DEMOCRAT PARTY DEBATE FIREWORKS

The ninth Democratic presidential candidates’ debate last Wednesday night in Las Vegas was everything that the previous eight were not.  It was contentious, entertaining, and, at times, chaotic.   The knives were out.  Politeness and gentility were nowhere to be found.  On many occasions, the candidates were interrupting and talking over each other.  After a while, the squabbling became excessive and detrimental to the process.  In my opinion, there were several sidebars, which I will discuss below, but the overriding result was the devastation of Bloomberg’s candidacy and, with it, the Dem Party’s Plan B for the nomination.

Can he recover?  History shows that nine months is a very long time in politics, so it’s possible.  But, at the moment it is hard to see how.

There were several minor skirmishes, such as Buttigieg criticizing Klobuchar for misremembering the name of the president of Mexico and Klobuchar retorting “are you calling me dumb?  Are you mocking me?”  It seems like those two have real issues with each other.  Evidently, they realize that they are both running in the same lane, moderate (relatively) Midwesterner, and only one of them can survive.  However, the main event featured the absolute annihilation of Michael Bloomberg.  In previous blogs,  I had asserted that Bloomberg was a poor debater, and it showed.

All the others ganged up on Bloomberg who, for the most part, was unable to defend himself adequately.  He just stood there passively, like a deer in the headlights, seemingly too stunned to come up with any retort.  I don’t know if he was inadequately prepared by his advisors or if he just “froze.”

He was attacked for various policies, but the most damaging were (1) his “stop and frisk” policy, (2) his hostility toward women, and (3) his attempt to “buy” the election.  There were many “zingers,” but the most telling and memorable was Warren’s characterizing him as “a billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians.”  That’s the kind of line that will resonate and be remembered.  I don’t know if that represented truth or hyperbole, or a combination of the two, but it probably doesn’t matter, and Bloomberg did not deny it.

Additionally, she scored points against him for his various non-disclosure agreements that many women had signed.  She challenged him to disclose them, but he refused.  Again, he had no effective retort.  It got to the point where one almost felt sorry for him.. Almost.

In the aftermath, the liberal media was relentless in its criticism.  Even the airheads at CNN and MSNBC were brutal in their assessment of Bloomberg’s performance and depressed as to its meaning.  The following is a sampling of some of the more memorable comments: (1) they “tore the skin off him;” and  (2) Bloomberg “was the Titanic to Warren’s iceberg;”  Viewers of “Morning Joe” were treated to the site of Joe Scarborough trying to calm down a “panicking” Danny Deutsch who was lamenting that Sanders was “running away ” with the nomination.  The general consensus was that the real winner of the evening was Donald Trump, and I would agree.

CONCLUSION

How did the Dems get into this mess?  How has it developed that an admitted Socialist appears to be the runaway favorite for the nomination?  More importantly, how do they extricate themselves  from this mess?

As to the former, there are a lot of theories, but I believe that the primary reason is the weak competition.  Sanders has his hard core of supporters, but it is nowhere near a majority.  He has  been thriving against a weak, timid, divided field that is devoid of a strong moderate.  No one has been willing to stand up for “traditional” moderate Democrat policies.  They’re all deathly afraid of the twitter crowd, which, due to its aggressiveness, wields considerably more power than its numbers would suggest.  They don’t seem to realize that the twitter crowd’s opinions reflect merely a small slice of the electorate, not the majority.  The anti-Sanders crowd has to coalesce behind a moderate alternative with the courage to speak out.  I think a majority of the Dem voters are waiting for such a person.  Where is he or she?

As I and many others have been predicting the Dems are likely headed for a brokered convention.  Since it appears that no one candidate will have secured a majority of delegates the power brokers will probably have to decide the matter in the proverbial “smoke-filled room.”  So much for transparency.

Who will emerge as the candidate?  Your guess is as good as mine.  It could be anyone.  Hillary?  Patrick Leahy?  Biden?  Bloomberg? Someone else?  I believe three things are certain: (1) It will NOT be Sanders.  (2)  His supporters will not react well to being “screwed” twice in a row.; and  (3) The “winner” will lose to Trump, possibly in a landslide.

 

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY – FEBRUARY

February may be the shortest month, but there has been no shortage of significant historical events during the month. For example:

2/2/1848 – The US-Mexican War ended with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The US paid $15 million for a huge swath of land that encompasses parts of present-day CA, AZ, TX, UT, NV, NM, CO and WY.
2/3/1870 – The 15th amendment to the Constitution was ratified, guaranteeing all citizens the right to vote.
2/3/1913 – The 16th amendment to the Constitution was ratified authorizing Congress to collect income taxes.

2/5/2020 – The Senate votes to acquit President Trump of all Articles of Impeachment.

2/6/1933 – The 20th amendment to the Constitution was ratified, which changed the presidential inauguration date from March 4 to January 20.
2/6/1952 – Queen Elizabeth II ascended to the throne of the UK with the death of her father, King George VI.
2/8/1010 – The Boy Scouts of America was founded by William Boyce.
2/9/1943 – In one of the bloodiest battles of WWII the US captured Guadalcanal after six months of intense fighting. The KIA included 2,000 Americans and 9,000 Japanese.
2/10/1967 – The 25th amendment to the Constitution was ratified, which clarified the procedures for presidential succession.
2/11/660 BC – The date of the founding of the Japanese nation.
2/11//1990 – Nelson Mandela was released from a SA prison after 27 years.
2/12/1999 – The impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton concluded with a “not guilty” verdict.
2/13/1635 – Boston Latin, the first taxpayer-supported public school in America, was founded in Boston.
2/14 – Celebrated around the world as St. Valentine’s Day.
2/14/1849 – Photographer Mathew Brady took the first photograph of a US President in office (James K. Polk).
2/14/1929 – The infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre occurred in Chicago, as members of Al Capone’s gang, posing as police, gunned down members of the Bugs Moran gang.
2/15/1898 – The USS Battleship Maine blew up under mysterious circumstances while anchored in Havana harbor. Although culpability was not proven, this incident precipitated the War of 1898 with “remember the Maine” as the chief battle cry.
2/15/1933 – A failed assassination attempt on FDR resulted in the death of Chicago mayor Anton Cermak.
2/19/1942 – The US commenced the internment of Japanese Americans.
2/20/1962 – Astronaut John Glenn became the first American to be launched into orbit.
2/21/1965 – Former Black Muslim leader, Malcolm X, was shot and killed in NYC.
2/21/1972 – President Richard Nixon arrived in China for the first State visit with communist China.
2/23/1991 – US ground troops initiated Operation Desert Storm versus Iraq.
2/24/1582 – Pope Gregory XIII replaced the Julian calendar with the Gregorian calendar. The latter has become the standard worldwide.
2/24/1867 – The House of Representatives voted to impeach President Andrew Johnson. The Senate acquitted him by one vote.
2/27/1950 – The 22nd amendment to the Constitution was ratified, which limits the president to a maximum of two terms or ten years in office.
2/27/1991- Operation Desert Storm concluded.

Birthdays – Hattie Caraway, Bakersville, TN – 2/1/1878, first woman elected to US Senate; John Ford – 2/1/1895, Cape Elizabeth, ME, Oscar winning director; Elizabeth Blackwell – 2/3/1821, Bristol, England – first female physician in US; Norman Rockwell – 2/3/1894, NYC – artist and illustrator; Thaddeus Kosciusko – 2/4/1746, Poland, Revolutionary War hero; Charles Lindbergh – 2/4/1902, Detroit, MI, first non-stop solo cross-Atlantic flight; Aaron Burr – 2/6/1756 – killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel; George Herman (“Babe”) Ruth – 2/6/1895, Baltimore, MD, generally considered best baseball player ever; Ronald Reagan – 2/6/1911, Tampico, IL, entertainer, 40th President; Charles Dickens – 2/7/1812, in England, British novelist; Sinclair Lewis – 2/7/1885, Sauk Center, MN, novelist and social critic; William Henry Harrison – 2/9/1773, Berkeley, VA, 9th President (died after having served only 32 days); Thomas Edison – 2/11/1847, Milan, OH, inventor; Abraham Lincoln- 2/12/1809, Hardin County, KY, 16th President, preserved the Union, freed the slaves; Charles Darwin – 2/12/1809, England, author; Galileo Galilei – 2/15/1564, astronomer and physicist; Susan B. Anthony – 2/15/1820, Adams, MA, women’s suffrage pioneer; Sonny Bono – 2/16/1935, Detroit, MI, entertainer; Nicolaus Copernicus – 2/19/1473, Poland, first to declare the sun, not earth, was the center of the solar system; George Washington – 2/22/1732, Westmoreland County, VA – “father” of US, 1st President; W.E.B. DuBois – 2/23/1868, Great Barrington, MA, AA educator; William (“Buffalo Bill”) Cody – 2/26/1846, Scott County, IN, reputedly killed 4,000 buffalo; Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – 2/27/1807, Portland, ME, poet (“Paul Revere’s Ride”).

BERNIE VS. BLOOMBERG

In my not so humble opinion, regardless of what the polls may indicate, regardless of the bloviations and inane comments from the journalists and political analysts who take up space on CNN, MSNBC and the networks, make no mistake about it.  As I write this, the race for the Dem presidential nomination is between Bernie and Bloomberg.  If you doubt me, read on.

Each of the other candidates has, over the course of several months, exhibited severe and increasingly obvious flaws – too old, too slow, too prone to gaffes, too disingenuous, and/or too inexperienced.  None of them has given any indication that he or she will be able to garner the broad appeal necessary to win the nomination, much less the general election.  Instead, they have been falling all over each other to run as far to the left as possible.  They are engaged in the political version of the limbo (how far left can you go). As a group, they are further to the left than the average Dem voter.  History tells us that is not the formula for winning a general election.  One wins by controlling the middle.  The Dem nominee will need a GPS to find the middle.

Each of them has enjoyed a brief moment in the sun as the darling of the Dem establishment and the mainstream media, only to have their candidacies implode.  For example, remember Kamala Harris and “Beto” O’Rourke?  Where are they now?  Long gone, is where.  Elizabeth Warren’s prospects have diminished severely, weighed down by one lie and exaggeration too many.  Joe Biden, the former presumptive nominee, has been exposed as a bumbling, fumbling and stumbling out-of-touch has-been.  Every time he speaks one wonders what inappropriate and embarrassing inanity will come out of his mouth.  Pete Buttigieg’s candidacy will eventually be exposed by his lack of experience as merely a mediocre mayor of the fourth-largest city in Indiana and a lack of appeal to AAs and Hispanics.  I predict the remaining pretenders will be weeded out one by one over the next month, perhaps, even as early as “Super Tuesday.”

The Dem 2020 campaign has devolved into a “stop Bernie” movement.  Party donors and insiders are horrified by the prospect of a Sanders nomination, and Bloomberg is widely seen as the latest, and maybe the last, chance to stop him. To be sure, Bernie has a hard core of devoted, loyal supporters.   He did very well in Iowa and NH.  If he wins in Nevada and does well in SC he will have huge momentum going into “Super Tuesday.”

So far, Bloomberg’s poll numbers have been boosted primarily by the outrageous amount of money he has spent.   Supposedly, he has spent in excess of $400 million.  This has give rise to the criticism, by some, that he is trying to “buy” the nomination.  (By comparison, Bernie has spent about $40 million.)   Can he keep up that pace?  In a word, yes.  He has untold billions.  But, sooner or later he will have to go out and talk to people in uncontrolled environments.

On the negative side, Bernie has espoused extreme, some would say, downright scary and unrealistic, positions.  He is an avowed socialist, some would say communist, who says what he means and means what he says. He has tried to compare his brand of socialism to that practiced in Denmark and other Western Europe countries, but even the president of Denmark has strongly denied such similarities.  Simply put, his core policies – open borders, Green New Deal, forgiving college tuition debt, single-payer free healthcare for all, and huge tax increases, to name a few, would destroy the US economy and bankrupt the country in short order.  So far, he has been succeeding in a diverse field with many candidates, but I fail to see how he could win a general election running on that platform.

However, I don’t see Bloomberg as being able to stop him.  Firstly, he is an uninspiring speaker and probably a subpar debater (although I have not heard him actually debate anyone).  Up until now, he has avoided big rallies.  He has limited himself to small audiences where he can control the questions.  In my opinion, his speaking style is a cure for insomnia.

Secondly, his signature achievement as mayor of NYC was “stop and frisk.”  By all accounts this policy was a big success as far a getting guns off the streets and reducing crime.  However, minorities viewed it as targeting them unfairly and, therefore, as racist.  His campaign strategy has been to apologize for the policy.  This has come off as disingenuous and demeaning.

Finally, as an old, rich, white guy I don’t think he will appeal to voters outside of the NYC- DC bubble.

CONCLUSION

As I said, Bernie has gathered a hard core of supporters.  They are intensely loyal to him, and they are still smarting from 2016 when they insist the Party insiders “stole” the nomination from him.  That does not augur well for a peaceful, orderly convention in Milwaukee.

In my opinion, the Dems have brought this mess on  themselves.  They have put forth a slew of mediocre, at best, candidates, none of which has exhibited broad appeal.  As I said, in many cases, they have chosen to embrace extreme left positions that are not in accord with most voters.  The result is that the likely nominee is an extreme candidate, who, in reality, is not even a real Democrat, who, at this point, will likely be very difficult to deny the nomination, and who would have virtually no chance to defeat President Trump in the general election.  Does anyone else see this as reminiscent of the extreme candidacies of Goldwater in 1964, McGovern in 1972?  We know how those turned out.

Yes, the Dems need a strong moderate candidate who can beat President Trump, and as of now they don’t have one.  I believe they are in trouble.

THE RAGMAN’S SON

Last week we lost a Hollywood icon.  Many people believe he was, in fact, one of the last members of Hollywood’s “Golden Age.” (Generally considered to be from 1915-1963 the GA was characterized by glamorous movie stars and the few dominant studios, such as Warner Brothers and MGM, that controlled them and the industry as a whole.)

From unbelievably humble beginnings, he became one of the most famous and successful entertainers of his generation.  He achieved fame primarily as an actor, but he was also a successful writer, director and producer.  His life was truly an example of what one can achieve in America with hard work, determination, talent, and, yes, a dash of good fortune.

Issur Danielovitch was born on December 9, 1916 in Amsterdam, a small city in upstate NY near Kingston, the only son (along with six daughters) of poor Jewish immigrants from present-day Belarus.  The family changed its surname to “Demsky,” after an uncle who had previously adopted the name.  Such Americanization of names was very common among immigrants who wanted a fresh start in their newly adopted country.  So, Issur Danielovitch became Izzy Demsky.  Izzy changed his name, legally, to Kirk Douglas just prior to entering the Navy.

In his 1988 autobiography, “The Ragman’s Son,” which I have read and strongly recommend, Kirk described what a “ragman” did thusly: “buying old rags, pieces of metal, and junk for pennies, nickels, and dimes.”  To characterize the Demsky family as “poor” was an understatement.  According to Kirk, “even … in the poorest section of town, where all the families were struggling, the ragman was on the lowest rung of the ladder.  And I was the ragman’s son.”  It is truly amazing to me how a person with such dire beginnings could rise to the level that Kirk did.  Read on and, hopefully, you will appreciate the level of his determination to succeed.

Growing up, Kirk worked at a succession of mostly menial jobs, anything to earn a few dollars for the family.  A few examples were, selling snacks to mill workers in town, delivering newspapers, gardener, janitor, busboy, waiter, and wrestling in a carnival. There were too many to list all of them here, but you get the idea.  According to his Wiki bio Kirk worked at some 40 jobs before he became an actor.  In his words, he considered his home life to be so “stifling” that it “lit a fire under [him].”  He was “dying to get out.”

Kirk would do any job to earn a few dollars.  Legend has it he even spent a night in jail just to have a place to sleep.  I suppose in his desperation “three ‘hots’ and a cot” sounded not so bad.

Supposedly, Kirk decided he wanted to be an actor from the age of five.  In high school he acted in several  plays.  Following graduation in 1934 he didn’t have any money for college, so, after talking his way into the dean’s office at St. Lawrence University for an interview, he somehow wrangled a student loan, which he supplemented with some of his many part time jobs.

After graduation in 1939 he managed to obtain a scholarship to the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts in NYC.   While there, he met two aspiring actresses who would have a significant impact on his life: (1) Diana Dill, who would become his first wife and the mother of Michael Douglas, and (2) Betty Jean Perske.  Who was Betty Jean Perske?  Perhaps, you know her as Lauren Bacall.  Bacall, who was eight years his junior, later wrote she had a huge crush on Kirk, but he was not interested in her as she was “clearly too young [for him].”

Kirk joined the Navy in 1941 where he served as communications officer aboard ship.  He was medically discharged in 1944 due to an injury whereupon he returned to NY to resume his acting career.

Initially, he was focused on becoming stage actor.  However, the aforementioned Lauren Bacall recommended him to Hal Wallis who, as it happened, was looking for a fresh face for his film, “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers.”  He got the part.  Ironically, his film character, was a weak insecure, alcoholic who was dominated by his strong, ruthless wife (played by Barbara Stanwyck).  That was to be the last time he played a weak character.  As we all know, he made his career playing strong, heroic, tough characters.

Kirk appeared in some 90 movies in a career that spanned over 60 years.  Though known, primarily for his acting he was an extremely versatile entertainer.  He was also a producer and a director.  Furthermore, he appeared on tv and on the stage many times, and he wrote ten books, both fiction and non-fiction.

Kirk’s breakthrough role was in “Champion” where he played a tough, selfish boxer.  According to film historian Ray Didlinger Kirk “absolutely nailed” the part.  Moreover, “Variety” described the movie as “a stark, realistic study  of the boxing rackets.”  The movie earned six AA nominations, including Kirk as Best Actor.  Its success convinced Kirk he should specialize in “strong” roles, prospectively.

Furthermore, he became more aggressive in his personal life.  He was determined to take firmer control of his career.  For example, he broke his studio contract and formed his own producing company, Byrna Productions, which was named after his mother.

As a producer, Douglas had a tough reputation.  He worked hard and he expected his actors to do so as well.  He was intense and direct, which likely offended some actors, but that was Kirk.

Kirk’s peak period was the 1950s and 1960s.  During this time he churned out one success after another.  He continued to play strong, independent, tough characters and utilize his rugged good looks highlighted by his signature dimple.

There were many memorable movies, too many to list them all, but some of the most famous of these films included “The Bad and the Beautiful” (1952), (another AA nomination), “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” (1954) (featuring an underwater wrestling match with a giant squid), “Lust for Life” (1956), (in which he played the famous painter, Vincent Van Gogh), “Paths of Glory” (1957), “The Vikings” (1958), “Spartacus” (1960) (perhaps his signature performance, and featuring the signature line “I am Spartacus.”), and “Lonely Are the Brave” (1962).  During this time he appeared with many of the leading actors and actresses of the era, again, too many to mention here.  In addition, he appeared on tv many times.

“Spartacus” was significant in another way.  As many of you know the 1950s was famous, or perhaps, infamous, for the Hollywood blacklist.  One of the blacklisted writers, Dalton Trumbo, was the screenwriter for the movie.  Kirk insisted that Trumbo be given full on-screen credit.  Although it was an open secret that blacklisted writers were actually writing movies under other names it was not acknowledged, publicly.  Kirk’s action was a big no-no, but given his status as a megastar he felt he could get away with it, and he did.  Some claim that that effectively “broke” the blacklist (although there is some difference of opinion).

A significant event occurred on the set of The Vikings.”  Kirk’s co-stars were Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, who also happened to be the parent of Jamie Lee Curtis, who was around 10 years old.  As Jamie Lee told it, one day while riding her tricycle she pedaled it into a pool.  Kirk dove in and rescued her from drowning making him a real-life hero in addition to a cinematic one.

CONCLUSION

During his long career Kirk received dozens of awards.  Some of the highlights included an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement, three AA nominations, the Presidential Medal of Achievement, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  Moreover, he is designated #17 on the American Film Institute’s list of “greatest male screen legends.”

He was married to his second wife, Anne, for 65 years, very rare in Hollywood where marriages are often measured in months, not years.  They met in Paris while Kirk was filming “Lust for Life.” Anne had been born in Germany as Hannelore Marx, and her family had emigrated to Belgium prior to WWII to escape the Nazis.  One reason why the marriage lasted so long was that Anne chose to overlook his frequent affairs.  Her attitude was that “as a European, I understood it was unrealistic to expect total fidelity in a marriage.”

Kirk’s final public appearance was as a presenter at the 2018 Golden Globes” with his daughter-in-law, Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Douglas attributed his good health, vitality, boundless energy, and longevity in large part to his tough childhood and early life pre-acting.  Additionally, there was a large measure of luck.  In 1991 he narrowly escaped death when a helicopter in which he was riding collided with a small plane.  In 1996 he suffered a stroke, which impaired his ability to speak (which he recovered after several months of therapy).

He often credited his mother, Bryna, for his aggressive nature and for developing the philosophy of “gambling on yourself.”  In “The Ragman’s Son” he characterized himself as a “son of a bitch,” adding “I’m probably the most disliked actor in Hollywood, and I feel pretty good about it, because that’s me.  I was born aggressive, and I guess I’ll die aggressive.”  Frequent co-star, Burt Lancaster, once commented “Kirk would be the first to tell you that he is a very difficult man.  And I would be the second.”

Kirk and Anne were very philanthropic.  They donated to many non-profit causes, such as medical facilities, schools, an Alzheimer’s treatment facility, and various playgrounds in the US and Jerusalem.

Kirk died at his home in Beverley Hills on February 5, 2020 of “natural causes.”  Rest in peace Kirk.  Your life and career epitomized the American “rags to riches” dream, and was an inspiration to us all.  You will be sorely missed.

ACADEMY AWARDS

“He looks just like my Uncle Oscar!”  So said Margaret Herrick, the Executive Secretary of the Academy in 1931 when she first laid eyes on the famous statuette.  Fortuitously, columnist Sidney Skolsky was within earshot.  He memorialized the comment by including it in his byline, and the moniker “stuck.”

To be sure, that sourcing is not universally accepted.  For example, according to one of Bette Davis’ biographies, she named the statuette after her first husband, band leader Harmon Oscar Nelson.  However, the Herrick story sounds like the more plausible one, so I am going with it.  In any event, the Academy adopted the name officially in 1939.

The Academy Awards, aka the “Oscars,” is hosted annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The winners of AAs are selected by the Academy’s membership.  It is the oldest and most prestigious of the awards. This year’s awards, the 92nd, will be presented on Sunday, February 9 at the Dolby Theatre in LA.  The awards have been televised since 1953.  ABC has televised them since 1960.

For the second straight year there will be no host.  Why?  Well, despite declining ratings, the powers that be at ABC have determined that last year’s “hostless” format was such a success they have decided to continue the practice.

Personally, I preferred having a celebrity host.  In my view, the best ones were Bob Hope, Johnny Carson and Billy Crystal, each of which hosted several times.  To me, they added humor and spice to the proceedings.  In my view, the Awards have fallen victim to the “new normal.”  Cutting edge humor is out; dull and boring is in.  God forbid the host should offend anyone or anything.  You may recall that last year Kevin Hart was supposed to be the host, but he ran afoul of the twitter PC Police, and he got the “boot.” Yes, his tweets were somewhat controversial, but they were several years old, and he did apologize.  But, that was not good enough for the PC Police, so he had to go. Welcome to modern, progressive America, where one is penalized for what he did or said years ago. Best to monitor your kids’ tweets and Facebook entries verrrry carefully.

The “In Memoriam” segment was introduced in 1993.  It is one of my favorite segments.  It is always very poignant, and I expect this year will be no exception.

For me, the biggest drawback to the show is its length and pace. It’s supposed to be three hours, but good luck with that. The 2002 show was the worst, lasting 4 hours and 23 minutes, but who’s counting.  DVR, anyone?

Some little-known facts about the AAs:

1. The initial AAs were presented in 1929 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel before an audience of approximately 270 persons. This year, by contrast, it is anticipated that the awards will be televised and streamed live to some 30 million people in some 225 countries around the globe.  Impressive numbers?  Perhaps, but the estimated audience pales beside the 57 million who viewed the awards in 1998.  As has been customary, they will be preceded by a elaborate ceremony, which will feature celebrities parading before their fans, the media, and a television audience on the “Red Carpet.” Some people actually prefer the “Red Carpet” to the show, itself.

2. In 1929 the award winners, 15 in all, were disclosed to the media three months ahead of time.  For a few years, beginning in 1930, the winners were disclosed the night before.  Since 1941, however, the identities of the winners have been sealed in envelopes and guarded like the proverbial “crown jewels” until they are disclosed, with much fanfare, at the ceremony.

3. Since 1950 the ownership of the statuettes has not been unencumbered. Legally, neither the winners nor their heirs are free to sell them on the open market without first offering them back to the Academy for $1.  Although they are gold plated and only cost about $500 each to manufacture, their value on the open market would be substantial.  For example, a few years ago, a pre-1950 statuette sold via on-line auction for $861,542.

4. The voting membership of the academy is not very diverse.  It is overwhelmingly Caucasian, male, and elderly.  More on that later.

5. In order to be eligible for the Best Picture Award, a film must be a minimum of 40 minutes long, must have opened in LA County by December 31 of the previous year, and must have played there for seven consecutive days.

6. Other than Best Picture, only the members of each branch vote for the nominees in that category. For example, only directors nominate candidates for Best Director.  The entire membership votes for the winners, as well as for Best Picture.

7. For many years, the awards were presented in late March or early April. Beginning in 2004, however, they were moved up to late February or early March.  Now, they are presented in early February.  The reasons for this were (1) to shorten the intense lobbying and advertising campaigns of the Oscar season, which had become excessive,  (2) to avoid competing with the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in mid and late March, which has grown very popular, (3) to avoid conflicting with the major religious holidays of Easter and Passover, and (4) to take maximum advantage of February being a “sweeps” month.

8. From time to time, some critics have accused the Academy of bias, for example:
a. Favoritism toward romantic dramas, historical epics, family melodramas, and historical biographies (“Shakespeare in Love,” “Chariots of Fire,” “The Best Years of Our Lives,” and “Annie Hall”) at the expense of action films or sports films. Often, these so-called “Oscar-bait” movies have won at the expense of more popular and enduring films such as “Star Wars,” “Goodfellas,” “Hoosiers” and “Raging Bull.” I have long felt that there has, at times, been a disconnect between the preferences of the Academy voters and the general audience.  For example, this year’s favorite, “The Joker,” grossed about $334,000, far behind “Avengers’ Endgame” at $858,000.
b. Sentiment has, sometimes, led to awards for popular entertainers or those who have been denied in the past. Also, some awards have been given more for a distinguished career than for the most recent individual performance.  One notable example was John Wayne winning for his performance in “True Grit” in 1969.  Wayne had been one of the most popular performers for three decades, but he had never won an Oscar.
c. Every so often, charges of racial bias have plagued the Academy.  For example, a few years ago, some critics decried the absence of nominations such as “Straight ‘Outta’ Compton” for Best Picture and Will Smith for Best Actor in “Concussion.”

This year some have criticized the “lack of diversity” among the nominees.  The noted best-selling author, Stephen King, who has strong liberal credentials, was nevertheless roundly criticized for defending the slate of  nominees as quality over diversity.

These aforementioned critics have cited the composition of the voting membership, as noted above, as being the primary cause. I’m not so sure. Through the years there have occasionally been curious snubs, such as Eddie Murphy being passed over (in favor of Alan Arkin) for his superb performance in “Dreamgirls.”  I did not see “Compton,” so I can’t comment on that.  Smith’s performance was worthy of a nomination (although, which nominee would he have replaced?).  However, I don’t believe those omissions are cause for protests and boycotts. I agree with King.  Furthermore, I am definitely not in favor of a quota for nominations of minorities and women as has been suggested.  As long as the nominations and Oscar voting are subjective, there will always be some that are overlooked. Our society is too PC as it is. Part of life is dealing with disappointments.

9. I recall a few puzzling choices for Best Picture in past years, cases in which the winning picture was soon forgotten and an also-ran or two became a classic or at least substantially more popular or memorable. For example:
a. 1977 – “Annie Hall” beat “Star Wars.” Unless you’re a big Woody Allen fan chances are you don’t remember “Annie Hall.”  “Star Wars” was a mega-hit and spawned several sequels as well as ancillaries such as toys and games.
b. 1941 – “How Green Was My Valley” beat “Citizen Kane.” “Valley” has been long forgotten, and “Kane” is on many “short lists” of the best movies ever.
c. 1990 – “Dances with Wolves” beat “Goodfellas.” I saw “Dances.” It was a nice movie, but “Goodfellas” is a classic gangster film with an all-star cast (DeNiro, Pesce, Liotta) and is on tv frequently.
d. 1940 – “Rebecca” beat “The Grapes of Wrath,” a powerful drama about the Depression-era California migrant workers starring Henry Fonda, among others.
e. 1998- “Shakespeare in Love” beat “Saving Private Ryan.” “Shakespeare” was soon forgotten (and, perhaps, Harvey Weinstein exerted some undue influence on the voting) and is now no more than the answer to a trivia question, whereas “Ryan” was a classic WWII movie with an all-star cast headed by Tom Hanks and Matt Damon).  Who can ever forget the classic D-Day landing scene?
f. 1946 – “The Best Years of Our Lives,” which few recall and is never on tv, beat “It’s a Wonderful Life,” which is a Christmas classic starring Jimmy Stewart and which is on tv annually.

I could go on.  In fact, I could write an entire blog on just this sub-topic, but you get the idea.

A brief quiz, call it a “quizette:”

1. Who has won the most Academy Awards?
2. Only three movies have swept the much coveted awards for best picture, director, writer, best actor and best actress. Can you name them?
3. Who was the youngest actor/actress to win?
4. Who was the oldest?
5. Three movies hold the record for most Oscars with 11.  Can you name them?

6. Which actor/actress has won the most AAs?  Has the most nominations?

7. Can you name the Best Picture winners for the last two years?

See answers below.

CONCLUSION

I know you are all anxiously awaiting my predictions, so here they are:

Best Picture – “Joker”
Best Actor – Joaquin Phoenix – “Joker”
Best Actress – Renee Zellweger – “Judy”
Supporting Actor – Al Pacino – “The Irishman”
Supporting Actress – Margot Robbie – “Bombshell”

What are yours?

Enjoy the awards show as well as the “Red Carpet,” although I strongly recommend using a DVR to get through the many “dead spots.”

Quizette answers:

1. Walt Disney – 22
2. “It Happened One Night” (1935); “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1976); “Silence of the Lambs” (1992).
3. Tatum O’Neal (10) in “Paper Moon”
4. Jessica Tandy (81) in “Driving Miss Daisy”
5. “Ben-Hur” (1959), “Titanic” (1997), “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.” (2003)

6. Most acting Oscars – Katherine Hepburn – 4; most nominations – Jack Nicholson – 12

7.  2018 – “The Shape of Water”; 2019 – “Green Book”

SUPER BOWL QUIZ

Super Bowl LIV, (54 for those of you who don’t read Roman numerals), will take place tomorrow, Sunday, February 2, 2020 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.  The SB is an annual extravaganza.  Many non-football fans watch the game, often at special SB parties.  This year, the contestants will be the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers.   At this time, I think it would be appropriate to test your SB knowledge with a little quiz.

By now, you know the drill.  No peeking at the internet, and no asking “Alexa” or “Siri.”  Good luck.

  1. Counting this one, how many SBs will the Miami area have hosted? (a) 2, (b) 4 (c) 6, (d) 8.
  2. The halftime show headline entertainers will be Jennifer Lopez and? (a)  Jay Z, (b)  Selena Gomez, (c) Ariana Grande, (d) Shakira.
  3. The face value of tickets range from $950 to $5,000, although if you want to buy a ticket on the open market expect to pay significantly more.  What was the top price for tickets to SB I? (a) $10, (b) $12), (c) $100, (d) $1,000.
  4.  Which is the only current NFL team that has neither hosted nor appeared in a SB? (a) Browns, (b) Jags, (c) Panthers, (d) Lions
  5.  How many sitting presidents have attended a SB? (a) 0, (b) 1, (c) 2, (d) 5
  6.  Who was the only player from the losing team to win a SB MVP? (a) Tom Brady, (b) Roger Staubach, (c) Len Dawson, (d) Chuck Howley
  7.  The 49ers have won five SBs.  If they win Sunday they will tie which team for the most wins?  (a) Colts, (b) Bills, (c) Steelers, (d) Cowboys
  8.  Who is the only starting QB to win a SB with two different teams? (a) Peyton Manning, (b) Bret Favre, (c) Joe Montana, (d) Jim Kelly
  9.  According to the US Department of Agriculture SB Sunday is the US’s second highest food consumption day.  Which day is first? (a) Mother’s Day, (b) Thanksgiving, (c) Christmas, (d) New Years.
  10.  Who scored the first SB touchdown? (a) Boyd Dowler, (b) Paul Hornung, (c) Otis Taylor, (d) Max McGee.
  11.  What player has won the most SB MVPs (a) Eli Manning, (b) Joe Montana, (c) Tom Brady, (d) Terry Bradshaw
  12.  Who was the only QB to both throw and catch a touchdown pass in the same game? (a) Tom Brady, (b) Steve Young, (c) Nick Foles, (d) Fran Tarkenton
  13.  Who made the famous “helmet catch?” (a) Mario Manningham, (b) Randy Moss, (c) David Tyree, (d) Plaxico Burress
  14.  Which team made four consecutive appearances in the SB? (a) Bills, (b) Patriots, (c) Cowboys, (d) Steelers
  15.  Which team has appeared in the most SBs without suffering a loss? (a) Jets, (b) Ravens, (c) Chiefs, (d) Dolphins
  16.  Each of the following teams has not appeared in a SB, EXCEPT (a) Bengals, (b) Lions, (c) Texans, (d) Jags
  17. The 49ers current SB winning streak is how many games. (a) 2, (b) 3, (c) 4, (d) 5?
  18.  How many teams have played in a SB in their own stadium? (a) 0, (b) 1, (c) 2, (d) 4.
  19.  Who won the only SB decided by one point? (a) Cowboys, (b) Giants, (c) Patriots, (d) Rams.
  20. The 49ers have won five SBs in six appearances.  To whom did they lose? (a) Ravens, (b) Patriots, (c) Giants, (d) Steelers).

ANSWERS

  1. (c); 2. (d) (Are we rooting for a wardrobe malfunction?); 3. (b) (And they did not sell out.); 4. (a); 5. (a); 6. d; 7. (c); 8. (a); 9. (b); 10. (d) (He had not expected to play, had partied extensively the night before, and was hungover during the game.); 11. (c); 12. (c); 13. (c); 14. (a); 15. (d); 16. a; 17.  (d); 18.  (a); 19. (b) (20-19 over the Bills.); 20.  (a)

Well, there you have it.  How did you do?

Enjoy the game.

My prediction –  SF 38 – KC 34