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Oscar, The

Reviewed By Rob Gonsalves
Posted 12/15/08 15:58:39

"Feels longer than the actual Oscars."
2 stars (Pretty Crappy)

Before you ask: No, "The Oscar" didn't win one. It was nominated, though, for Best Art Direction/Set Direction and Best Costume Design (by Edith Head, who appears here as herself much to her chagrin, I presume). The Razzies weren't around in 1966, but if they had been, this notorious flop would've garnered a few.

Among other things, The Oscar was bad enough to effectively kill Harlan Ellison's career as a movie screenwriter (he continued to work in TV). Two others, including the director, have their names on the script, yet nobody but Ellison could have penned such ornately ludicrous dialogue; he can be a powerful, intense writer, but he can't write anything that sounds like human beings would say it, and the attempts at urbane banter here fall flat on their asses and straight through the floor. Try this exchange on for size:

Kay Bergdahl: I am the end result of everything I've ever learned, all I ever hope to be, and all the experiences I've ever had.
Frankie Fane: How many experiences have you had?
Kay Bergdahl: None.

Or this bit of narration:

You finally made it, Frankie! Oscar night! And here you sit, on top of a glass mountain called "success." You're one of the chosen five, and the whole town's holding its breath to see who won it. It's been quite a climb, hasn't it, Frankie? Down at the bottom, scuffling for dimes in those smokers, all the way to the top. Magic Hollywood! Ever think about it? I do, friend Frankie, I do...

Oh, Harlan.

As for the plot, it involves seedy bastard Stephen Boyd on his odyssey from struggling nobody to ruthless movie star. The movie is preoccupied with Boyd's rise to the top and his terror of losing it all; it may be the quintessential Hollywood movie, except that it was greeted with guffaws on sight and decades later remains a camp favorite in some quarters. Elke Sommer (as Boyd's wife) and Tony Bennett (as his sad-sack buddy, who gets the job of delivering the above overripe narration; the experience understandably scared him away from film acting forever) headline a cast full of slumming stars making cameos. The best performance is probably by Milton Berle in a straight, non-mugging turn as Boyd's agent.

For some reason perhaps because it's out of print the videocassette has an asking price of $50 or higher on places like half.com. See if your library can get you a copy, if you really must see it.

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