When it comes to the Academy Awards®, movie buffs usually have two settings: Oscar fever, and Oscar fatigue. Journalist Steve Pond's book, The Big Show: High Times and Dirty Dealings Backstage at the Academy Awards
, is a triumph in that it manages to feed the former while keeping the latter at bay. Pond, a writer for Premiere
magazine, was granted unfettered access to the creation and behind-the-curtain world of a decade's worth of Oscar ceremonies (years 1994 to 2004). Until some brilliant reality show producer manages to sneak a camera into the green room, this is as close to an all-access backstage pass as most of us are going to get.
So getting down to brass tacks: the gossip is sort of juicy, though not particularly surprising. Russell Crowe is kind of grumpy. Madonna, told of a last minute change to her musical number, shows that a good diva never takes bad news lying down. Hoop Dreams was robbed (seriously). And ironically, a ceremony that is considered Hollywood's premiere occasion for self-aggrandizement has also tripped up certain careers. (The Uma, Oprah fallout may still be haunting Letterman.) Most of all, The Big Show is a model of efficiency; it summarizes 10 ceremonies in the time it usually takes you to sit through one. --Leah Weathersby
From Publishers Weekly
Entertainment journalist Pond (Premiere
; etc.) opens this bluntly informative look at the "negotiations and machinations, the politics, the compromises and the excesses" of the Academy Award process by discussing the legendary tastelessness of the show Allan Carr produced in 1989, a production so savaged by critics that it destroyed his reputation (it began with Snow White and Rob Lowe performing a "Proud Mary" duet, prompting a lawsuit from Disney). Pond covers Oscar's early history, including such injustices as Norma Shearer's 1930 win over Greta Garbo, a victory triggered by MGM's orders that employees vote for studio chief Irving Thalberg's wife ("What do you expect?" Joan Crawford famously commented. "She sleeps with the boss"). He devotes many pages to the disastrous choice of David Letterman as host in 1995, whose excruciating jokes ("Oprah. Uma. Uma. Oprah") and pet tricks set a ludicrous tone; and cites Madonna's profane tirades during a 1991 rehearsal. The book covers Academy campaigns over the past 15 years, and effectively dramatizes how the show changed under the leadership styles of Richard and Lili Zanuck and current producer Gil Cates. Little-known anecdotes about Bob Dylan, Barbra Streisand, Julia Roberts, Billy Crystal and Halle Berry confirm that Pond knows this backstabbing territory well, and fans of Hollywood gossip will find plenty of colorful new material.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.