Inexplicably, we aren’t among this year’s Oscar nominees — it was due to a clerical error, having to do with our not having actually made any movies last year — so don’t look for us on the red carpet on Oscar night.
Instead we’ll engage in the other traditional Oscar-night activities, consisting of second-guessing the voters, criticizing the appearance of people who, at their worst, look better than we ever have or will, and flaunting our superior knowledge of the movies.
That last one is fairly easy to do because, in a year in which neither Steven Spielberg nor Quentin Tarantino is nominated, the list of major nominees is conspicuously short of real movie fans, the kind of people who can talk knowledgeably about obscure 1930s Westerns, 1950s film noir, and 1970s musicals. Of the entire list, in fact, only Best Director nominee Martin Scorsese can really be considered a movie expert. Scorsese, it’s well known, has seen — and probably owns prints of — thousands of movies that other film mavens didn’t even know existed.
To see how you stack up against the less-than-Scorsese crowd, test your knowledge of Oscars past, present and to come with the following 12 questions, and then grade yourself — if you dare — on the scale that follows the answers.
As for you, Marty, we’re only kidding. Really. You’re an automatic 12 for 12 in our book, plus extra credit for making Hugo (2011), arguably the best film ever made about the history of movies.
The question, please ...
1. American Hustle scored Oscar nominations for Christian Bale as Best Actor, Amy Adams as Best Actress, Bradley Cooper as Best Supporting Actor and Jennifer Lawrence as Best Supporting Actress — only the 14th time that a single film has been nominated in all four acting categories. What was the last film to do so?
Luise Rainer, voted Best Actress for The Great Ziegfeld (1936) and The Good Earth (1937), was the first actor to win back-to-back Oscars. What other noteworthy distinction does she hold?
2. Captain Phillips was nominated for an Oscar as Best Picture, but star Tom Hanks wasn’t nominated as Best Actor, despite many predictions to the contrary. What did Hanks do in 1995 that hadn’t been done since 1938 and hasn’t been done since?
3. Dallas Buyers Club has earned Oscar nominations for Matthew McConaughey as Best Actor and Jared Leto as Best Supporting Actor, both playing AIDS patients. Who was the first actor nominated for an Oscar for playing an AIDS patient?
4. Gravity has the smallest cast of any of the nine films nominated for Best Picture this year, with only Sandra Bullock and George Clooney appearing onscreen. If Clooney had been nominated for Best Supporting Actor, as some had predicted, the film’s entire cast would have been nominated. Has that ever actually happened?
5. Which current Best Picture nominee could be consider a remake of a 2006 episode of the animated series “Robot Chicken?”
6. “Nebraska” is the first film named after an American state to be nominated for an Oscar as Best Picture. There have, however, been five Oscar-nominated films named after American cities. Name them and, for good measure, the only one named after a foreign city.
7. Judi Dench, nominated as Best Actress for her performance in the title role of “Philomena,” originally was slated to star in the original production of a classic Broadway musical, until an injury forced her to withdraw. What was the show?
8. Best known as Captain Sisko on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” (1993-1999), Avery Brooks has a certain connection to the 2014 Academy Awards. What is that connection?
9. “The Wolf of Wall Street” is the fifth film that Leonardo DiCaprio has made with director Martin Scorsese. How many of them were nominated for Oscars as Best Picture?
10. What is unique about Jerome Robbins, winner of the Oscar as Best Director for “West Side Story” (1961)?
11. What do “Coneheads” (1993), “Mr. Wrong” (1996) and “The Love Letter” (1999) have in common?
12. It’s known worldwide as “the Oscar,” but what’s the official name of the film industry’s highest honor?
EXTRA CREDIT: What film will win Best Picture on March 2?
AND THE ANSWER IS ...
1. Writer/director David O. Russell of “American Hustle” can reasonably claim to be the best actors’ director in the world. His previous film, “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012), also earned nominations in all four acting categories, the most recent previous film to do so. Its nods included Bradley Cooper as Best Actor, Jennifer Lawrence — who won — as Best Actress, Robert De Niro as Best Supporting Actor and Jacki Weaver as Best Supporting Actress. Actors appreciate such things: Cooper, De Niro and Lawrence all returned for “American Hustle.”
2. In 1995 Tom Hanks won his second straight Oscar as Best Actor, winning for “Philadelphia” (1993) and “Forrest Gump” (1994). The only previous winner of two consecutive Best Actor statuettes was Spencer Tracy, who won for “Captains Courageous” (1937) and “Boys Town” (1938). There have been two consecutive winners of Best Actress, Luise Rainer in 1936-1937 and Katharine Hepburn in 1967-1968, and one for Best Supporting Actor, Jason Robards in 1976-1977. Nobody ever has won Best Supporting Actress twice in a row.
3. Most people think Tom Hanks’ nomination as Best Actor for his performance in “Philadelphia” (1993) was the Academy’s first recognition of the tragedy of AIDS. In reality that came four years earlier, when Bruce Davison was nominated for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor for his work as an AIDS patient in “Longtime Companion” (1989). Davison didn’t win the Oscar, though he won a Golden Globe as Best Supporting Actor for the same performance.
4. “Give ‘Em Hell, Harry!” (1976), based on James Whitmore’s one-man show about Harry S Truman, earned Whitmore an Oscar nomination as Best Actor. He was the only person who appeared onscreen, making it the only film ever to have its entire cast nominated for an Oscar.
5. OK, really “Her” isn’t much like the “Robot Chicken” episode “Donkey Punch.” In both, however, Scarlett Johansson voices a computer operating system who’s dating her owner.
6. Oscar nominations have gone to five films named after American cities: “East Lynne” (1931), “San Francisco” (1936), “Nashville” (1975), “Atlantic City” (1984) and “Fargo” (1996). The only Oscar winner named after a city, however, took its title from a Moroccan one: “Casablanca” (1943).
7. Dench was cast as Grizabella, who sings the classic ballad “Memory,” in the original London production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical “Cats” (1981). During rehearsal, however, Dench suffered a torn Achilles tendon and was forced to leave the show. Elaine Page replaced her as Grizabella.
8. Long before he played Captain Sisko, Avery Brooks became the first actor to play Solomon Northup, the real-life hero played by the Oscar-nominated Chiwetel Ejiofor in “12 Years a Slave.” Brooks made his television debut as the title character in “Solomon Northup’s Odyssey” (1994), an “American Playhouse” presentation directed by Gordon Parks.
9. Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese have collaborated on “Gangs of New York” (2002), “The Aviator” (2004), “The Departed” (2006), “Shutter Island” (2010) and “The Wolf of Wall Street.” All but “Shutter Island” were nominated as Best Picture, and “The Departed” won.
10. Robbins, who shared his award with co-director Robert Wise, is the only Oscar winner in the six major categories to win with his first film and never make another. Robbins, who lived for another 37 years, worked tirelessly in ballet and on the Broadway stage, but apparently never seriously considered making another movie. Apparently he thought he’d done it as well as it could be done, and who would argue?
11. All three movies featured 2014 Oscar host Ellen DeGeneres — and, needless to say, none was nominated for an Oscar. DeGeneres proved herself on the standup circuit, found success in television sitcoms and has become an institution as a talk-show host, but big-screen stardom has proven elusive. Her only brush with Oscar as an actress came in her hilarious turn as the voice of Dory in “Finding Nemo” (2003), winner of the Academy Award as Best Animated Feature.
12. The coveted prize is officially known as the Academy Award of Merit. As for the nickname “Oscar,” there are several stories about its origin — our favorite is that Bette Davis thought that the statuette’s naked behind resembled that of her first husband, Harmon Oscar Nelson — but none has been proven.
EXTRA CREDIT: As if we knew. Better tune in to find out.
AND THE MOMENT WE’VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR ...
12 right: “Titanic” (1997), 11 Oscars.
10-11 right: “Gone with the Wind” (1939), eight Oscars.
7-9 right: “Casablanca” (1942), three Oscars.
4-6 right: “Citizen Kane” (1941), one Oscar.
1-3 right: “Ishtar” (1987), well, you know ...