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Artscape: Revisiting the Oscars via the 20/20 awards

A scene from the Goodfellas, considered to be the second best Gangster movie ever made.
A scene from the Goodfellas, considered to be the second best Gangster movie ever made.

The Academy Awards are coming up this Sunday. There are many wonderful films that don’t get an Oscar. And there are lots of not-so-great movies that win the coveted award.  Seattle’s “20-20” awards look back at past Oscar winners and how they’ve stood the test of time.

In 1991, Dances With Wolves swept the Oscars. It was fun watching Kevin Costner get in touch with his emotions and making friends with wild animals. But this was also the same year as Goodfellas.

Today, Goodfellas is considered to be the second best Gangster movie ever made. The Godfather is number one. And last year Goodfellas went head to head again with Dances With Wolves at Seattle’s 20/20 awards. And this time it took home the Felix… that’s the statue handed out at the 20/20’s. It’s a small, golden replica of Rodin’s “The Thinker." Seattle filmmaker Kris Kristensen, is one of the founders of the 20/20 awards. The idea to revisit the Oscars came from actor Matt Damon.

“There was a quote from Matt Damon that said the Oscars should be held ten years after the fact because it gives you a better judgment of what stands the test of time. I mentioned this to another friend and he said, ‘that’s a great idea, let’s do it!’”

Kristensen says instead of ten years, the 20/20’s look back two decades.

“You don’t have the politics. You don’t have the marketing. What we are counting on is what has just stayed with you?”

Here’s how it works. Oscar-nominated films from 20 years ago are screened throughout the year in Seattle and the academy of voters for the 20/20’s awards, mostly local filmmakers, comes up with a final list of nominees. The awards are handed out at a fancy ceremony, complete with a red carpet.

The 20/20’s look at 19 different categories, from best picture to sound editing.

The winners are tracked down, and if they, or their agents are interested, the statue is mailed off. Andrew Tsao is a writer and a director. He’s also a professor at the University of Washington’s school of drama where he teaches applied cinema. He believes Oscar winners are the result of in the moment decisions. What we think is moving today, might just be laughable years from now. Titanic is a good example.

“Titanic is a film that carries a lot of emotional content. But in a few years we will giggle that it was best picture of the year.”

Tsao doesn’t think it will be a classic 20 years from now. Titanic doesn’t even hold a candle to some of the other films from 1997: As Good As it Gets, Good Will Hunting and The Full Monty.

At last year’s 20/20 awards screenwriter Andrew Chappman listed the American Film Institutes’ 10 ten best movies of all time. Some won Oscars, some didn’t. But they’re all considered classics. They include Raging Bull, The Godfather, Citizen Cane, and Casablanca. Chappman argues that darkness and cynicism are what’s memorable.

But when you look of movies that have made the most money they are, for the most part, films with a lot of heart. Just think: The Sound of Music, E.T. and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. While these are good films, they are a little more forgettable and they all have two things in common: They are sincere and female.

“Audiences love it. But if you make films with both of those things, you run the risk of being laughed at. And that makes me a little sad.”

Dark and cynical is expected to do well at this year’s 20/20 Awards.

The films are from 1992. The Oscar for best picture that year was Silence of the Lambs starring Jodi Foster as an FBI agent in training seeking the help of killer Hannibal Lector played by Anthony Hopkins.

Twenty years later, this film still packs a punch. Word on the street is that it will take home the Felix for best picture. And if that happens this will make it the first movie to win an Oscar and a Felix.

Jennifer Wing is a former KNKX reporter and producer who worked on the show Sound Effect and Transmission podcast.