Art Carney ruined everything

Pax Arcana

art_carneyArt Carney was a pioneer in the early days of television, practically inventing the sit-com “wacky neighbor” and playing the dimwitted but loyal sidekick to Jackie Gleason in the groundbreaking 1950s show The Honeymooners.

He is also, according Joe Horton at Gelf Magazine, the guy who completely ruined the Academy Awards.

Here is why:

In 1974, Carney was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for Harry and Tonto, a movie about a guy driving around with a cat or something. He was up against some stiff competition — Al Pacino for The Godfather II, Jack Nicholson for Chinatown, Dustin Hoffman for Lenny, and Albert Finney for Murder on the Orient Express — so nobody expected Carney to take home the prize.

But he did:

As the winner is announced—back when presenters said “and the winner is…”, before that was deemed too emotionally damaging for insecure actors to hear that they were losers and was changed to “and the Oscar goes to…,”—an audible gasp runs through the Chandler crowd when Carney’s name is called and he literally jumps and skips up to the stage to accept his prize.

According to Horton, Carney’s surprise win sparked a daisy chain of “make-up” awards that has yet to abate. Nicholson was given the award the next year for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, beating out Pacino’s performance in Dog Day Afternoon. Hoffman was awarded in 1979 for Kramer vs. Kramer, also at the expense of Pacino. Eventually the academy had to give Pacino something, so in 1992 he won for Scent of a Woman — one of the most ridiculous on-screen performances ever.

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“Remember, Chris — acting is basically just yelling while looking down. HOOOOAAH!”

To give Pacino his long-overdue award that year, the academy had to ignore Denzel Washington in Malcolm X and Robert Downey Jr. in Chaplin — both of which could easily have won.

You can see where this is going, right?

So Washington and Downey, Jr., go home robbed, and a string of strange consequences ensue. Washington comes up for consideration seven years later with The Hurricane, loses, and returns in 2001 for his turn as crooked cop Alonzo Harris in Training Day. Oddsmakers had him behind Russell Crowe’s widely-praised career performance in A Beautiful Mind, his third of three consecutive nominations. But the Carney Consequence—with assists from Crowe’s highly-publicized awards temper tantrums and affinity for brawling in the months leading up to the ceremony—claims another victim.

Crowe is leapfrogged by the “overdue” Washington on a night when the Academy goes all-out to make amends for its shameful historical paucity of winners of color. After recognizing barrier-shattering Sidney Poitier with an honorary Oscar, a hysterical Halle Berry stuns the audience with a Best Actress victory that left some, including Angela Bassett and Time critic Richard Corliss, scratching their heads. In her wake, Berry left Nicole Kidman and Renée Zellweger empty-handed, who would each—surprise, surprise—score Carney Consequence carryover wins in the next two years.

There’s plenty more,  including the theory that Carney’s surprise win doomed comedian-turned-serious actors. Sure, Robin Williams won a supporting actor Oscar for Good Will Hunting, but plenty more have been overlooked. Consider Jim Carrey’s tremendous performance in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which didn’t even merit a nomination.

Basically, Art Carney ruined everything by shifting the focus of Academy voters away from the actual performances and toward what it means for a particular person to win the award. And for that he should be hanged. Wait — according to Wikipedia he’s already dead. I guess we’ll just have to burn his body then.

As a side note, see if you can guess who wrote Art Carney’s Wikipedia entry:

Carney was succeeded in show business by his grandson, Devin Richardson Carney, star of Old Saybrook theatre productions, including a stint as Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music and a commanding performance as Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls. Today, Devin Richardson Carney limits his theatrical work to performing in the Ardmore Road Rock Band in West Hartford, Connecticut, where he plays backup guitar for Nick Bombace.

Give up? I’ll give you a hint — it rhymes with Bevin Krichardson Blarney.

The Carney Consequence [Gelf]
Art Carney [Wikipedia]



Filed under entertainment

11 responses to “Art Carney ruined everything

  1. Eternal Sunshine is my favorite movie.

  2. meg

    sorry to disappoint all 5 of your readers, but bevin krichardson blarney isn’t to blame — it was a prank i, as one of his roomates, chose to play on him. so devin, if you’re reading this… gotcha!

  3. Well played, Meg. But I’m afraid I have to correct on you on one thing — we now have 6 readers. Of course that’s counting you (fingers crossed).

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  5. Art Carney gave a great performance and deserved his Oscar

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  8. Justin

    Wow…Mister PaxArcana, you…there are words appropriate for this blog, but they will likely just lead to a troll war…Sooo…you just seriously need to get laid.

  9. jake

    there is a chance too that with so many awesome performances that year the vote could have been split leaving Carney with the most sympathetic old guy votes. let’s not even get into how many years Scorsese got screwed by the academy after Raging Bull lost.

  10. I was watching that Oscars show and could not believe it when Art Carney won. He was fine in Harry and Tonto but Pacino and Nicholson were brilliant in films that became classics. Hoffman and Finney were also outstanding in their roles. It wasn’t as if they threw it to Carney for lifetime achievment as he was primarily a TV and stage actor.

  11. there have been more unbelivable wins–Roberto Beningni over Nick Nolte for instance–hey where’s the make good for that one??? heck i’m still pulling for a make good for Bill Murray who should’ve so won over Sean Penn’s over acting in Mystic River.

    its not a perfect system but sometimes it works. Crowe and Washington both won best actor–sure it could be argued that they each won for the wrong movie, but they both won a best actor trophy–who cares if it was for the wrong movie??? (for the record i liked denzel in trainning day and crowe was damn effective in gladiator–a performance that wears well every time i run into on tnt every so often. Also what’s wrong with Al Pacino winning for Scent of a Woman??? Does he overdo it? sure–was it one of his most memorable performances? one that people even today–more then 20 years later still think of when thinking of him? you better believe it! therefore i would argue time has proven that win historically right! Again these things just have a way of working out eventually, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time, altho i’m still kinda puzzled over how American Beauty and Kevin Spacey walked away with their wins back when. But for every one that truly puzzles they are at least few and far between. For instance I’m still glad that Adrian Brody won over Daniel Day Lewis for Gangs of Ny–as well as everyone else in that catagory actually….for that was an excellently unforseen win and one that definitely deserved it! see surprises can work both ways too!)

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