Two nights ago I watched a special edition of ABC’s 20/20 called Mad About Oscar With Katie Couric. I’m a sucker for a clip show that includes highlights of past Academy Awards and I’m pleased to say that this one did not disappoint.
To get the viewing audience excited for Sunday night’s Oscar telecast, the special featured great acceptance speeches (Cuba Gooding, Jr. in 1997), controversial moments (Sacheen Littlefeather in 1973) and outrageous fashions (Cher in… every year she attended.)
Among current nominee guests like Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Denzel Washington, former Oscar winner Whoopi Goldberg talked to Katie about her experiences hosting the telecast. This took me back to what I like to call “the Oscars that changed everything;” the 66th Annual Academy Awards in March of 1994.
Work with me on this…
Whoopi hosted that year. It was the first time an African America woman solely hosted the Academy Awards. Let’s hear it for racial equality!
Jane Campion was nominated for Best Director for The Piano, which was only the second time in history that a female director was up for the prize. It would take 16 more years before a woman would win in the category (Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker in 2010), but it was certainly a step in the right direction. Chalk one up for feminism!
Schindler’s List won 7 out of its 12 nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. A black and white movie about the Holocaust directed by the guy who was known for wonderful popcorn fare like Jaws and Jurassic Park took home the most statues. How awesome is that? Score for the Jews!
Tom Hanks, our bosom buddy from Splash and A League of Their Own won his first Best Actor Oscar for playing a gay man dying of AIDS in Philadelphia. (Check out his acceptance speech — one of the greatest in Oscar history — here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBuDMEpUc8k) Bruce Springsteen won Best Original Song for his haunting Streets of Philadelphia from the same film. In his acceptance speech, he said, “Thanks for inviting me to your party.” Springsteen — the pride of New Jersey and the voice of the everyman — and Hanks — one of the most beloved actors of our time — raised awareness for gay rights in general and the AIDS epidemic in particular. Go gays!
See my point? The 1994 Oscars were completely revolutionary.
The best part? Nobody really noticed. It just was.
Here’s hoping that Sunday night’s ceremony is even half as compelling.
Alec Baldwin (2010)
Billy Crystal (2012)
Hugh Jackman (2009)
Steve Martin (2010)