With the Oscars arriving soon I thought I would let Alec Guinness provide some perspective, or at least his opinion. Excerpted from My Name Escapes Me: The Diary of a Retiring Actor by Alec Guinness.*****
Tuesday, March 28, 1995:
"A touch of sleet and occasional light snow. Depressing. As was, I suppose, the Oscar news on the radio. I have seen none of the films or performances which were nominated, but I did see Nigel Hawthorne in the stage version of The Madness of King George III and thought him magnificent; I can't believe he would be less so on the screen. I hope he doesn't greatly care. It is the hype which has become so exasperating - and its inevitable let-down. Not much hype in 1957 when The Bridge on the River Kwai brought me an Oscar but the let-down was there sure enough. It was the Daily Express, I think, which carried a banner headline which read, 'Deborah Kerr fails for the third time.' A very English assessment. She hadn't failed in any real sense (she had several beautiful performances to her credit) - she just hadn't been handed a trophy. A race or a fight or a game can be won but to call something 'the best' in the arts is absurd. I wouldn't mind betting Dickens would fail to win the Booker Prize (too readable and too funny) and Turner the Turner Prize and poor Keats wouldn't even be considered for any poetry prize. And so on. I suggest that the givers of awards to actors, writers and artists should choose half a dozen, almost at random, and say, 'These are the people we wish to honour - equally.'"*****
Hmmm... sounds okay at first but then you're still honoring ("almost at random") a select few, subjectively, over the great multitude. So you're back to the same problem. And it's probably much easier for Guinness to muse on this having won a Best Actor Oscar already. Still, interesting thoughts to read.*
*Though not the whole book. While some, notably Sheila who knows a lot more about books than I do, like it I found it too ordinary and I suppose I wanted more discussion of the arts. I brought too much of my own expectations to it.