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Awards . . . Everybody Wants To Get In The Act

March 12, 1986|JACK MATHEWS | Times Staff Writer

Two days before the Oscar nominations were announced last month, we received a long list of NOminees foR The year's wOrst achievements in film from an ad hoc group calling itself the Golden Raspberry Foundation.

Less than a week later, a self-described media consultant called a press conference to announce that Steven Spielberg was to be the first recipient of the (consultant's name) Special Achievement Award for his direction of "The Color Purple."

Last week, our mail brought us news of the Boring Institute's awards honoring 1985's least exciting work (Al Pacino and Tanya Roberts were among the big winners; the press release was one of the dullest we've ever read).

And somewhere in the midst of all these breathtaking revelations came word that "Mask" had won the coveted Realism in Human Conflict award from a group of psychotherapists who eagerly patrol the dark in search of excellence in cinema psychology.

It's just a matter of time before the film buffs over in proctology organize and vote the awards to end them all.

Oh, for the good old days, when the Oscars and the Harvard Lampoon awards were about all there were and being the best or worst meant something. Today, Oscar--like a dog reluctantly hosting colonies Of hungry fleas--is being sapped of his vigor, and the lampooners at Harvard are lucky if they can get a barb sharp enough to pop a balloon.

There are so many awards now that it's hard to know which to take least seriously. There are the "People's Choice Awards" and the "Your Choice for the Film Awards" awards, a pair of televised parasites in which public polls are used to honor the obvious (Michael J. Fox and "Back to the Future" were winners of the "Your Choice . . ." awards; the "People's Choice Awards" aired Tuesday night).

There are the Golden Globes, voted by foreign journalists working in Hollywood, and the Golden Apples, voted by the Hollywood Women's Press Club, and the Golden Reels, peer awards for achievement in sound editing.

Scary films are of such competitive interest that two separate groups vote awards for them: the Count Dracula Society and the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films.

And just this week, the Independent Feature Project/West, an organization of independent American film makers, announced its first nominees for "Independent Spirit" awards.

The awards form a sort of Last Chance Cafe where independents can gather to commiserate over being left out of the studio-dominated Oscar contest and perhaps draw a little more attention to their best work.

They have a point. The best picture slate of "After Hours," "Smooth Talk," "Blood Simple" and "The Trip to Bountiful" is as good a list as the academy's. But come on, somebody has to lose.

If this continues, Andy Warhol is going to have to modify his comforting observation that everybody will become a celebrity for 15 minutes. Some people are just going to have to settle for a career achievement award.

BAD CHOICE: "Your Choice for the Film Awards," which was called "Your Choice for the Oscars" until the motion picture academy objected, took another turn for the worse under new programming guidance this year.

The syndicated TV show, started 21 years ago by RKO-TV's Wayne Thomas, had become something of an Oscar-eve tradition in Los Angeles. Until a few years ago, the show took the official ballots and published them in magazines, inviting the public to vote their preferences. The results were often the same as those announced a day later.

Since Oscar is copyrighted, RKO had to quit using both the name and the official academy slates. Instead, Thomas asked film critics to make the nominations, and even though the critics' nominees occasionally strayed into esoteric waters, Thomas was able to lure most of the winners to the show.

This year, under new executive producer Walt Baker, the nominations were made by theater owners, using their box-office receipts as their guide, and the finalists lined up with the hits. The best actor nominees, for instance, were Michael J. Fox, Harrison Ford, Robert Redford, Jack Nicholson and Sylvester Stallone (for both "Rambo" and "Rocky").

"We turned it into a viewer popularity test rather than an artistic test," Baker says. "The critics would never give you Stallone. The fact is that is what the public enjoys."

The list may have had more appeal on the ballots published in Us magazine and TV Guide, but when the show was taped March 1 (it aired on Channel 9 in Los Angeles Saturday), not one of the winners was present.

"I was astonished that the show bore no resemblance to what I created," says Thomas, who still works part time as an RKO announcer. "In 20 years, if the winners were in town, they showed up. There were a lot of people in the business who thought well of it. A lot of work is down the drain."

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