The year was 1976. There were no Oscar blogs, maybe a handful of "awards gurus", and, as a result, genuine mystery surrounding what films would get nominated for the Academy Awards. For twenty-nine-year-old Steven Spielberg, there was considerable hope and maybe a touch of arrogance: after all, he'd just made what was then the biggest box hit of all time in JAWS. What's more, the film was a huge critical success. So when he brags at the beginning of the below video that he's expecting eleven nominations, I'm not entirely sure he's joking.
Here's how things turned out (thanks to Keith Calder for the link)...
I can't tell if he's surprised or pissed that NASHVILLE got nominated. He does seem okay with losing his richly-deserved Best Director nomination to Federico Fellini for AMARCORD.
This was the beginning of Spielberg's odd relationship with the Academy Awards. He would get his first directing nod a couple of years later for CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, and would bounce back from the much-reviled 1941 with a nomination for RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. The Oscar was Spielberg's to lose in 1983; unfortunately, the Academy went for the well-intentioned GANDHI (directed by John Hammond himself, Sir Richard Attenborough) over E.T.
And yet the biggest snub was yet to come. In 1986, THE COLOR PURPLE received eleven nominations, only to be shut out across the board (OUT OF AFRICA won in a weak Picture field that also included KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN, PRIZZI'S HONOR and, the best of the bunch, WITNESS). At that point, Spielberg seemed destined to be the Hitchcock of his generation: a massively popular storyteller whose films are deemed too frivolous for the prestigious Academy Awards. The tepid reaction to his excellent EMPIRE OF THE SUN in 1988 all but confirmed this.
And while everything changed with SCHINDLER'S LIST in 1993, the Academy wasn't quite finished fucking with Spielberg. Though SAVING PRIVATE RYAN entered the '98-'99 awards derby as the prohibitive favorite for Best Picture, Harvey Weinstein's ferocious campaigning on behalf of SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE led to one of the biggest Oscar night stunners in film history - which was even more surprising after Spielberg won his second Best Director trophy earlier in the evening.
The saga continues tomorrow, with Spielberg's two 2011 offerings, WAR HORSE and THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN, expected to go home empty handed. But most expect he'll be right back in the running next year with LINCOLN. Perhaps, for old time's sake, he'll summon his two goofball friends from the above video (I've been trying and failing to identify those guys for the last hour*), and let someone document his elation/disappointment as the nominations come in.