Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Oscar countdown: Day 4

If you haven't dialed in to Turner Classic Movies lately, you really should. Every year they spend the weeks leading up to the Oscars showing Academy Award-nominated movies virtually around the clock. You'll get to see some stuff you never heard of that's really good.

Yesterday I watched "Sahara," a WWII tank picture starring Humphrey Bogart. Really ripping stuff. It was nominated for, among other things, the wonderful cinematography of the blazing desert.

One of the things that's always fascinated me about movies is how their fortunes rise and fall over time. Some great movies, like "Sahara," end up receding into our collective memories, while others that no one thought too much of at the time are remembered forever. As the TCM Oscar series shows, even films nominated for the industry's top award can get lost in the shuffle of the ages.

For example, I've always thought that "Broadcast News" was one of the finest movies of the 1980s. James L. Brooks' masterpiece has three really indelible characters, led by Holly Hunter in one of the best female roles ever written. And despite it being a very entertaining film, with plenty of acidly funny moments and romantic longings, it's an Important Film that tackles issues that matter. For my money, it's one of the best all-time movies about journalism, right up there with "All the President's Men" and "His Girl Friday."

And yet, more than 20 years down the line, "Broadcast News" doesn't get a lot of attention when people name the best movies of that era. And this is a movie that was nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture.

Aside from individual movies, actors sometimes find themselves sinking into obscurity despite winning an Oscar. The supporting acting categories are notorious for being the kiss of death to a thespian's career. F. Murray Abraham, who won for "Amadeus," is a prime example. Ditto for Mira Sorvino. Or dozens of others.

The lesson is that being nominated for an Oscar, and even winning one, is no guarantee that your movie or your career will have legs.


  1. When you said "Sahara," I thought for a second you were talking about the Matthew McConaughey classic rather than the Bogart classic. Good thing you clarified.

  2. It's an indication of how much the Bogart film has faded that they thought nothing of giving the McConaughey flick the same name. Imagine if someone made a new movie called "Gone With the Wind" that had nothing to do with the Civil War epic?