By David Nilsen
This Sunday night, February 22, at 7 pm, the 87th Annual Academy Awards will broadcast live on ABC. The Oscars are the Hollywood film industry’s annual celebration of cinema, or at least a certain kind of cinema. Or just a celebration of itself, a chance for the movie industry to raise a diamond-encrusted glass to toast itself, twelve months of sequels pinched and squeezed into one night of sequins.
I don’t mean that to sound dismissive. True, I don’t think the Academy has actually been recognizing the best films and performances each year for a very long time, but it’s still a fun night. It celebrates a certain kind of movie, and if, on a Venn diagram, that group of movies doesn’t share much real estate with the group containing the year’s best films, well…there are bigger things to worry about. Also, as film critic A.O. Scott recently reflected, the Oscars serve as an interesting readout of how the studio film industry sees itself.
If the nominated movies themselves are hit and miss, the broadcast itself promises to be entertaining, with the impossibly cool and talented Neil Patrick Harris hosting the evening. They can give every single award to Pauly Shore for all I care as long as Harris is given plenty of opportunities to ham like crazy, singing and dancing and slinging sarcastic one-liners with abandon.
But I digress. The Oscars do, if nothing else, ensure a movie’s immortality, guaranteeing it will be remembered. The event is nothing if not a grandiose spectacle. And those fabulous clothes. Well.
At GPL we have a variety of books to either get you in the mood for the Oscars or provide further reading about them after Sunday night. Take a look at our list and check one out today!
60 Years of the Oscar: The Official History of the Academy Awards by Robert Osborne (791.43 O1s). The 300+ oversized pages of this massive book are packed with more information than you can shake a little gold statue at. Published in 1989, the book is in chronological order and names every nominee and winner in each category for every year. There are also numerous photographs of the show over the years, and even more film stills from the nominated films. While the book is 25 years old, it is still an excellent resource for anyone looking to brush up on Oscar history, and is rewarding to browse for any film history buff.
Murder at the Academy Awards by Joan Rivers (Fic Rivers). Rivers’s memoir Diary of a Mad Diva (792.702 Rivers), released just months before her death in September, 2014, spent a good deal of time on the best seller’s list last summer, but it’s her lone work of fiction we’re going to take a look at here. This 2009 novel strays pretty close to home for the fashion diva – the main character, Max , is a middle-aged glamour queen who hosts a celebrated pre-Oscar red carpet telecast with her daughter (just as Rivers did for years with her daughter, Melissa). On the big night Max is interviewing a freshly rehabbed starlet who promptly drops dead on camera. Predictable tragedy or perfect crime? Max must unravel the mystery, and hide her disdain for the hideous gown the actress was buried in!
The Big Show: High Times and Dirty Dealings Backstage at the Academy Awards by Steve Pond (791.43 P). Pond, lead Oscar beat writer for the foremost film and television awards website on the internet, was given unprecedented behind-the-scenes access to the controlled chaos that is the Academy Awards for this fascinating and singular book. For over a decade Pond was permitted to the planning meetings, practice runs, dress rehearsals, and after parties for the Academy Awards, as well as getting to be backstage during the ceremony itself. The result is a book that pulls back the red velvet curtain to show us what really happens off-camera, as well as providing context for what we do see on air. Pond provides historical information, cultural commentary, and clever wit that makes this the best book available about the biggest show in Hollywood.
Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris (791.4502 Harris). You just can’t get much cooler than Neil Patrick Harris, the host of this year’s Oscars. Actually, scratch that. You’ll never be as cool as NPH. And he happily proves that with his recent memoir. The idea for the book is terrifically original: each short chapter ends with choices for the reader, just like the Choose Your Own Adventure books most of us read as kids. The book is written in the second person, putting the reader in the position of being Harris himself, and you must choose what you want to do next in “your” life and career as you work through Harris’s life story. Want to work with Sesame Street again? Turn to page 242. Want to continue your stage career? Turn to page 130. Need a drink to calm down? Page 45. Harris might be cooler than you or I will ever be, but at least his devilishly funny book lets us pretend.
All of the books listed here are available on the second floor of the Greenville Public Library. If a book you’re interested in is checked out you can always reserve the book at the reference desk and be notified when it’s returned. When checking out be sure to let your librarian know you heard about these books on Fourth & Sycamore!