense. I can't believe they changed it.

Ryan Kelly said...

I'm sorry too. I'm... sorry for everything.

You, my good man, need to publish a book or some shit.

Adam Ross said...

What fascinates me about the Oscars is that they're held even in years when no movies are produced. For example, in 1931, 1932 and 1987 there were no movies made at all, for reasons only Hollywood knows. Yet the Oscars still went on, giving Dick awards (Oscars in 1987) to "movies" that were in name only (and were later produced only because Oscars had already been awarded to them).

bill r. said...

Ryan - About what? YOUR FACE!?!?

Adam - That is indeed very odd. But without those awards, we never would have had HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS.

Josh said...

Sorry, I fart when I am confused about history and stuff.

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