The Academy we are not, but we can teach you a few things you ought to know before the curtain rises on the Academy Awards.
By Gregory Katz

Each year, Hollywood puts itself on display for a knock-down, drag-out exhibition of competitive zeal that is concealed — barely — by a sweet-as-honey, cloying “Aw, shucks, I’m just glad to be here” attitude. That’s because, in all things Oscar, appearances, not reality, are what counts. To that end, we’ve compiled the following things you need to know in order to act like you know everything Oscar related. While our information is not comprehensive, it should be enough to allow you to shine at any Oscar party. 

 

Oscar Hosts with the Most

When Jon Stewart steps onstage at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood February 24 for his second time as host of the Oscars (assuming the writers’ strike doesn’t cancel the show), he will take on a role that’s been played by earlier giants on the American cultural scene, and by Chevy Chase. Most of Stewart’s predecessors represent a glorious eight decades of American comic art.

1 - Frank Sinatra He hosted just one time, yes, but what a time — it was 1963, when Sinatra was at the peak of his fame.

2 - Chevy Chase He was Chevy Chase in 1987 and 1988, and the Oscar winners were not.

2 - Steve Martin He swore off hosting duties after serving at the 73rd and 75th annual awards shows (in 2001 and 2003, respectively).

5 - Johnny Carson Taking over for Bob Hope, he helmed broadcasts from 1979 to 1982, as well as a final one in 1984.

8 - Billy Crystal This modern Oscar king served as host from 1990 to 1993, from 1997 to 1998, in 2000, and in 2004.

18 - Bob Hope He’s the king of the Academy Awards. His first time to host was in 1940; his last was in 1978.

 

Three Statuesque (and/or Barely Dressed) Moments in Oscar History

To those who’ve watched all the countless red carpet wrap-up shows, it may seem like the Academy Awards have become little more than an excuse for mindless, Botox-ed excess. But really, the opposite is true: The Oscar winners and the hubbub they generate offer a near-perfect mirror of American culture; each year, the event and the celebrities reflect the popular tastes of the time. See if you can guess which award winner we’re talking about in the following descriptions — all the better if you can also guess the exact years in which these events happened.

1 This actor sent a beautiful American Indian woman to turn down his Best Actor award, a defiant gesture that was firmly rooted in the social turbulence of the late 1960s and early 1970s, when social causes seemed to trump Hollywood glamour.

2 Glamour was back and skin was in when this actress wore the navel-baring Bob Mackie “dress” that is probably the most memorable Oscar outfit of all. Her getup included a feathered headdress that made her look about seven feet tall.

3 This award-winning documentarian’s work perfectly reflected the somber, sober mood of the era following 9/11. Future scholars may well record that his triumph marked the moment when the threat of global warming first penetrated the American psyche.


ANSWERS: 1. Marlon Brando, 1972 (he refused his award for The Godfather); 2. Cher, 1986; 3. Al Gore, 2007
 


 To the Victor, Things Get Spoiled

 

Here are four Oscar winners who have been losing ever since that big day.

THE ACTOR
F. Murray Abraham
THE ROLE
Antonio Salieri in Amadeus
THE AWARD
Best Actor, 1984
THE AFTERMATH
Roles in clinkers like The Bonfire of the Vanities, Loaded Weapon 1, and Last Action Hero eventually led to the part of Professor Hamilton in last year’s BloodMonkey and the role of Professor Bill Girdler in the upcoming TV movie Shark Swarm.

THE ACTOR
Adrien Brody
THE ROLE
Wladyslaw Szpilman in The Pianist
THE AWARD
Best Actor, 2002
THE AFTERMATH
He has been in a string of little-watched movies, including The Jacket, The Singing Detective, and Hollywoodland. The good news? He got to drive a fast car in Gumball 3000: Drivin’ Me Crazy, and he planted a memorable, exuberant kiss on Halle Berry the night of his Oscar win.

THE ACTOR
Halle Berry
THE ROLE
Leticia Musgrove in Monster’s Ball
THE AWARD
Best Actress, 2001
THE AFTERMATH
Four names sum it up: Jinx, Storm, Catwoman, Cappy. No one gives Oscars to characters with names like that. And even Berry’s dramatic return in last year’s Things We Lost in the Fire failed to garner much critical buzz.

THE ACTOR
Helen Hunt
THE ROLE
Carol Connelly in As Good As It Gets
THE AWARD
Best Actress, 1997
THE AFTERMATH
Wait? Helen who? You mean Helen Hunt from such films as Pay It Forward and Dr T and the Women? Yeah, we didn’t see those.

Test Your Popcorn Prowess

The Oscars are American cultural history, writ large. So how much do you already know about the awards? Challenge your knowledge here. Give three yourself points for every correct answer unless otherwise directed. And for any questions you don’t know the answers to, we suggest you memorize the correct responses and then throw your newfound knowledge around like you’ve always had it. 

1. Who has been nominated the most?

2. Which male actor has received the most nominations?

3. Who has won the most acting awards?

4. Three actors have won three times.

5. Which film has received the most nominations?

6. Who was the oldest winner in a leadacting category?

7. Who was the youngest winner in a lead-acting category?

8. Who has the most Oscar nominations overall without a win?

9. How many films have won for both Best Actor and Best Actress? (Give yourself three points for each film you can name.)

10. Who has received the most nominations for writing?

11. How many best-directing Oscars did Alfred Hitchcock win?

 
ANSWERS: 1. Meryl Streep, 14 times and counting. 2. Jack Nicholson, 12 times and counting. 3. Katharine Hepburn, four. 4. Ingrid Bergman, Jack Nicholson, and Walter Brennan. 5. It’s a tie between Titanic and All About Eve. Both were nominated in 14 categories. Titanic won 11 awards in 1997; All About Eve won six in 1950. 6. Henry Fonda, who was 76 when he won for On Golden Pond in 1981. 7. Adrien Brody, who was 29 when he won for The Pianist. 8. Kevin O’Connell, a sound mixer, is 0-19. He’s lost for Terms of Endearment and The Patriot, among others. Maybe this year he’ll get a win. His 20th nomination is for Transformers. 9. Seven, starting with It Happened One Night in 1934. The others, in chronological order, are One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Network, Coming Home, On Golden Pond, The Silence of the Lambs, and As Good As It Gets. 10. Woody Allen, with 14 nominations and two victories. Next comes Billy Wilder, with 12. 11. None. He was nominated five times but never won. He did receive the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1967 as recognition for his outstanding career.

What Your Score Means
65 to 75: Your middle name is probably Oscar. Or Academy. Hopefully it’s Oscar.
51 to 64: You work for the international accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers, and you’ve been sneaking a peek inside those envelopes all these years.
36 to 50: We would love to get the recipe for that dip you serve at your annual Oscars party.
21 to 35: It’s probably time to renew your subscription to Entertainment Weekly.
0 to 20: We’re not going to tell you what this means: “Uma, Oprah. Oprah, Uma. Uma, Oprah.”