TV Review: ‘And the Oscar Goes to…’

Jane Fonda Oscar Speech

TCM documentary loses focus by covering too much ground

Turner Classic Movies provides so much enjoyment for film buffs one almost hates to identify its occasional shortcomings. But the channel’s feature-length documentary to kick off its annual “31 Days of Oscar” showcase, “And the Oscar Goes to…,” is one of those productions that tries so hard to incorporate everything as to wind up being about nothing. With so many rich angles to explore and a wealth of footage and interviews, directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman settle for an assemblage of moments and recollections that don’t add up to much more than a calorie-free stroll down memory lane.

There are a half-dozen different mini-sections within the 95-minute doc, each of which — fleshed out and pumped up — could almost have provided its own solo topic: Great (or terrible) Oscar acceptance speeches and moments, including backstage comments; hosting the Oscars; Oscar-related controversies and politics, such as Marlon Brando declining his award, or Jane Fonda and Michael Moore delivering anti-war messages; the history of the Academy Awards; explaining what lesser-known technical categories actually contribute to a movie; and what the validation of winning an Oscar means to the recipients, and their careers.

Instead, the movie delivers what amounts to a medley of them all, extracting some amusing anecdotes and observations (“It’s your bar mitzvah times a million,” says director Jason Reitman) without giving any one aspect enough time to truly resonate.

Narrated by Anjelica Huston, the filmmakers provide some history of the awards, their relationship with the industry through the years and how the advent of television (NBC initially paid $100,000 for the broadcast rights, a mere pittance versus today) changed them. That evolution, however, is mostly lost amid a lot of misty-eyed reminiscing about what it’s like to hear one’s name called, without going beyond that to, say, what “Moonstruck” meant to Cher once the Oscar glow faded.

As usual, TCM — gearing up for its 20th anniversary celebration — will feature Oscar-winning and nominated films throughout February in conjunction with the awards, and it is touching to see Jane Fonda discuss bringing the Oscar for “On Golden Pond” to her ailing father; or a clip of Hattie McDaniel breaking the color barrier for her role in “Gone With the Wind” — and the other African-American performers who followed — right before showing the movie.

Simply put, though, the audience’s sophistication goes beyond the structure of “And the Oscar Goes to…,” which, for a project about the movie business, suffers from a fundamental and rather glaring flaw: It lacks focus.

TV Review: 'And the Oscar Goes to...'

(Documentary; Turner Classic Movies, Sat. Feb. 1, 8 p.m. ET)

Production

Produced by Telling Pictures, Inc., in association with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (The Academy) and Hollywood Newsreel.

Crew

Producers, Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman, Christopher Pavlick, Rick Spalla; directors, Epstein, Friedman; writers, Epstein, Friedman, Sharon Wood; camera, Nancy Schreiber; editors, Brian Johnson, Brad Fuller, Jake Pushinsky; music, Jeff Beal. 95 MIN.

With

Narrator: Anjelica Huston. With: Annette Bening, Cher, George Clooney, Benicio Del Toro, Whoopi Goldberg, Tom Hanks, Jennifer Hudson, Ben Kingsley, Helen Mirren, Jason Reitman, Steven Spielberg.

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  1. Jacquie S. says:

    Thank you! So many opportunities to show great meaningful moments, but instead they just faded away or missed the boat – and too many times when people needed to be identified!

  2. Matteo says:

    The documentary lost me early on when the narration referred to the “The Jazz Singer” as the first sound film. I expect TCM, if no one else, to NOT perpetrate this totally false, yet often repeated “fact.” Fact checking is tedious, but it would have been most appreciated.

  3. Rich says:

    I watched it and it was a total letdown. They omitted the really big hitters of the day in Jimmy Stewart and Charlton Heston and Katherine Hepburn or Gary Cooper. I know they wanted to bring it up to date but how can you talk Oscar and not mention Kate Hepburn but we got plenty Whoopie.

  4. Alan says:

    Couldn’t help but notice that poor Ginger Rogers is once again neglected.. When someone is making a comment about how thrilled they were that Fred Astaire passesd them at the Oscar ceremony one year, the visual they have playing is a reunion of Fred and Ginger dancing together at The Oscars in 1967, would it have hurt to just add a written comment bout ginger being there as well? She always felt that people did not give her her due as being one of a partnership and she apparently is right. And didn’t she as has been written, do eveything Fred did but “backwards and In hight heels” ( and also one might say look exteemely pretty!

  5. buddy’s mother makes $67 /hr on the computer . She has been unemployed for 5 months but last month her paycheck was $20078 just working on the computer for a few hours. read this articl………
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