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The Big Show: High Times and Dirty Dealings Backstage at the Academy Awards Hardcover – December 23, 2004

4.3 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; 1st edition (January 12, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571211933
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571211937
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #898,589 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By M J Heilbron Jr. VINE VOICE on March 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Steve Pond's "The Big Show" belongs on the bookshelf of everyone with any interest in the Academy Awards.

I've read pretty much all the books on the Oscars, and this is one that really doesn't compare to any other. Most of what I was reading here I was hearing for the first time. This books complements every other account of the show, because this is the first book to actually tell the story about the show itself, not the movies or stars.

Trust me when I say you have no idea how incredibly difficult it is to put this television show together. Unless, of course, you've been there.

It's surprisingly well written; it's a easy fast read.

It's gossipy, but pleasantly so, and often funnier than all get out.

My favorite Oscar book is still "Inside Oscar" (the first one...as the second is a bit more vitriolic and less, oh, affectionate...) but THAT book and THIS book are the only ones I will read more than once. "Inside Oscar" gives us an account of the year in film, and then goes through the telecast, followed by events that happened in the weeks to months after the show. Here, you get that crucial few days right before the show, and then all the fascinating details surrounding what you actually saw on TV. They're a perfect fit.

Each chapter is a year, covering the process of putting on the Oscar telecast: how are the seat-fillers handled; who makes those decisions for those horrible dance pieces; how much thought is put into set design (a lot, but not all the time...)...the stories behind the rehearsals I found to be the most interesting of all.

This period covers the switch from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion shows/Shrine shows to the Kodak Theater.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Utterly fascinating look at the Academy Awards TV show--how they're put together and aired. It starts off with a quick and very fun chapter about how the awards got started and why. Then it covers--step by step--five or six Academy award shows from the late 1990s to the early 2000s. This is not a tell all book trashing stars (although a few come off as real jerks) and there is no critical analysis of the films nominated and winners. This shows the producers, directors, writers and hosts all chronicling how they prepare each show and the various crises that arise. As a faithful watcher of the awards shows since 1980 I found this book absolutely fascinating. It moves along at a brisk pace and there's never a let-up. When the book was over I was disappointed. I wanted MORE! :) A great book that any Academy Award or movie fan will love.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I am very interested in the Oscars and saw this book at the library. The first chapter, so well-written, drew me in as it told about Allan Carr and his disastrous Snow White turn producing the show. By the time I finished the book, which is very long with tiny type, I knew quite a bit more about the inner workings of the show. The egos. The terrible choices for hosts. (Letterman and more). The prima donnas. The outlandish sets. The ridiculous dance numbers. The producers who are given the task, try to please everyone, and really can't handle it. There is a certain repetitiveness to the book that made me not give it 5 stars.

There wasn't much in the way of high times and dirty dealings, as the title promises, but I did enjoy this book about, to paraphrase a comment by Randy Newman, an annual event that's better than a really bad vaudeville show.
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Format: Hardcover
Show biz buffs will enjoy the tidbits and quotes here from Oscar show vets like Marc Shaiman, who provided musical accompaniment for Billy Crystal's medleys before becoming a nominee himself.

But this book is probably best enjoyed as a companion to the two Inside Oscar books (consulted, we learn here, by at least one Academy Awards producer in the last decade). Niether makes the others obsolete, but you get something from each that you don't get from the other.

The experience of reading the Inside Oscar books is like getting good dish from one or two well-informed but bitchy friends as you sit and watch the televised Oscar ceremonies together. Something of an outsiders view, in other words, however compelling (and broader in scope). Because Steve Pond was granted "behind the curtain" access, The Big Show is more like a report from a relative insider, with a notebook open wide and ears open wider.

Being relative, that insider's perspective only goes as far as it goes, however, and one suspects Pond was kept away from, or perhaps sworn to secrecy about, anything really juicy. But there's enough here for Academy Awards viewers to chew on during that boring musical number or endless commercial break.
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Format: Hardcover
I would've enjoyed this book more if it had been fact checked a little more diligently. It claims 'Billy Elliot' was nominated for a single award, when it actually received three nominations, and says the last time a sweep occured before 'LOTR: Return of the King' was 'Gigi' in 1958, when in fact it was 1987's 'The Last Emperor'.

If it can get details like this wrong, it's easy to believe that other, less checkable, stories might be false as well.
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