A Night At the Oscars – You Don’t Say: Volume 62 – by Ray Hudson

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88th Annual Academy Awards preparations Photo Courtesy: Facebook page Academy
Ray Hudson
Ray Hudson

This Sunday night, it’s showtime! As Beetlejuice declared. It’s the 88th Annual Academy Awards.  The original and longest running award event was the event of the year long before everyone else realized what a good thing they had going, and set out to get in on the game. But it is the American institution of, “I’d like to thank blah blah and blah!  And it’s still pretty much a must see show almost everywhere in the world (maybe next year I’ll get an invite, ya think? Now before the orchestra start and I get gently but firmly dragged off stage, let’s get on with the show.

Despite an attempt to sophisticate the process with the upscale words “Motion Pictures” the word “movies” coined in 1896 has made it into the common vernacular. A slang word for movies, “flicks,” came along.  It’s believed to be a product of the hand cranked movie camera that may or may not be in sync with the motor of the projector.  Here’s a little science folks, the movies show individual pictures, like slides, at 24 frames per second.  At this rate the viewer no longer sees individual photos, perceiving them as one continuous motion.  Anything much slower, combined with the rather crude projection equipment of the day was detectable producing a flickering sense along with the pictures, thus the term flickers or flicks came into use.  Interestingly, the term is still connected to movies in the online service, Netflix.

Oscar:  Any good awards ceremony requires an appropriate trophy, and that’s exactly how the “Oscar” statuette came about. The Academy committee tapped MGM’s art director to design the valiant knight holding a sword, a local sculpture turned it into three dimensions and the rest is history…..except the name.  The “Award of Merit” didn’t quite fit the bill, so when the librarian of the Academy mentioned it looked like her Uncle Oscar, it stuck – permanently. Good thing her uncle wasn’t named Mortimer or Bubba (oh the possibilities).

Now that you’re equipped with the most basic of primers, I’d like to turn attention to the impact the movies have had on our language.  As the movies became accessible to mass audiences, certain phrases from films caught the fancy of people and came into everyday use.

Back in the 1930’s Mae West contributed several phrases to the cause: When I’m good I’m very, very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better and You only live once but if you do it right, once is enough.

In 1939 the Wizard of Oz offered up this line as Dorothy, Tinman, Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion danced down the yellow brick road: Lions and tigers and bears oh my!
And how many times do you still hear someone utter the (corrupted) phrase, “We’re not in Kansas anymore Toto!”

In 1942, Casablanca, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman delivered a treasure trove of phrases still alive and well; Here’s looking at you kid; We’ll always have Paris; Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine and so many more.  Unfortunately, one of the most misquoted phrases that nobody said is “Play it again Sam.”  Unfortunate because, well, maybe he should have said it!  Anyway, here’s the most likely source of the phrase, and it comes from Bergman not Bogart: Ilsa: Play it once, Sam. For old times’ sake.  Sam: I don’t know what you mean, Miss Ilsa.  Ilsa: Play it, Sam. Play “As Time Goes By.” Now you know. But feel free to use the wrong one.

Now, before curtain time, here are a few other famous lines.  See if you can identify the movies they came from:

“Say hello to my little friend”  “I’m walking here, I’m walking here”  “Surely you can’t be serious.  I am serious and don’t call me Shirley”  “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse”  “ET phone home” and  “Wax on, wax off” (repeat until the car is shiny or you become a karate master).

Until next week, as Roger Ebert would say, see you at the movies! Or is it, we’ll see you in one of the Woods; Holly, Dolly or Bolly!

In Case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening and goodnight!