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Arts

So, you wanna win an Oscar

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 13, 2009 - Oscar season is upon us all, viewers and film-makers alike.

If you are involved in making a movie, you just might want to think about winning an Academy Award -- or a nomination, at least. To help you think about your chances, I have listed some factors you might want to consider.

Please note that, without question, the best way to win is to make the best movie of the year, do the best acting of the year and so on. Ambition has its place, but the highest quality must always be the highest aspiration. (Agents take note.)

Still, Oscar nominations can be complex. What if the whole bunch of this year's movies are excellent? (Remember 1939 ?) What if all of this year's supporting actors are dogs. (So many dog movies!) That's when other factors become significant.

Below is a list of Other Factors.

HOW TO WIN FOR BEST PICTURE:

1. The bigger you can make it, the better.
2. Make your movie in Hollywood using all the personnel in the industry, if possible.
3. If you are working in a year of bad movies, consider making a fine British movie.

(Real Shakespeare will usually work only in a weak year.)

HOW TO WIN FOR BEST DIRECTOR:

1. Direct two nominated movies in the same year.

2. Direct a multiple-plot movie that's still really clear, at least at the end. A last-minute explanation in the plot is risky, but may be sufficient.

(If you direct a movie that is ultimately unclear, especially with no closure at all, you might have a shot at best screenplay.)

HOW TO WIN FOR BEST ACTRESS:

1. You should be a great beauty, if possible, regardless of your role.
2. No Westerns.
3. If you have always been beautiful but are getting older, you can do very well by playing an actress who has always been beautiful but is getting older -- and now going through excruciating forms of torment. Audiences love to see "honesty" shine through.
4. Playing a comic role, no matter how well, probably won't even get you a nomination. Selfless lovers and hard bitches will usually produce the best results.
5. Showing breasts is OK, but only if the role is completely serious. (Absolutely nothing more.)

HOW TO WIN FOR BEST ACTOR:

1. You really should not be a blonde. It limits you.
2. A serious Western won't necessarily hurt you, but nothing "typical."
3. Being especially graceful is disastrous. Especially avoid dancing onscreen, unless you're blind.
4. Avoid love stories with beautiful actresses 30 years younger than you, which will never work unless she is superficially unattractive.
5. Showing your butt is OK, if and only if the role is deeply serious or for a joke. (No crotches. Never. Not even clothed.)

HOW TO WIN FOR BEST ACTOR OR ACTRESS:

1. Star in two nominated movies in the same year, preferably one crowd-pleaser and one in which you are grotesquely unattractive.
2. If you're impossibly beautiful, male or female, play someone grotesquely unattractive.
3. Be much-nominated and passed-over too often.
4. If you want to be a star and an actor simultaneously, that can work out nicely:
Take audience-pleasing star roles for the money.
Take "negative" roles for the prestige. "Negative" means you can play odd, disabled-but-sympathetic, or twisted-psycho roles -- but for men, no child-molester roles and no French-vineyard-owner roles.
5. Be at death's door and go into surgery just before the voting.

HOW TO WIN FOR BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR OR ACTRESS:

1. Be quite old and really good.
2. Be quite young and really good.

HOW TO WIN FOR BEST SCREENPLAY:

1. Make a funny little independent movie of high-level wit and highly stylized dialogue. If, in fact, your little indie movie really is the best movie of the year, you stand a good chance of winning for best screenplay. Forget about best movie.
2. Try to be nominated for Best Movie.
3. The funnier, the better.
4. Gender benders are OK, but ...
5. Remember: witty and funny.

HOW TO TRY TO LOSE:

1. Make your movie in Canada, Mexico or Spain, using only two actors and only locals for the crew.
2. Make your movie extremely cerebral with an unresolved plot-ending. If your movie actually uses the word cerebral, you can count on losing.
3. Make the movie in black & white -- not a guarantee, but you can change the odds.
4. More than 10 explosions.

Nick Otten's "Nick's List on Books and Movies" appears every Monday in the Beacon.

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