Sunday, December 21, 2008

Four Christmases, Five Oscars

I was originally going to make this post around late November/Early December, in the weeks following the theatrical release of the above "Four Christmases", however I was distracted by this whole unpleasant law school finals business. I know it'll be difficult for all you readers out there to attempt to put yourselves back into the mindset of that long past age of innocence before crooked Illinois governors, $50 billion dollar ponzi schemes, and completely unnecessary remakes of classic science fiction movies; but we can all at least try to dream of simpler times.

If you haven't already heard, numerous reviews of "Four Christmases" made mention of the fact that no less than five acting Academy Award winners were cast in this film: Robert Duvall, Jon Voight, Sissy Spacek, Mary Steenburgen, and Reese Withersoon (sorry Dwight Yoakam, the Academy never truely appreciated your masterful supporting role in "Crank"). I found this casting factoid to be all the more fascinating given all the cramming of major entertainment award winners I did for the World Series of Pop Culture back in '06; and then I got to thinking: were there any other relatively recent films that contained at least five previous Oscar winners?

This was of course not counting Oscars won for being in that same movie or movies where the actors eventually won Oscars for future performances (like "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" which, to date, has three Best Actor Award Winners: Sean Penn, Forest Whitaker, and Nicholas Cage (still waiting for that fourth statute, Judge Reinhold)). Massive ensemble efforts like the "Ocean" movies, the Lord of The Rings Trilogy, "Saving Private Ryan", "The Thin Red Line", "Pearl Harbor", "Gosford Park","Rat Race", "Bobby", all surprisingly enough haven't had more than two winners at most in one film. Movies with three winners were more difficult to find but not exceedingly rare. Some of the more random recent movies off the top of my head that ended up having at least three winners were: "Deep Impact" (Robert Duvall, Vanessa Redgrave, Maximilian Schell); "The Royal Tenenbaums" (Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Gwyneth Paltrow)"; American Gangster" (Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Cuba Gooding Jr.); "Meet the Fockers" (Dustin Hoffman, Barbara Streisand, and Robert DeNiro); "Gone in 60 Seconds" (Robert Duvall, Nicholas Cage, Angelina Jolie); "Something's Gotta Give" (Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Frances McDormand). The last three seem to provide clear evidence that there is little correlation between having Oscar winning actors and movies being actually good.

The only movie within the last ten years or so that rivals "Four Christmases" was the 2006 Robert De Niro directed spy snoozer "The Good Shephard" which required an extended supporting cast and a 167 minute running time to fit in its five stars (Robert DeNiro, Angelina Jolie, Timothy Hutton, William Hurt, and Joe Pesci). In terms of cheap celebrity cameos, the film borders on "Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet" territory; whose gigantic cast of superfluous actors (which only manages to have an equal 5 winners as well) automatically disqualifies it in my book. The same goes to notable all star cavalcades like "Around the World in 80 Days"(5 winners, 4 future winners), "The Greatest Story Ever Told" (6 winners, 1 future winner), and "JFK" (4 winners, 1 future winner). Technically if brief cameos were allowed, I'm pretty sure the all time champ would be Robert Altman's "The Player" which has a grand total of 8 Oscar winners in addition to 4 future Oscar winners, most of whom are just playing themselves.

"Four Christmases" even stacks up well against the excesses of the genre that invented washed up Oscar winner packing, the 70's disaster movie. Despite its reputation, "The Towering Inferno" actually only had 2 Oscar winners at the time (William Holden and Jennifer Jones) along with 2 future winners (Paul Newman and Faye Dunaway). "Airport" had an impressive 4 winners (Burt Lancaster, George Kennedy, Helen Hayes, and Van Heflin) and by the second sequel, "Airport '77", had 5 (Jack Lemmon, Lee Grant, Olivia De Havilland, James Stewart, George Kennedy). The original "Posieden Adventure" had 5 winners as well (Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Red Buttons, Shelley Winters, and Jack Albertson). It also somehow took 5 Oscar winners (Olivia De Havilland, Ben Johnson, Lee Grant, Jose Ferrer, Patty Duke) and 2 future winners (Michael Caine and Henry Fonda) to make the killer bee disaster epic, "The Swarm".

Despite the lackluster reviews, the undeniable success of "Four Christmases" makes one wonder: is this the start of another disaster movie era of faded Oscar gold? However, in this case, instead of disaster movies it's fluffy, disposable comedies? Could "Meet the Fockers" and "Something's Gotta Give" be the "Earthquake" and "Hindenberg" to "Four Christmases"'s "Poseidon Adventure"? Should we expect a wave of aging Oscar winners playing the dysfunctional parents of today's "it" actors and actress? Should Louis Gossett Jr. and Mercedes Ruehl be polishing up their resumes?


  1. Any Oscar winners in Bobby? It felt like that movie starred everyone and everyone's mom.

  2. Despite the cast of thousands, only Anthony Hopkins and Helen Hunt were former winners. Nick Cannon was totally robbed in Drumline.

  3. hate to do this...

    but the time has come