ITALY AND THE OSCARS: A LONG LOVE STORY
During the Academy’s 90-year history, Italy has grabbed the coveted statue many times, triumphing in various categories and confirming itself as a genuine force in world cinematography.
Italy just loves ‘Uncle Oscar’, so much so that in almost 90 years of the award’s history, the most coveted prize in the world cinematic industry has often gone to the professionals involved in the production of Italian movies, giving rise to emotional and memorable occasions which remain forever stamped on the collective consciousness, such as Roberto Benigni’s iconic walk down the aisle after the announcement of an award for Best Foreign Film by a very excited Sophia Loren. If her joyous scream “Roberto!” still echoes in the memories of those present on that wonderful occasion, neither should we forget the tears of joy of Ennio Morricone, winner of the Best Soundtrack award for the film
“The Hateful Eight” by Quentin Tarantino, or the incredible sweetness of Federico Fellini who, accepting a Lifetime Award, while still on stage asked his wife, Giulietta Masina, not to cry in front of people. Emotions rather like in a beautiful film, expressed throughout 90 years of cinematic history, a history of us all: between Italy and the Oscars without a doubt, we’re talking about a long love story on account of the raft of successes, of which the 13 statuettes for Best Foreign Film form only a part.
THE RECORD FOR BEST FOREIGN FILM
In actual fact, Italy does indeed hold the record in this prestigious category followed by France with 12 awards and then Spain, which has won only four. The undisputed godfather of Neorealism, Vittorio De Sica, has taken four Hollywood statuettes with “Sciuscià”, “Ladri di biciclette” (Honorary Awards in 1948 and 1950) and with “Ieri, oggi e domani” and “Il Giardino dei Finzi-contini” (Oscars for best Foreign Film 1948 and 1950). Federico Fellini took 4 Oscars with his double-bill telling the history of cinema: “La Strada” (1957), “Le notti di Cabiria” (1958), “8 ½” (1964) and “Amarcord” (1975). Completing the winners list, unforgettable films such as “Indagine su un cittadino al di sopra di ogni sospetto” by Elio Petri (1971), the romantic homage to cinematic fiction offered by the nostalgic “Nuovo Cinema Paradiso”, perfectly put together by Giuseppe Tornatore (1990), “Mediterraneo” by Gabriele Salvadores (1992), the film which tells the story of Greece and Italy, imbued with sun, sky and the beautifully dazzling Mediterranean; the poetic “La vita è bella” by Roberto Benigni (1999), engaging, sweet and sad at the same time, and that great portrait of modern Italian society, with its weaknesses and decadence, sketched unsentimentally in “La Grande Bellezza” by Paolo Sorrentino (2014).
Actors, directors, scenographers, technicians, musicians, costumiers, editors and art-directors; Italy is always at the head of the line outside Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre.
BEST ACTRESSES AND BEST ACTORS: FROM MAGNANI VIA LOREN UP TO THE PHENOMENON OF BENIGNI
Both Italian actresses and actors have left their mark on Hollywood: the first Italian actress to win an Oscar was Anna Magnani with “La rosa tatuata” in 1955. Some years later in 1962 the honor passed to Sophia Loren for “La Ciociara”, but neither Magnani nor Loren were present at the awards ceremony. For the next award in this category we must wait until 1997: Roberto Benigni, apart from winning a best foreign film award, was also the first non English-speaking actor in the history of the Academy Awards to win the most important award in his category. In cinema, Italians are particularly capable not only on-screen, but also behind the camera, winning many awards down the years in technical categories and have brought home 33 statuettes.
ITALIANS: A POPULATION OF EDITORS, SET DESIGNERS AND TECHNICIANS
Let’s remember, among all others, the distinctive editing by Pietro Scalia on “Black Hawk Down”, the iconic costumes of the Rome of “La Dolce Vita”, created by Piero Gherardi, also the magnificent creations by Danilo Donati for “Romeo e Giulietta” by Zeffirelli (1968) and “Casanova” by Fellini (1976) or those of Milena Canonero, winner of two Oscars in the last few years; in 2006 for the sumptuous costumes of “Marie Antoinette” by Sophia Coppola and in 2013 for “Grand Budapest Hotel” by Wes Anderson. We’re still left in awe by the incredible sets on “Hugo Cabret” designed by the master, Dante Ferretti which, thanks to his enduring association with Francesca Lo Schiavo have won an absolute bucket-full of nominations, three Oscars for “Best Art Direction”: “The Aviator” by Martin Scorsese (2004), “Sweeney Todd” by Tim Burton (2007), and the previously mentioned “Hugo Cabret” (2011). And by the way, what about the dusty photography of “Apocalypse Now”, created by Vittorio Storaro? We’re talking about one of the biggest names in world cinema, and, thanks to his artistic marriage to Bernardo Bertolucci: Storaro has won three Oscars as best director of photography,
apart from ”Apocalypse Now” by Francis Ford Coppola, he triumphed with “Reds” by Warren Beatty (1981) and “The Last Emperor” by Bertolucci (1987). No really passionate cinephile, though, should forget the mythical “fabricator of dreams”, that magician of special effects, Carlo Rimbaldi, who brought to life both the sweet little extraterrestrial “E.T.” as told by Steven Spielberg and the cruel and ravenous alien monsters in “Alien” by Ridley Scott. So from the visual we move to the musical, in which the name Ennio Morricone resonates like a celestial melody: his is the most beautiful and fascinating music in the history of cinema and he was awarded an Oscar for lifetime achievements in 2007, before his recent second award for the soundtrack he composed for Quentin Tarantino.
ITALY, ALWAYS CENTRE-STAGE AT THE HOLLYWOOD DOLBY THEATRE
Actors, directors, scenographers, technicians, musicians, costumiers, editors and art-directors; Italy is always at the head of the line outside Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre and so we are able to happily carry on naming other celebrities and satisfied customers such as Giorgio Moroder, twice nominated for his songs linking angst ridden music to a cult pop-movie via “What a Feeling” (“Flashdance”, 1983) and “Take my Breath Away” (“Top Gun”, 1986) or the jackpot for Bernardo Bertulocci who, after being nominated for “Last Tango in Paris”, didn’t win the Oscar and in fact earned a condemnation for outraging modesty in Italy in the seventies, but with “The Last Emperor”, his Chinese saga from 1987, he cleaned up, winning best director, best film, best non-original screenplay and six others. Among so many triumphs, we mustn’t forget the sex symbols, often nominated but never winning: three nominations for starring roles went to Marcello Mastroianni (“Divorzio all’italiana”, “Una giornata particolare”, “Oci ciornie”) and one for Giancarlo Giannini (“Pasqualino Settebellezze”), one for a non-starring part to Vittorio De Sica (“Addio alle armi”). Anyway, Uncle Oscar won’t mind if we say that Italian cinema is doing well, helped by a guardian angel and manages to remain addictive with or without official recognition.
From the top: Sophia Loren and Vittorio De Sica; Jerry Lewis, Dino De Laurentiis and Federico Fellini; Anna Magnani and Yul Brynner
Marcello Mastroianni, Federico Fellini and Sophia Loren; Roberto Benigni; Giorgio Moroder; Carlo Rambaldi