Every year, NewsBreaks covers the Academy Awards (aka the Oscars, held by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences). You’d think this topic wouldn’t have much to do with libraries, but a quick Google search will show that it’s actually very common for them to acknowledge each year’s Oscars in some way, whether by posting about the nominees on their blog or hosting movie nights or other programming. After all, booklovers tend to be movie lovers (not always, but often!). It makes sense that librarians like to call attention to the Oscar-nominated movies they have in their collections and to the books the Oscar-caliber movies are based on. As you’ll see in this Spotlight, books about the Academy Awards themselves are also good options for creating programming.
Oscars Through the Years
The following is NewsBreaks’ coverage from previous Oscar seasons:
2018: Oscar Nominees Through a Librarian Lens
2019: Librarians Discuss the Oscar Nominees
The Oscars at the Library
Why Librarians Love Movies
2020: A Librarian Looks at Oscars 2020: The Same, but Different
2021: A Librarian Takes on Oscars 2021: The Diversity We Deserve (From the Year That We Didn’t)
2022: A Librarian Looks at Oscars 2022: Inclusive Stories, Exclusive Access
As for this year, you can read an in-depth take on the 2023 nominations and Oscar season at newsbreaks.infotoday.com/Spotlight/A-Librarian-Looks-at-Oscars-2023-156870.asp. Let’s see what some librarians think about the nominees and discover what one librarian is doing at his library to make Oscar season special. Maybe you’ll want to follow his example for Oscar season 2024!
This Year’s Best Pictures
Joe O’Brien, adult services and acquisitions librarian at Livingston Public Library in New Jersey, says, “What I like most about the Academy Awards is that they can bring more attention to noteworthy films that might not otherwise get seen by a large audience.” To that point, they are the curator of their library’s movie screenings, which give patrons a chance to discover new films. Last summer, the Best Picture nominees screened at the library were King Richard, Nightmare Alley, Drive My Car, and West Side Story.
This year’s Best Picture nominees are All Quiet on the Western Front, Avatar: The Way of Water, The Banshees of Inisherin, Elvis, Everything Everywhere All at Once, The Fabelmans, Tár, Top Gun: Maverick, Triangle of Sadness, and Women Talking. O’Brien says, “While the Academy still has progress to make regarding diversity in some respects, I do think that this year’s Best Picture nominees do offer great diversity in terms of genre and style. In addition to the typical kinds of dramas we’d expect to see, like Tar and The Banshees of Inisherin, there are also crowd-pleasing blockbusters like Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way of Water—not to mention, the most-nominated of these films, Everything Everywhere All at Once, is a unique mash-up of family drama, absurdist comedy, science fiction, and action-adventure.” They haven’t seen all 10 nominees, but their favorites of the year are Everything Everywhere All at Once and The Banshees of Inisherin. They share, “I think either film would be a worthy Best Picture winner, but I’m rooting for Everything more because of how different and original it is.” In fact, O’Brien gave patrons a chance to find that out for themselves when the library screened Everything Everywhere on Jan. 24.
Lisa Palmer, reader services coordinator at Mid-Continent Public Library in Missouri, also likes that the Oscars spread awareness of lesser-known movies, even the so-called Oscar snubs. She says, “Reviewing the nomination list is a great opportunity to discover movies I may not have noticed otherwise, broadening my viewing selections based on technical as well as artistic merit. An added advantage is that the nomination release is a springboard into media attention for movies that didn’t make the final cut. I’ve found some great films this way.” She notes that the Academy needs to continue to pay attention to efforts to increase diversity in the nominations: “Changes are happening, but there is still much to do if you want to stay relevant to the audience.” She cites the lack of Oscar love for The Woman King as disappointing, because it “was a box office success, received awards and acclaim but zero Academy nominations.”
Overall, Palmer says this year’s crop of Best Picture nominees is strong—it’s a mix of “box office successes, varied in genre, and each film has its own worthy merit to be a part of this list. This is the type of list I like to see, where there are frontrunners but no absolutely clear winner.” That being said, she’s rooting for The Banshees of Inisherin. The following are her takes on some of the nominees:
- The Banshees of Inisherin—a solid story. Set during the end of the Irish Civil War, two lifelong friends are suddenly at an impasse when one ends their friendship. You’re invested in seeing how this unravels, and it pulls emotions from its audience.
- Elvis—Austin Butler has done an incredible job bringing the legendary icon to life. Elvis is a musical theatre-meets-film mashup, and Baz Luhrmann is a “go big or go home” director who dazzles and entertains with colors, shapes, music, movement, and much more.
- Everything Everywhere All at Once—This sci-fi action movie picked up the most nominations and is a favorite to win big. Michelle Yeoh is incredible—her acting morphs with perfection—and is my pick for Best Actress.
- The Fabelmans—Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical story is definitely a love letter to the movies. With lots of heart, and in true Spielberg form, you come away feeling inspired.
- Top Gun: Maverick—Thirty years later, Top Gun returns and I wasn’t expecting much from a sequel, but I was surprised at how this supersedes. The stunt work and visual effects are seamless, and the storyline is emotional. You’re invested in Maverick’s story and the mission that lies ahead.
Dan Lodge, adult services librarian at Dearborn Public Library in Michigan, admits, “This is one year that I haven’t seen a lot of the Oscar-nominated films! The list of Best Picture nominees are a great mix of independent productions, foreign films and blockbuster movies. Honestly I would be happy no matter which film gets Best Picture.” Lodge’s love of movies and the Academy Awards dates back to childhood: “Way long ago, the Oscars broadcast used to start at 10pm in the Eastern Time Zone. I made a deal with my mom one year so that I could watch the show: I went to bed at 6pm, got up at 10pm to see the show, went back to bed after the show, and got up in the morning for my paper route.”
The Oscar Season at Dearborn Public Library
Lodge says that when Dearborn Public Library was closed during the pandemic, he organized some virtual author talks for the library. A popular one was with Peter Gethers, author of the book Paul Newman: The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man. (View it on YouTube.) When he heard of two new Oscars-related titles coming out in late 2022 and early 2023—The Academy and The Award: The Coming of Age of Oscar and The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences by Bruce Davis and Oscar Wars: A History of Hollywood in Gold, Sweat, and Tears by Michael Schulman—“it was very easy to put two and two together to create our Events when I saw Mr. Davis’ and Mr. Schulman’s books; it’s a perfect way for patrons to learn more about a fun subject,” says Lodge. Check out the flier in the upper-right corner of this article (click for the full view) for a concise explanation of Dearborn Public Library’s 2023 Oscar events.
The city of Dearborn issued a news release promoting the author talks. It states, “In anticipation of the upcoming 2023 Academy Awards, the Dearborn Public Library is providing the opportunity to go in-depth on all things Oscars and the history of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences with two virtual author talks, on Zoom and open to the public.” Author Davis, who was executive director of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for 20 years, “tells a revealing and compelling story of the people, famous and infamous, who shaped a marginal organization that teetered on the brink of bankruptcy, into what became a juggernaut in the entertainment industry, and a major cultural institution.” Author Schulman, of The New Yorker, writes a “narrative-driven and selective” book; “each of the book’s eleven chapters takes a deep dive into a particular year, category or conflict that represented a turning point for the Oscars, for Hollywood, or for the culture at large.”
Davis is speaking on Feb. 16 at 6:30 p.m. EST, and Schulman is speaking on March 2, also at 6:30. Anyone can attend these virtual talks, as long as they register at Dearborn Public Library’s events calendar first. (Those who are interested in attending can also register via direct links to Davis’ and Schulman’s talks.) Library locals can attend in person at the Henry Ford Centennial Library branch’s auditorium, where the Zooms will be streamed live. The library will have copies of the books on hand to sell on and around the dates of the events.
Dearborn Public Library’s Oscar Contest
Dearborn Public Library is also hosting an online Oscar Contest for 2023 that is running Jan. 30–March 10. Library cardholders can submit their predictions for five major award categories—Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress—via Google Forms. The grand prize, given to the participant who guesses the most categories correctly (there is a tiebreaker option, using Best Film Editing), is a box of movie candy, popcorn, a DVD of The Fabelmans, and two tickets to see any movie at the local movie theater chain, Emagine.
In the events calendar entry for the start of the contest, a link to dearbornlibrary.org/library-card is provided to help anyone interested get a library card so they can participate. Lodge says, “It’s been many years since the Library has held an Oscar Contest. My hope, with the Contest, is that patrons will have fun and find out about all the resources that we have to offer!”
Flier courtesy of Rylie Butner, Dearborn Public Library’s marketing specialist