The Deal With Documentaries: ‘And the Oscar Goes To…’ reveals the history and politics behind the awards

The 2014 documentary explores the history of the prestigious awards in great depth.

From the dresses to the red carpet to the films themselves, the Oscars are the crown jewel of award shows, known for their prestige and glamour. Being nominated for an Academy Award is something that can push a movie’s sales through the roof, but what is the history behind the awards? The documentary And The Oscar Goes To... explores the history of the golden statuettes and those who have been awarded them.

In 1929, the first Oscars were held at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. There were only 12 categories at the time, and the winners were told three months in advance that they had won.

“The next day they kind of forgot about it; they moved on,” said the first best actress winner, Janet Gaynor in a conversation with film historian Robert Osborne.

The Academy Awards were founded by Louis B. Mayer, who owned the studio that would eventually become Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios. The awards were crafted with the goal of uniting the film industry (actors, directors, writers, technicians and producers).

Many elements of film are explored and evaluated by the Academy, with longstanding awards given for best score, makeup, special effects and costumes, in addition to awards for directors, actors and actresses. At its origins, the Academy was a union for those in the film industry, but stepped away from politics in 1935 with Frank Capra’s election to president of the Academy. This is because Capra changed the bylaws of the group to state that “from that point on, the Academy would take no role in labor issues, political issues or religious issues,” Osborne said.

However, this does not mean the Academy Awards have completely avoided making political statements in the past 82 years.

And the Oscar Goes To... profiles political statements made by both actors and directors, and those who made those statements allow insight into what they were thinking when they made them. From Jane Fonda and her 1972 acceptance speech (or lack thereof) in protest of the Vietnam War to Michael Moore’s infamous 2003 proclamation, “Shame on you Mr. Bush!”, the awards have been a platform for people within the film industry to speak on politics long before social media were available.

Along with speeches being used to further an agenda, the documentary highlights films that were made to expand awareness of certain issues. Examples include Klute (1971), which explored the dark, brutal world of women of the night, and Philadelphia (1993), starring Tom Hanks, which dove into the AIDS crisis. Both Oscar-nominated screenplays are profiled in the documentary.

The 89th Oscars ceremony is Sunday, and even though the awards have been around for 89 years, there are still age-old issues. Last year, the Academy Awards were protested with the “#OscarsSoWhite” movement criticizing the lack of nominations of black people. Since Hattie McDaniel won an Oscar for her role in Gone with the Wind in 1940, only 28 additional awards have been given to black individuals.

Through in-depth examination of the specific awards, eyewitness accounts and interviews with Jane Fonda, Tom Hanks, Cher, Liza Minnelli and many more, And the Oscar Goes To... gives viewers an amazing look into the past of Tinsel Town and those who made the awards what they are today.

MOVE gives And the Oscar Goes To... 4 out of 5 stars

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