There are so many exciting things about the Oscars. For example! That little statuette is made of gold-plated bronze! It’s 13.5 inches tall and weighs 8.5 pounds! The origin of its name is a mystery, but one possible version is that former Academy secretary Margaret Herrick thought the award looked a bit like her cousin, Oscar Pierce! The entire thing is a white-knuckle, roller coaster thrill ride!
Fine, we’ll just say it: The Academy Awards are boring. Not regular old boring, but full-on, gouge-your-own-pancreas-out-with-your-thumbs-to-try-and-stay-awake tedious. It’s a level of monotony that, for a few hours each year, lets us experience what it must mean to be some reluctant immortal being, grappling forever with the concept of eternity — as such, we should probably thank them for the annual reminder to show gratitude to sweet, finite death.
Truly, it takes some not-inconsiderable level of skill to put thousands of the world’s most talented and charismatic entertainment professionals into one room and make something as drab, stilted and entirely joyless as the 290-hour endurance test we call the Oscars.
But wait: Not all Oscars are boring! In fact, here at MEL, many of us feel very strongly about a great many different Oscars, and we’ve explained why underneath. Because frankly, we’d rather do anything other than watch the actual Oscars.
Oscar the Grouch and Oscar Madison
Brian VanHooker, Staff Writer: It’s a tough call for me to say who my favorite Oscar is, as it’s pretty much a dead tie between Sesame Street’s Oscar the Grouch and Oscar Madison, the untidy half of The Odd Couple. Now that I think of it, both have pretty similar personalities too, as both are sloppy, surly and had no issue with living their lives in utter squalor.
The Odd Couple is still one of my all-time favorite sitcoms as the chemistry between Jack Klugman (Oscar) and Tony Randall (Felix) was something truly special — a hilarious contrast that not only worked on the show but ended up as a lifelong friendship between Klugman and Randall. While some say Walter Matthau was the better Oscar in the 1968 film version, for me, Klugman was far more entertaining. His cigar-chomping sportswriter was a lovable everyman who seemed to take the world in (cynical) stride, though that easygoing facade would melt away into rage whenever Felix would get on his case about the cleanliness of their apartment, or for being late for dinner. The dynamic was brilliant in its simplicity, which is why the show has had such an enduring legacy.
As for Oscar the Grouch, while I wouldn’t call him my favorite Sesame Street character— only Cookie Monster deserves that distinction — Oscar has always hovered near the top of my list of most beloved Muppets. In Sesame Street’s world of ultra-cheery positivity, Oscar is the one voice of consistent negativity. Even Bert wasn’t nearly so reliable, with his embarrassingly boyish glee at the sight of a pigeon or a bottle cap he could add to his lame collection. But Oscar, he was always an asshole, the perfect voice for the annoyed parent who was sick of Big Bird’s stupid questions or Telly’s inexplicable love of triangles or who found Elmo’s voice to be like nails on a chalkboard. Oscar was there to shit on it all — Sesame Street’s lone voice of sanity.
Miles Klee, Staff Writer: Who was Oscar Mayer, besides a German guy I’m always tempted to confuse with Oskar Schindler? Only the processed meat impresario who allowed me to survive childhood as a picky eater. If I told you I ate an Oscar Mayer bologna sandwich (no condiments) for every school lunch between the fourth and seventh grades, you’d probably feel a surge of pity, but trust me, I loved it. Nothing compared to that bland, salty slab of the saddest take on mortadella known to the Western world. You knew it was the superior choice of protein because it had a catchy, obnoxious jingle, to say nothing of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, America’s crowning achievement and still my dream car because it respects no authority.
In his entrepreneurial success as a Chicago sausage kingpin, Mr. Mayer didn’t just reach the ultimate heights of the immigrant experience, he also lived nearly a century, dying at age 95 — which leads me to believe I could go right back to a strict diet of his company’s vacuum-sealed cold cuts and remain in perfect health.
Joseph Longo, Staff Writer: Lyricist-dramatist Oscar Hammerstein and his composer partner Richard Rodgers gifted us Broadway staples Oklahoma, Cinderella, The King and I and South Pacific. If not for their astute genius, we’d never have the sexy Oklahoma! revival, Kelli O’Hara would still be overdue for her first Tony, and KeKe Palmer, Carly Rae Jepsen, Fran Drescher and — most importantly — Nene Leakes wouldn’t have joined the rotating cast of Cinderella. Above all, I thank Rodgers & Hammerstein for not giving us a foul version of CATS. Hammerstein knew better than to allow Jellicles to do whatever the fuck it is that they do. (Did you even know that they own the theatrical production of CATS?)
Oscar “Ozzy” Lusth, Survivor legend
Cooper Fleishman, Director of News and Audience: Survivor is the best reality show ever made, and if you don’t believe me, you should watch a guy named Oscar Lusth — Ozzy, for the fans — catch a fish the size of a child using nothing but a spear. It’s a superhuman feat: He casually holds his breath and dives for what looks like a league under the sea, chases down this massive slippery honker, stabs the thing in the belly, then emerges triumphantly, not even winded. He and his bro roast the fish and plop it on a leaf to share. He holds up the meat to the camera and says, simply, “Fish.”
Would your bro do that for you? Never!
This scene sums up how Ozzy became something of a Survivor archetype. Humble and hardworking, dreamy, earnest and girl-crazy, Ozzy is a regular California dude who’s remarkably good at just literally surviving. In Season 13, Survivor: Cook Islands (2006), he coasted to Final Tribal Council on outdoorsmanship and likability. Alas, the game had changed: He lost to Yul Kwon, a brilliant strategist, analyst, leader and Sexiest Man Alive contender who later became a product director at Facebook. In Survivor’s early days, I believe Ozzy might have run away with the million-dollar prize. Ozzy went on to compete three more times, but he never found his footing in Survivor’s new era, where physical threats are often neutralized before they rack up immunity wins.
Season 40, an all-winners’ season, is about to air, and Survivor gameplay has only become more complex. But the heart of the show will always be in the little moments of human connection, like a bro risking his neck to get a fish for his bro and then telling the whole world, “Fish.”
Oscar Dronjak, HammerFall Guitarist and Founder
Ian Lecklitner, Staff Writer: Swedish guitarist Oscar Dronjak is great in my book, purely because he founded the heavy metal band HammerFall, an act that’s long embodied the fantastic, exaggerated and outright flamboyant nature of this extraordinary genre. The vocals reverberate with what sounds like the combined voices of a thousand angels, the lyrics could unite an army of drunk barbarians, the guitars squeal as if they were strung with the pubes of Beelzebub and the music videos, my God, the music videos. I suggest you watch for yourself…
Oscar Proud, The Proud Family
Andrew Fiouzi, Staff Writer: It took writing this for me to realize that I’m fairly indifferent to Oscars. They’re all fine, but to call one my favorite would be a stretch. I used to like Oscar De La Hoya until he lost to Floyd Mayweather Jr. Oscar Wilde seemed like the sort of decadent guy that I’d like to hang out with in high school when I was forced to read The Picture of Dorian Gray. But again, to call him my favorite would mean that I’d have to know more about him than the fact that he was imprisoned and subsequently exiled for being himself.
All of which is to say, if I had to pick one Oscar, I’d go with Oscar Proud, the patriarch in the Disney channel show The Proud Family. His perpetual freakouts were always memorable and the fact that Suga Mama — his mom — would beat his ass on a regular basis for looking at pretty women that weren’t his wife was something I still find both hilarious and unnerving.
Brian Smith, Staff Writer: Any conversation about courage and moral rectitude must include Oskar Schindler. The German businessman is credited with saving 1,200 Jews from the Holocaust by bribing Nazi officials to allow him to keep his workers instead of sending them to Auschwitz. Schindler was penniless by the war’s end, but probably slept well at night. In 1962, he was declared a “Righteous Gentile” by Israel’s official agency for remembering the Holocaust, a pretty bad ass moniker on top of everything else. (Also: I just found a name for my boat.)
Quinn Myers, Staff Writer: Oscar Dickson, who I must assume is most people’s favorite Oscar of all-time and therefore requires no further explanation, was a Swedish magnate, industrialist and philanthropist in the 1800s. Perhaps my favorite thing about Dickson, however, is that he was born on December 2, 1823. So cool, and something I think about a lot.
Did you know that Dickson also sponsored “several important Polar ventures between the years 1860 and 1900,” and that Dikson Island in the Kara Sea is named after him? Of course you did, because Oscar Dickson is a hero, a champion, and someone whose memory and legend we, as humans, must fight to preserve.
Long live Oscar Dickson!
Tim Grierson, Contributing Editor: Remarkably, we’re now in the eighth year of the internet’s love affair with Oscar Isaac, the talented Guatemalan-American actor and musician whose career skyrocketed after being selected by the Coen Brothers to play the luckless titular folk singer in 2013’s Inside Llewyn Davis. Before then, he’d done interesting supporting work in movies like Sucker Punch and Drive, where he talked the filmmakers into beefing up his criminal role so that the character would be more substantial. But Llewyn Davis was the breakthrough. Isaac had played in rock and punk bands growing up in Miami, but Davis gave him a chance to pair soulfulness with musicianship, believably portraying a 1960s songwriter waiting for his break, not realizing that Bob Dylan is about to enter the scene and change it forever.
When I interviewed him back in 2013, he talked about how he disappeared into the character:
“When I auditioned, there was a little note that said, ‘[Davis] is not the poet. He’s not the Dylan. He’s the blue-collar working man.’ I latched onto that. He has self-destructive tendencies. He wants to succeed, but he also wants to fail a bit. At the same time, when things could go his way, they never do. But he doesn’t tell you what to feel. His inner life is the most important thing, and outer expression of that is nonexistent — the only time it happens is when he plays music.”
Inside Llewyn Davis was one of the decade’s best films, and since then, he’s gone from strength to strength: everything from the new Star Wars trilogy to Ex Machina, where he became a meme. He’s also got some really intriguing projects coming up, including the remake of Dune and the new Paul Schrader film, The Card Counter.
But even if he stopped now, Llewyn Davis would be a hell of a legacy. For a lot of us, the character represents the sisyphean nature of ambition: that endless, hopeless belief that, maybe just maybe, that big opportunity is still out there waiting. The truth is, though, it probably isn’t — not for Davis and not for us. Isaac is brilliantly bleak in the film, and yet his “Please Mr. Kennedy” makes me laugh every time. That such a heartbreaking loser ended up being Isaac’s ticket to the big time never ceases to tickle me.
Isabelle Kohn, Staff Writer: He ate too much maca and went insane.