On Sunday night “The Shape of Water” won the Best Picture Oscar for 2017. The Oscars ceremony always rewards films that were released the previous year. Last year’s ceremony rewarded films that were released in 2016. “The Godfather” (Best Picture Oscar 1972) was the big winner on 27 March 1973. Robert de Niro collected his Best Actor award (“Raging Bull”, 1980) on 31 March 1981. You get the general idea.
My detailed knowledge of Oscar winners is tied in with this fact. The list of Best Picture winners for the 1980s begins with “Ordinary People” for 1980 (not “Kramer versus Kramer”, the 1979 winner) and ends with “Driving Miss Daisy” (1989). Increasingly, quiz questions refer to the year that the ceremony took place, and not to the year that the film was released. In “Tenable” last year one of the lists of 10 that the contestants were asked to name was the example given earlier in this paragraph: the 10 Best Picture winners of the 1980s. Their list started with “Kramer versus Kramer”, which won on Oscars Night 1980, and ended with “Rain Man”, released in 1988. After all these decades I am finding it hard to adjust my knowledge of the films and the years associated with them.
In a recent series of “Only Connect” there was a question that linked the names of successful chart acts with the names of Best Picture Oscar winners. The clues were “Mull of Kintyre” (1928) “It’s not unusual” (1964) “If you leave me now” (2003) and “Martha’s Harbour” (1951). These clues refer to hits by chart acts who share their names with Best Picture Winners in the given years: Wings, Tom Jones, Chicago and All About Eve. It’s a great quiz question, right up my street, but the detail on the years had me shouting at the TV, “No, no, no: ‘Wings’ was 1927, ‘Tom Jones’ was 1963, ’Chicago’ was 2002 …”
“The Chase” was at it too a while back, with a question that began something like this, “Which British actress, first name Julie, won an Oscar in 1965 …” Easy peasy, I thought: Julie Christie, who was the 1965 Best Actress winner for “Darling…” But no; the question continued, “… for her first film role”. It was a different Julie: Julie Andrews, the 1964 winner for “Mary Poppins”. Okay, technically she did win in the year 1965, but it was for a film released in 1964. She’s the winner for 1964.
As I wrote earlier, I am finding it hard to adjust after all these decades. If you want me to shift every factual piece of information by one year (and that information has been stored in my brain for over 30 years now) it’s going to take a while. “On the waterfront” was 1954. Can I think of it as 1955 instead? “One flew over the cuckoo’s nest” was 1975. Can I shift it 1976, and shift “Rocky” to 1977, “Annie Hall” to 1978 and “The Deer Hunter” to 1979? I don’t know. It just doesn’t feel right.