Monday, February 23, 2009

The Carney Consequence: The heck do ya mean?

Now you know the rest of the story about why you give less and less a flying fadoo about the Academy Awards (Slumdog Millionaire's big night notwithstanding).

It's The Carney Consequence. Commit the phrase to memory.

Just as popular music has been on the wane since 1974, the year of the first Bad Company release (Mark McKinney said it once in a Kids In The Hall sketch, ergo it is true), so too have the Oscars ever since Norton from The Honeymooners beat out Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson and Albert Finney.

Cripes, for someone who wasn't alive in 1974, it's mind-blowing enough to find out that the actor who played Ed Norton has won an Oscar, unlike the actor named Ed Norton (two nominations in the late '90s, but no dice). Full credit goes to a Gelf Magazine writer named Joe Horton for pinpointing the exact moment, April 2, 1974:
"As the winner is announced — back when presenters said 'and the winner is…' before that was deemed too emotionally damaging for insecure actors to hear that they were losers and was changed to 'and the Oscar goes to…' — an audible gasp runs through the Chandler crowd when Carney's name is called and he literally jumps and skips up to the stage to accept his prize. At this moment, Carney becomes the first link of an irrevocable chain of events that will forever influence the Academy Awards.

The other men in this category would go on to collect 33 nominations and seven wins. Hoffman and Nicholson would become two of the eight male actors to ever win two Best Actor statuettes. But in 1974, the playing field was level — none of these acting luminaries had yet tasted Oscar gold — and after Carney scored the stunning upset in his only nomination, the Academy was forced to play catch-up.
Small wonder that 35 years later, it seems like you could not even have a telecast, since everyone can armchair-quarterback and ballpark-figure who's going to win, even if they haven't seen many of the movies. Last night, Penélope Cruz, who wait for it, was born in 1974, seemed like a good example: She's glamourous, she hasn't won yet, so why not her?

(Frankly, it would have been good karma if it had gone to Marisa Tomei for The Wrestler, considering the urban legend that Jack Palance read the wrong name in 1993. However, please keep in mind an actress can only win for a role that involves nudity if she is European or a person of a colour, because otherwise it's just titillation.)

Anyway, the Carney Consquence brings it all home, along with Jamie Lee Curtis' searing denunciation of the whole exercise. Horton notes it is pretty much foreordained that Robert Downey Jr. will win one of those handsome statues sooner rather than later, probably sooner thanMickey Rourke ("a pretty decent, albeit mildly f---ed-up guy," at least according to Deus Ex Malcontent, who crossed his path once upon a time).

Meantime, now that we've been brought to speed, this does bode well for Ed Norton and William H. Macy one of these years. Both were up for Best Supporting Actor in 1997 (Norton for Primal Fear, Macy for Fargo) when Cuba Gooding Jr. won for Jerry Maguire, a fact which has the air of you had to be there, but should be glad if you weren't. Remember, that movie made Renée Zellweger bankable, and she eventually got an Oscar (thank you, Tao), just because, well, you know.

You should all find Joe Horton and thank him for giving us a chilling vision of things to come.

(Incidentally, if time travel is invented, Kinger and myself will be travelling back to 1974.
Sagsy: "Now I know what a TV dinner feels like."
Kinger: "What?"
Sagsy: "It's a line from Die Hard. Hasn't been written yet. We could write it, Tyler. We could write it.")
The Carney Consequence; A poor Oscar choice for Best Actor in 1974 set in motion a ripple effect of makeup awards by the Academy that is still being felt today (Joe Horton, Gelf Magazine; via
A Fish Called Denial (Jamie Lee Curtis, Huffington Post, Feb. 21)


Tao of Stieb said...

We can't say we agree with your police work, there, Lou.

Renée Z won an Oscar in 2004 for Cold Mountain.

Not that the oversight negates the rest of the post.

kinger said...

Beauty. Though just as big a problem is that there are too many damn awards.

kinger said...

And could they have gotten any more establishment-y than giving Sean Penn best actor? Rourke would've been the courageous pick, Langella the honourable one. But they give Sean Penn another freaking soapbox and another of those wins b ased on the character performed and not on the performance of the character.

sager said...

Tyler, is that your best Limbaugh, kidding, but not really.

Thanks, Tao ... the fact Renee Zellweger has won practically proves the point.

Anonymous said...

Doonesbury did a cartoon several years ago in which the best actor nominees were summed up as follows:
"One legitimate superstar, one pretty face, one non-talent with lots of studio pull and the old hat who has paid his dues and never won anything before." That pretty much summed up the Oscars the year Carney won, and probably every year thereafter as well.