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The Oscar Effect


By Robert Alstead - Posted on 27 January 2004

There's no doubting Oscar's effect on us.The Oscars mean...

Studios hold back their best until the Academy Awards draw close.
They want their films to be fresh in the notoriously short memories of the 6000-odd Academy members when they vote in January. For films to qualify they have to be released by Christmas. Arguably, it didn't work perfectly for hotly tipped Cold Mountain which is out of the running for best picture and best director although, after its Christmas Day release (Boxing Day in UK), it still managed seven nominations. The Return of the King, which also had a Christmas release, has done very nicely with 11 nominations, equalling Titanic (which had a mid-December release in 1997).

The Oscars mean...

Waiting even longer for that topical documentary to appear on television because of the Academy's rules forbidding television (or internet) broadcast during the competition period.

The Oscars mean...

Academy members having to dig out their old VHS recorders to watch films if they missed a film in competition at the cinema. DVDs were not used as screeners this year. The reason: piracy fears. Copies of screeners have still surfaced on the internet.

The Oscars mean...

Saying that the Oscars is an over-hyped load of nonsense, then finding yourself staying up through the night just so you can see who won the Best Film...

The Oscars mean...

Not caring what the Academy thinks, but getting into bitter arguments the next day over what your collegues and friends think of what the Academy thinks...

The Oscars mean...

Not caring what the Academy thinks of a film, but renting the DVD or video later in a moment of laziness because there were little gold statuettes on the cover...

The Oscars mean...

Watching, on the night of the ceremony, smiles freeze on the losers' faces.

The Oscars mean...

Waiting to see who will do a "Gwyneth".

The Oscars mean...

Waiting for the unexpected. Roberto Benigni jumping on the furniture, Michael Moore speaking out against the war in Iraq and getting heckled, Adrien Brody snogging Halle Berry, Cher tripping on her dress...

The Oscars mean...

Forgetting they're just actors. Why do we go ga-ga for celebratory?

The Oscars mean...

Thank-yous.
"Thank-you to my wonderful director, other members of the cast, (insert laundry list here) and especially my mum and dad without whom none of this would have been possible. I love you all. Thank-you, thank-you, thank you!"

The Oscars mean...

Horse-racing.
We all know who the favourite for best picture is (LOTR at 1/3), but Master and Commander at 25/1 in the same category looks seriously worth a flutter. At 4/9 Charlize Theron is odds on for best actress, but young Keisha Castle Hughes (Whale Rider), at 33/1, has already surprised pundits by being in the running. She could put a smile on punters' faces if she turns youngest nomination for best actress into winner of best actress award.

The Oscars mean...

Debating the Academy's voting process.
Okay, this gets a bit technical. The winner in each category of the final round of the Oscars is chosen on a "plurality" system where voting members choose only one winner from each category (the nomination stage uses a form of proportional representation). Political scientists have pointed out that while this is an accurate way of measuring a contest between two nominees, with more than two nominees two similar strong candidates can split the vote allowing a minority choice to emerge as winner. Would the Academy have chosen Rocky over Taxi Driver in a one to one, or for that matter Network? Would the Academy have chosen Driving Miss Daisie over Dead Poets Society or My Left Foot in a one to one? The US uses the same voting system to choose its presidents (draw your own conclusions). One alternative is an approval method where voters can choose more than one nominee in each category and the one with the most votes wins.

The Oscars mean...

Living longer if you win, unless you are a screenwriter.
A 2001 study of every actor and actress that had been nominated for an Oscar, by Toronto scientists Donald A Redelmeier and Sheldon M Singh, found that Oscar winners lived over 3 years longer than nominees on average (79.7 vs 76.1 years). Those never nominated averaged 75.8 years while multiple award-winners (like Jack Nicholson) statistically survive 6 years longer than nominees. One theory is that successful people have less stress which leads to longer lives. When looking at statistics for screenwriters the situation was reversed: Oscar-winning screenwriters lived on average 3.6 years less than nominees. Maybe that's because they are historically so downtrodden in the industry?

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