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WHO Won?!?: An Irreverent Look at the Oscars: 1927-1943 (Volume 1) Paperback – November 4, 2012
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"I'm currently reading author Robert James' comprehensive history of the Academy Awards entitled Who Won?!?: An Irreverent Look at the Oscars, Volume 1 and it is hilarious and insightful." Kristen Lopez, journeysinclassicfilm.com
"I've read about half of it and enjoy all of it, even the parts that piss me off." Scott Eyman, author of Empire of Dreams: The Epic Life of Cecil B. DeMille, (2010), Louis B. Mayer: Lion of Hollywood (Simon and Schuster, 2005), Print the Legend: The Life and Times of John Ford (2001), and Ernst Lubitsch: Laughter in Paradise (2000).
"I was continually interested in the material for two main reasons: my love for film and my interest in the historical aspect associated with the Oscars. Certainly helping was the tone of the book, which mixes up the informative nature of the material with a fitting sense of humor...very much a grand accomplishment. WHO Won?!? may have "irreverent" as a part of its title, but it is also insightful and engaging, with its entertainingly opinionated regards to films that either deserved more praise or were loved too much." -- Aaron Neuwirth, whysoblu.com
"For the most well-researched and well-reasoned thoughts on who should have won the Oscars, read Robert James!" -- Michael Kerbel, director of the Yale University Film Study Center
From the Author
For those of you who buy the book, especially the Kindle, PLEASE read the footnotes marked by Arabic numerals! That's where most of the comic asides and tirades are (1,2,3,etc.).
The Roman numeral endnotes are the bibliographical information -- you can ignore those unless you want to know where the information comes from (i, ii, iii, iv, etc.).
Volume 4:1964-1977 is (tentatively) scheduled for Christmas, 2016.
Top customer reviews
Even when you disagree with the author's opinions, you'll have a ball arguing with them.
Soon to published is Volume II. I am totally onboard, and I hope you will be, too. We all
win with this book.
He is quite daring. In some cases, he not only denies the Award to the entity* that won it, he argues that the entity should not have even been nominated. He removes nominations for entities that did not win and he nominates many that were not nominated in their day, going so far as to even award them the Oscars on occasion.
*By "entity," I mean film, actor, actress, director, writers, editors, filmogrophers etc
In one case, he was not daring enough to suit me. He did not award Oscars for categories that did not yet exist. For instance, before there were supporting actor Oscars, there certainly were supporting actors. So I suggested, on Facebook, that he remedy this and he seems likely to do so. Which is great because work fascinates me. I could sit and watch it all day.
In the process of handing out plaudits and anti-plaudits, he champions genre films, especially horror movies. I admit to not being a big fan of that genre but I know that there has been greatness in that field. In a sense, my feelings about them resemble how I used to feel about bluegrass music. I knew it was difficult and that there was great talent involved but I just didn't appreciate it. Maybe I will learn to appreciate horror films in the same way I learned to appreciate bluegrass. If I do it will be partly because of this book.
He also champions the Marx Brothers and comedy in general, an area under-appreciated by the Academy. He even praises some B movies.
In a very basic way, this book reminds me of Bill James' _Historical Baseball Abstract_ and I expect that I will dip back into it many times over the years, just as I have with the baseball book. However, this book had to be more difficult because Bill James had a great deal of evidence that he could use to prove his points. The only evidence here is what we can see on the screen and many of us haven't seen all of these old films. The author does a masterful job of making a case for each decision and I enjoyed the process quite a bit.
At one point, when I read his choice for Best Film, a choice that will probably be controversial, in a year full of great films, I was sitting in a restaurant at lunch. And I stood up and shouted my approval. Fortunately, the people at Eli's on Whitney already knew I was crazy.
Dr. James is nothing if not iconoclastic, but he backs up his choices with much credibility and a ribald sense of humor. I'm in my sixth decade of following the Oscars, and I can't remember enjoying such delicious attacks and praises.
First of all, he takes you on a year-by-year review of all the nominated films/performances and adds several in each category that were overlooked by the Academy. Some of his choices are plain as day (Singin' in the Rain....hello?), others come as a surprise. You may disagree with James, but he'll make you think about his decisions. He gives a lot of information about films that I've always wondered about.
Second, he makes the journey fun. I'm sad that I now have to wait two years for Volume 4, but I know that I'll be referring to these books quite readily in the meantime.
Don't skip any of the footnotes either. They're part of the fun.