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’85 Years of the Oscar’ is the ultimate, glossy yearbook for Hollywood’s annual party

Dennis King Modified: February 27, 2014 at 1:30 pm •  Published: February 27, 2014
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As the old sports saw goes: You can’t tell the players without a program. And for this Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony, the most lavish and expansive program of all is “85 Years of the Oscar” (Abbeville Press, $75), by erudite TCM host Robert Osborne.

This officially sanctioned, coffee-table ready guidebook to Hollywood’s most prestigious and coveted award – newly revised and expanded – adds up to an all-inclusive almanac of the Oscars, ranging from the first show in 1928 to this year’s elaborate 85th anniversary broadcast.

Osborne, the TCM host with an encyclopedia mind for old movie lore, cut his teeth as a reporter and columnist for The Hollywood Reporter for 25 years, and his detailed accounting and analysis of each and every Oscar ceremony of the past 84 years is truly impressive. Not only does he survey each movie in each year’s competition – providing complete listings of all the nominees and winners in each category – but he also delves into early speculation on various winners and colorfully describes the events and atmosphere of each awards ceremony.

All of this is illustrated with vivid production stills from winning films and candid shots of celebrities cavorting at each year’s gala ceremonies. In total, the book features more than 750 photographs, including original posters from each year’s best picture winner.

Drawing from the amazingly rich archives of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences for a decade-by-decade perspective that is both scholarly and entertaining, Osborne also displays a born historian’s eye for telling anecdotes, profound details and deep background. In addition, he has a wonderfully adept ear for pulling out intimate reminiscences of stars such as Katharine Hepburn, Clint Eastwood and scores of other Hollywood luminaries to dress up the book in the most glamorous, gossipy finery.

While we live in the age of IMDB.com and endless web sources for movie information, there’s something endearingly old-fashioned and grand about a glossy coffee-table tome that is obviously so rich in attention, affection and detail. “85 Years of the Oscar” is the ultimate film buff’s yearbook, as classy and opulently produced as the classic movies it celebrates.

- Dennis King