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Eleanor Ringel Cater

Valuing the Oscars — both in dollars and artistic merit — over time

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

It’s all over but the appalling follow-up coverage that has ranged from some guy who does impersonations of Oscar nominees to commentary by Olympic ice-skating judges on the fashions. In 2018, let’s have Oscar winners judge the ice skating events.

But, time to get down to brass tacks, so to speak: How much is an Oscar worth?

Mentally and emotionally, I’d say it’s priceless.

But talking plain old dollars and cents, what is that little gold guy, emasculated-a-la-a-Ken-Doll worth.

I’ve heard the statue itself costs between $400 and $900 to manufacture, depending on your source.

Should you wish to purchase an Oscar  — with something other than blood, sweat, tears and kissing butt all over Hollywood — you may be out of luck. Since 1950, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has stipulated that, should one wish to give up one’s Oscar, one must first offer it to the Academy itself for the bargain-basement price of $1.

However, there are all those pre-1950s Oscars floating around…

The most anyone has ever paid for an Oscar is the $1,542,000 Michael Jackson shelled out to buy David O. Selznick’s “Best Picture” Oscar for “Gone With The Wind.” Nice bit of irony, isn’t it?

Orson Welles’ Oscar for “Best Screenplay” (“Citizen Kane”) sold for over $800,000, though I don’t know to whom. And Steven Spielberg, good guy that he is, bought Clark Gable’s “It Happened One Night” Oscar ($607,500) and Bette Davis’s “Jezebel” Oscar ($578,000) and then donated them back to the Academy.

And then there’s Mommie Dearest. Joan Crawford’s “Mildred Pierce” Oscar. It went at auction for about $426,732. Not chump change, but it must irk her ghost that, even after death, people prefer Bette to Joan.

But what can winning an Oscar mean for a picture or an actor?

Opinions differ. An average bump is between an extra $13 million and $15 million for a “Best Picture.” A performer’s price can jump up as much as 20 percent.

There’s also, however, the so-called Oscar Curse.  Consider these post-Oscar careers: Mira Sorvino, Reese Witherspoon, Nicolas Cage, Adrien Brody, and Cuba Gooding, Jr.

So we’ll see how Matthew McConnaughey, Cate Blanchett, Jared Leto and Lupita N’yongo fare in the next year or two. They did wonderfully Sunday night.

Not everyone wins an Oscar. Think of Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant, Peter O’Toole, Richard Burton, Michelle Pfeiffer and Glenn Close.

Harold Ramis, who died recently — and unexpectedly — at a too-young 69, never won an Oscar. I’m not even sure he was ever nominated.

However, he was responsible, in one way or another, for some fine films, including one of the best ever made: “Groundhog Day,” starring Bill Murray.  Murray starred in several of Ramis’ movies.

But after “Groundhog Day,” they became estranged and never spoke again.  After Ramis’ death, Murray issued this decidedly cold and arcane statement: “He earned his keep on this planet. God bless him.”

Yet, when Murray appeared as a presenter on Sunday, he gave what seemed to be an appreciative shout-out to Ramis. Just after presenting the nominees for “Best Cinematography,” Murray said: “We forgot one.” He then added: “Harold Ramis for ‘Caddyshack,’ ‘Ghostbusters’ and ‘Groundhog Day.’”

Great Georgia moment: the acknowledgment of Sarah Jones, a camera assistant on the Allman Brothers movie who was tragically and, needlessly, killed a week or so ago.

Great for all of us: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler threw down the gauntlet at the Golden Globes and Elle Degeneres picked it right up.  There were some oh-not-really moments — like a say-what tribute to “The Wizard of Oz,” that mostly was a set-up for Ellen to come out in a gown, as had been rumored she might. It was, however, a Glinda the Good Knock-off.

However, she did provide — constantly — warmth, ease and grand fun. And one Certified Classic Moment: that Selfie that started with her and Meryl Streep and expanded to include Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Brad and Angelina, Lupita Nyong’o and, right in front, Nyong’o’s very nice looking brother. (2.5 million tweets, breaking the record).

Pure class. Purely classic.

#P.S.: If you want to win the Oscar Office Pool, watch the show with somebody young.  At my house, David Luse got almost every pick right. In all the categories. Humbling.

Eleanor Ringel

Eleanor Ringel, Movie Critic, was the film critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for almost 30 years. She was nominated multiple times for a Pulitzer Prize. She won the Best of Cox Critic, IMAGE Film & Video and Women In Film awards. An Atlanta native, she graduated from Westminster and Brown University. She was the critic on WXIA’s Noonday, a member of Entertainment Weekly's Critics Grid and wrote TV Guide’s movie/DVD. She is member of the National Society of Film Critics and currently talks about movies on WMLB and writes the Time Out column for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.


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