Lisa Marie Reviews The Oscar Nominees: The Oscar (dir by Russel Rouse)


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I stayed up way too late last night but it was totally worth it because I was watching a film from 1966, The Oscar.

Among those of us who love bad and campy movies from the 50s and 60s, The Oscar is a legendary film.  It has a reputation for being one of best so bad-its-good-films ever made.  The Oscar is a film that I’ve read about in several books but, until last night, I had never gotten a chance to actually see it.  When I saw that the film was going to be on last night, I said “Sleep be damned!” and I stayed up and watched.  What other choice did I have?

The Oscar takes place in a world where women are “dames” and men are “fellas” and everyone acts as if they’re a character in a Rat Pack-themed fanfic.  One look at Frankie Fane (played by Stephen Boyd) and you know he’s the type of guy who snaps his fingers when he walks and probably uses pig Latin when he flirts.  He’s one cool cat and as the film begins, he’s been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor.

The film begins at the Oscars.  Frankie sits out in the audience, surrounded by Hollywood royalty and nervously waiting for the envelope to be opened.  The camera pans over to Frankie’s personal manager, Hymie Kelley.  Hymie stares bitterly at his former friend and suddenly, we hear his thoughts and do they ever let us know what type of movie we’re about to see.

As Hymie himself puts it:

“You finally made it, Frankie! Oscar night! And here you sit, on top of a glass mountain called “success.” You’re one of the chosen five, and the whole town’s holding its breath to see who won it. It’s been quite a climb, hasn’t it, Frankie? Down at the bottom, scuffling for dimes in those smokers, all the way to the top. Magic Hollywood! Ever think about it? I do, friend Frankie, I do…”

Hymie, incidentally, is played by the singer Tony Bennett.  This was Bennett’s first dramatic film role and it was also his last.  Whatever talent or magnetism Bennett may have had as a singer, it didn’t translate into screen presence.  Bennett goes through the entire film looking embarrassed but who can blame him when the script calls for him to constantly tell Frankie that, “You lie down with pigs, you stand up smelling like garbage…”

As we discover through the use of flashback, Frankie has had to lay down with a lot of pigs to get his chance at winning an Oscar.  After starting out his career working at sleazy clubs, Frankie, Hymie, and Frankie’s stripper girlfriend (Jill St. John) find themselves in New York.  Frankie dumps his girlfriend (unaware that she’s pregnant with his child) after he meets artist Elke Sommer at a “swinging party.”

“Are you a tourist or a native?” Frankie asks her.

“Take one from column A and one from column B.  You get an egg roll either way,” Sommer replies.

No wonder Frankie tells her, “You make my head hurt with all that poetry.”

Eventually, Frankie is discovered by a talent agent who takes him to see studio mogul Joseph Cotten (who went from Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, and Third Man to this).  Cotten is so impressed with Frankie that he says, “Once in a while, you bring me meat like this.  It all has different names: prime rib of Gloria, shoulder cut of Johnny.  MEAT!”

With the help of savvy talent agent Milton Berle, Frankie becomes a film star but he’s still a total heel who cheats on Sommer and takes advantage of Hymie’s loyalty.  When Frankie gets nominated for an Oscar, he hires a sleazy private investigator (Ernest Borgnine, of course) to leak a story about Frankie’s criminal past.  Frankie assumes that one of his fellow nominees will be blamed for the leak and that he’ll be able to ride a wave of sympathy to victory.

And who are Frankie’s fellow nominees?  We only learn the identity of three of them – Frank Sinatra, Richard Burton, and Burt Lancaster.  We never find out what movie Sinatra was nominated for but we’re told that Burton was nominated for The Grapes of Winter (which, I’m going to assume, was a film version of a Shakespeare play about Tom Joad) while Lancaster was nominated for his amazing performance in The Spanish Armada.  Doesn’t that sound like an amazing film?

Oh, how to describe the delirious experience of watching The Oscar?  In many ways, it is a truly terrible movie but it’s fun in the way that only a “racy” film from the mid-60s can be.  Nobody plays his or her role with anything resembling subtleness.  Instead, everyone spends the entire film yelling, screaming, and gritting their teeth while flaring their nostrils.  Everyone, that is, except for Tony Bennett who gives a performance that has a definite community theater feel to it.  Even better is the dialogue.  People in this film don’t just say their lines – they exclaim them.  If you’ve ever wanted to spend two hours in a world where every sentence ends with an exclamation point, watch The Oscar.

For a film that was apparently meant to be something of a love letter to the Academy, The Oscar was only nominated for two Oscars.  It received nominations for Best Art Design and Best Costume Design.  While I had a hard time seeing what was so impressive about the film’s art design (in the world of The Oscar, Hollywood has a definite Ikea feel to it), the costumes were fairly impressive in a tacky, 1966 type of way.

Finally, I think it’s time that somebody remake The Oscar.  David Fincher can direct it, Aaron Sorkin can write the script, Jessie Eisenberg can play Frankie Fane, and Justin Timberlake would make for an adorable Hymie Kelley.  For the supporting roles, I think Billy Crystal would be a natural for Milton Berle’s role and perhaps Philip Baker Hall could step into the shoes of Joseph Cotten.  Perhaps veteran film blogger and self-described very important person Sasha Stone could make her film debut in Ernest Borgnine’s role.

Seriously, I think it would be a winner.

5 responses to “Lisa Marie Reviews The Oscar Nominees: The Oscar (dir by Russel Rouse)

  1. Oh, come now, Sasha Stone does NOT suffer from an extreme case of megalomania. How could you say such a thing?

    I mean, the banner at her website has her picture placed next to that of Abraham Lincoln, done without a hint of irony, and you dare suggest she suffers from a touch of the ego trips?

    All kidding aside, the joke at the expense of Sasha Stone was laugh-out-loud hilarious. Sasha Stone is perhaps the biggest living proof of the theory that people can be exposed to great works of cinema and art and still be absolutely rotten human beings with zero sense of humility (in other words, she’d make a great dictator).

    The funniest thing (well, one of them, anyway) about Sasha Stone is that she gives the illusion that the sun shines out of the arsehole of Awards Daily and that it’s a huge deal website, an industry hot spot, only to announce on her blog that she was planning to go to the Cannes Film Festival, but was battling a dental-related health problem and fretting about the money.

    Aaaawww, poor Sasha, but wouldn’t such an important person have an all-expenses paid trip just like the really IMPORTANT film pundits?

    Actually, her piece on Maureen Dowd says it all about Sasha Stone. All that whining about how she once wanted to be just like Maureen Dowd, but now she hates her simply because Dear Maureen isn’t a fan of President Obama. It’s like an autograph hound chasing a film star’s limousine, then kicking in the bumper just because the car doesn’t stop. She even complains about the NY Times not printing her letter “for the first time ever”. What a twisted sense of entitlement that idiot has. Did she ever stop to think that on that particular day, the NY Times found quite a few letters that were more interesting/relevant/entertaining than Sasha’s drivel and printed those instead? She must either think that 8,000,000 New Yawkers hang on her every freakin’ word or that her letters are always better than everybody else’s missives (or both).

    I should point out that Sasha Stone censors HEAVILY on her website “Awards Daily”. The slightest bit of dissent from her opinion (or that from one of her underlings) won’t just get your post deleted…it will get you BANNED from the site.

    She even had this to say in her article about Maureen Dowd:

    “Dowd’s columns on Obama are not about Obama at all: they’re about her.”

    That’s the worst case of “pot, kettle, black” I’ve read in quite some time.

    If Sasha Stone were to be in a remake of “The Oscar”, surely she’d play a parody of Sally Field: “You like me, you really like me!”

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    • If you want a good laugh, do a google search on “Sasha Stone” and “Jeff Wells” The feud between these two pompous film bloggers pretty much epitomizes everything that’s wrong with the online film community.

      Personally, Sasha Stone reminds me of one of those self-righteous girls who would always get offended if you showed up for school in a short skirt.

      I have not one, not two, but SIX friends who have been banned from the AwardsDaily website. One of them actually did call Sasha out on this and Sasha replied that he was “personally attacking” her by openly disagreeing with her. Make of that what you will.

      I will acknowledge that, as Sasha constantly points out, she’s been doing this for a while. I was still a student at St. Monica when she first started her site but, unfortunately, the longevity has gone to her head. Now, she seems to spend most of her time getting angry at younger bloggers who dare to disagree with her. She’s quickly becoming the Bosley Crowther of online film criticism.

      Awards Daily is pretty much all about Sasha’s ego at this point. There’s really no point in wasting any time there when you can pretty much get the exact same information from any of the other Oscar-related sites that have popped up online.

      Like

        • My least favorite “entertainment” blogger is Nikki Finke, largely because of that post she wrote where she claimed that pretty girls couldn’t be funny because pretty girls have never had to suffer rejection and therefore, pretty girls are automatically more shallow than ugly girls. What bullshit! I’m so sick of ugly people who won’t get off the cross.

          As far as my other least favorites, Nikki is quickly followed by Dave Poland, Poland is followed by Sasha Stone, and Sasha is closely followed by Jeff Wells.

          I do like Tom O’Neill, however.

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  2. Pingback: Scenes That I Love: Tony Bennett Has A Meltdown in The Oscar | Through the Shattered Lens

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