Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Oscar Buzz is Celebrating its Fourth Anniversary!

Today marks the fourth anniversary of The Oscar Buzz's launch. Back in 2012, it started as a blog to discuss all things Oscars, but mostly as it related to director Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master. In 2016, it has evolved into its own impressive mixture of commentary on the award's history and its various awards. I hope that in that time you the reader have not only come to better understand the Oscars, but get a better understanding of me as a cinephile. So, how do you celebrate four years? It only seems right to go with the crowning achievement: The E.G.O.T.. For those who don't know, this is specifically for artists who have won awards in the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony fields: all of which are considered the heights of their fields. I am going to rank my 10 favorite winners, who for the sake of posterity I will only judge based on their Oscar wins and not their subsequent nominations. Thanks again for reading, and as they say in politics, here's to "Four more years! Four more years!"

1. Alan Menken

Year Completed: 2012
Oscar Wins:
- Best Original Score - The Little Mermaid
- Best Original Song - The Little Mermaid - "Under the Sea"
- Best Original Score - Beauty and the Beast
- Best Original Song- Beauty and the Beast - "Beauty and the Beast"
- Best Original Score - Aladdin
- Best Original Song - Aladdin - "A Whole New World"
- Best Original Musical or Comedy Score - Pocahontas
- Best Original Song - Pocahontas - "Colors of the Wind

Nothing comes close to the power of Alan Menken in the E.G.O.T. world. While one could argue that there are winners with better titles (you're silly), how can you not look at these eight wins and not realize how integral they are to the modern landscape. "Under the Sea" and "A Whole New World" are two of Disney's greatest songs in the company's entire career. "Colors of the Wind" was an activism song without the feeling of soapbox pandering. He knows how to write rhythm and emote with the best of them. Disney is better for having Menken on their team, and his many other nominations only make him look more impressive in general. He continues to make music that connects and endures. Good luck finding too many voices like that.

2. Rita Moreno

Year Completed: 1977
Oscar Win:
- Best Supporting Actress - West Side Story

It has been 55 years, and the chances of West Side Story being topped as one of the greatest cinematic musicals seems unlikely. While credit should go everyone involved, it's hard not to love what Rita Moreno brought to the role of Anita. She was fierce and exciting, providing a nice charismatic balance to Natalie Wood's lead performance. If her acting wasn't enough her singing alone in "America" is something to behold. It's a showstopper that gets the crowd moving. Moreno continued to do great work before and after, but her contribution to musical cinema will always be one of her greatest achievements.

3. Mike Nichols

Year Completed: 2001
Oscar Win:
- Best Director - The Graduate

It is a shame that a filmmaker so beloved and talented like Mike Nichols only won one Oscar. However, the win for The Graduate isn't that much of an insult when you consider the impact that the film had on the decades to come. Along with being one of Dustin Hoffman's best films, it managed to show the struggles of 60's conservatism with a more wild, ambiguous future that laid ahead. Add in the Simon & Garfunkel soundtrack and that closing shot, and you get a film that still feels lively and important. A lot of it is thanks to Nichols' ability to mix naturalism with heightened symbolism in ways that felt indicative of the era of film making to come. Thankfully, he was there along the entire way to stay just as relevant and vital to cinema.

4. Scott Rudin

Year Completed: 2012
Oscar Win:
- Best Picture - No Country for Old Men

In the realm of Oscars, nobody really pays much attention to the producers. With exception to maybe Harvey Weinstein, Scott Rudin is possibly one of the most recognizable names when it comes to the modern awards season, no matter what field you're thinking of. However, he has only won once for No Country for Old Men, which is very well one of the best Best Picture winners of the young millennium. Directors Joel and Ethan Coen filled with nihilistic tension and nuanced silence in ways that made for captivating cinema. 2007 was an amazing year for cinema, and more-so at the Oscars. It is simply lucky that Rudin's sole win to date has been for one of the best films to win the category in some time.

5. Liza Minnelli

Year Completed: 1990
Oscar Win:
- Best Actress - Cabaret

It's easy to be distracted by the fact that Liza Minnelli was Judy Garland and Vincente Minnelli's daughter. Who couldn't in a nepotistic age? However, she managed to overshadow both of her parents by bringing both of their passion for theater into one performance style. She did everything with the familiar gusto of Garland, including in Cabaret where she mixed showmanship with drama and comedy. Speaking as it's one of the best movie musicals and one of the best runner-ups in film history (it lost Best Picture to The Godfather), it mostly works because of how committed Minnelli is to her work. When that closing song hits, you cannot help but get emotional. 

6. Marvin Hamlisch

Year Completed: 1995
Oscar Wins:
- Best Original Score - The Way We Were
- Best Original Song - The Way We Were - "The Way We Were"
- Best Original Song Score and/or Adaptation - The Sting

At the rate that Marvin Hamlisch was going, he could easily be a triple time over E.G.O.T. winner in one evening. Among his notable achievements is winning three Oscars in one night. Of course, they were all deserved due to his impressive gift for melody and finding ways to pin earnest emotion in new and clever ways. While his work on The Sting helped to temporarily popularize ragtime music, "The Way We Were" became one of star Barbara Streisand's big staples. Even if he did more work deserving of awards, his three wins definitely embody him at his best, and how his style could be adapted to comedy and drama without losing any integrity.

7. Audrey Hepburn

Year Completed: 1994
Oscar Win:
- Best Actress - Roman Holiday

Before she became a fashion icon and proved herself to be one of the most versatile and recognizable actresses of the 50's and 60's, she was in Roman Holiday. It has the perfect blueprint that most still use to this day. It's a showcase for Audrey Hepburn's talents and shows her managing to deal with comedy and drama in equal doses while introducing the cinematic world to her charm. It is one of those breakout films that define the concept of a breakout star perfectly, and one can easily see why after not too long of watching. She has a screen presence that would only continue to grow and resonate in the decades to come.

8. Mel Brooks

Year Completed: 2001
Oscar Win:
- Best Original Screenplay - The Producers

If one gave away Oscars for sheer silliness, Mel Brooks would have gotten  a John Williams-sized number of nominations before the 70's were out. However, his directorial debut has one of the most novel premises - a musical about Adolf Hitler - and the perfect exposition of the comedy that he would come to perfect with Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles. Still, his genius was always there, and his ability to find value in the fairly new actor Gene Wilder helped to blossom one of the best partnerships in comedy. The fact that he's still funny in 2016 is only a testament to how much Brooks understands comedy and why it's so important to laugh.

9. Richard Rodgers

Year completed: 1962
Oscar Win:
- Best Original Song - State Fair - "It Might as Well Be Spring"

He is one of musical theater's most integral voices, having worked with Oscar Hammerstein II to pen Oklahoma!, South Pacific, and The King and I to name but a few. His contributions in film may pale in comparison, but mostly because most of his music was adapted from the stage. However, his song for State Fair may seem quaint by comparison to his body of work, but captures the essence of what his style was about. It has a longing sense for something greater hidden underneath clever lyricism and swooning melodies. Even if the 'T' in the E.G.O.T. status is the more preferable letter, it still feels great to have him in the Oscars circle for penning quite a solid original number.

10. Barbara Streisand

Year completed: 1970
Oscar Wins: 
- Best Actress - Funny Girl
- Best Original Song - A Star is Born - "Evergreen (Love Theme from A Star is Born)"

Rounding out the list is one of the biggest icons in film, music, and theater. Along with having the luck to tie with Katharine Hepburn (The Lion in Winter), her early career seemed to herald her as a force to be reckoned with. For the most part, this is still held as true. Her countless Oscar nominations in the song category alone would put her high on the list. Still, her acting is superb and her ability to emote with the best of them only makes her harder to ignore. While I do wish that she won for a better song than "Evergreen," I'll take it. She makes even the blandest of songs work because her voice is so full of passion. That's not easy to pull off.

See you next time, Lin-Manuel Miranda.

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