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7 Great Oscar Night Surprises

Every year during Oscar season, you can always safely guess one thing: Before the awards are presented, critics will complain about how predictable the Oscars are. But while every year seems to have a few obvious results, you do get the occasional shocker. Take the 1996 awards, for example, when Lauren Bacall was expected to be named Best Supporting Actress because, frankly, she was getting old. Instead, young Juliette Binoche's name was announced, which was a problem, because she hadn't even prepared a speech. "I don't know why I got this," she apologized. "I thought Lauren would win." Yes, sometimes the Oscars can surprise. Here are some of the most memorable occasions.

1. Katharine Hepburn (1932-33)

As a young actress, Katharine Hepburn was dubbed "box-office poison," and wasn't well-liked in Hollywood, so just being nominated for Morning Glory was surprising enough. She didn't even show up to the Oscars ceremony, which she might have found entertaining. Host for the night was liberal satirist Will Rogers, joking about Republicans, Hollywood big shots, even Oscars lobbying (predating Jon Stewart's Oscar night banter by 73 years). His rudest joke, however, was reserved for the Best Actress award. Upon opening the envelope, he summoned the other two nominees, May Robson and Diana Wynyard. They rushed up excitedly, assuming that it was a tie (as had happened with the Best Actor prize the previous year). Instead, Rogers thanked them for their performances and announced that the winner was their rival, Katharine Hepburn. (Funny, perhaps"¦ but what a creep!) The stunned crowd replied with a half-hearted applause.

Hollywood later warmed to Hepburn, eventually giving her another three Oscars "“ more than any other actress. Though she never bothered to show up, Hepburn confessed in 1998 that she felt touched by her Oscars. "They gave me their respect and their affection. It was a revelation "“ the generous heart of the industry." Even after her death, she proved that she could still win Oscars, when Cate Blanchett took home a statuette for playing her in The Aviator (2004).

2. Luise Rainer (1937)

luise.jpgWhen Luise Rainer was nominated as Best Actress for The Good Earth (1937), she didn't even bother to show up to the Oscars, opting to stay home instead. She had won the previous year, and was convinced (like most people) that no actor could ever win consecutive Oscars. Besides, she was up against the revered Greta Garbo, who had never won, for her acclaimed performance in Camille. However, their boss, tycoon Louis B. Mayer, used his considerable power to get an advance peek of the winners' names on the night "“ and found that Rainer had indeed beaten the great Garbo! At the last moment, she was ordered to throw on a gown and rush to the awards ceremony, with no time even to apply her make-up. When her second victory in a row was announced, the audience was somewhat taken aback.

While it was a great honor, it didn't do her much good. Within a year, her career had fizzled. "I have often heard the Academy Award to be a bad omen," she later said. Still, she is the oldest living Oscar winner (at 99), so it's not all bad news.

3. An American in Paris (1951)

american-paris.jpgThe bookies could have made a killing during the 1951 Oscars, when it was assumed that A Streetcar Named Desire would sweep the field. Easily the favorite, it would win four Oscars, including three of the acting awards. A major upset happened, however, when the Best Director award went not to Streetcar director Elia Kazan, but to George Stevens for the long shot A Place in the Sun. Of course, the Best Director usually directs the Best Film. After this shock, all bets were off. It could go either way: A Streetcar Named Desire or A Place in the Sun. When the envelope was opened, at one of the most suspenseful Oscar nights ever, the winner was"¦ An American in Paris.

There was an audible gasp from the audience, followed by loud applause. People who were already leaving suddenly stopped near the exit, wondering if their hearing was all right. Back then, musicals never won the Oscar for Best Film. (The only exception was The Broadway Melody, way back in 1928.) Gene Kelly, the star of An American in Paris, had even been presented with an honorary Oscar that night, which is usually a consolation prize for people who will never win a "real" Oscar. Now his producer, Arthur Freed, was proudly holding one of those statuettes.

4. Grace Kelly (1954)

grace-kelly.jpgJudy Garland was a lock for the 1954 Best Actress award for the musical A Star is Born. Not only was it a fine performance, but she was one of Hollywood's best-loved stars. Most of all, this was her great comeback, after years of breakdowns and personal struggles. On the night itself, she was in hospital recovering from her latest drama: the premature birth of her son. A camera crew was at her bedside, she was wired for sound, and her hair and make-up were done for the inevitable announcement.

To everyone's shock, the Oscar instead went to 26-year-old former model Grace Kelly, for The Country Girl. To this day, critics call this one of the strangest decisions in Oscars history. Once again showing her acting prowess, Garland smiled graciously at the news, while being secretly heartbroken. Kelly would retire from acting two years later to become Princess Grace of Monaco.

5. Marisa Tomei (1992)

tomei.jpgAt the 1992 Oscars, the favorite for best supporting actress was esteemed Australian actress Judy Davis, nominated for Husbands and Wives. Still, she had some fine competition from classical British thespians Joan Plowright, Vanessa Redgrave and Miranda Richardson. With such an outstanding field, many were flabbergasted when Jack Palance opened the envelope and announced that the winner was"¦ cute young Brooklyn-born actress Marisa Tomei, for her funny performance in My Cousin Vinny. To this day, film buffs can't believe it. It was unkindly suggested that, upon opening the envelope, 74-year-old Palance didn't actually read it, but absent-mindedly repeated the name of the last nominee. For the record, many safeguards are in place to ensure that flubs don't become official results.

But how could Tomei have won against such a prestigious group? Well, the Academy is famously patriotic. The British vote would have been split "“ but as the only American nominee, perhaps it should have been surprising if Tomei had not won.

6. Roman Polanski (2002)

roman.jpgFew film directors are as notorious as the French-born, Polish director Roman Polanski. His outspoken opinions about Hollywood have upset many people. His dark and disturbing films, like Repulsion, Rosemary's Baby and Chinatown, are not exactly date movies. Oh, and he has been a fugitive from justice since fleeing the US in 1978 while facing statutory rape charges. So when he was nominated for his movie The Pianist, he was not considered a serious prospect, especially against Martin Scorsese, who (as the Academy was often reminded) still didn't have an Oscar after many years as one of Hollywood's great directors. Scorsese didn't have a lock on the award, however. As Chicago swept the field, things were looking good for Rob Marshall, director of that crowd-pleasing movie. But while Chicago would be named Best Film, it was Polanski who would take the Best Director prize "“ and despite his sordid past, this was greeted with a warm applause. Of course, he couldn't be there to accept it. His friend Harrison Ford accepted it on his behalf.

7. Marlon Brando (1972)

oscars-07.jpgLet's save perhaps the biggest surprise for last. When Brando was announced as the Best Actor winner for The Godfather, it was no surprise. Even though his Don Corleone wasn't really the lead actor (he died somewhere in the middle of the film), he was expected to win for his unforgettable performance. The surprise wasn't in the result, but in the acceptance of his award. Instead of the man himself, a Native American woman in tribal regalia introduced herself as Sacheen Littlefeather. "I'm representing Marlon Brando this evening, and he has asked me to tell you that he very regretfully cannot accept this generous award "“ and the reason for this, being the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry." After she left, to a stunned audience, presenter Clint Eastwood had to follow her. "I don't know if I should present this award on behalf of all the cowboys shot in John Ford westerns over the years," he said.

It was later reported that Littlefeather was actually an actress named Maria Cruz (she has her rebuttal here), and that Brando still received the award, displaying it proudly next to his other Oscar. Still, it goes down one of the great surprises of Oscar night history.

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15 Fun Facts About Army of Darkness
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Universal Pictures

On February 19, 1993, Army of Darkness—the third installment in Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell's Evil Dead franchise—made its way into U.S. theaters. You probably know all about Ash’s boomstick, but on the occasion of the hilarious horror comedy's 25th anniversary, it's worth a closer look.

1. ARMY OF DARKNESS ISN'T THE ENTIRE TITLE.

The film’s title is stylized onscreen as Bruce Campbell vs. Army of Darkness. This phrasing was Sam Raimi’s homage to the defunct Hollywood tradition of putting stars’ names in movie titles (like Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein)—but the studio feared the long title would confuse moviegoers, so it was shortened for official purposes to just Army of Darkness.

2. EVEN THE SHORTER TITLE WASN'T RAIMI'S FIRST CHOICE.

Army of Darkness is the third installment of the Evil Dead series and the first to take place during the Middle Ages. Raimi’s original title for Army of Darkness was The Medieval Dead.

3. BRIDGET FONDA FINALLY GOT TO WORK WITH RAIMI.

Bridget Fonda makes a cameoas Ash’s girlfriend Linda during the beginning flashback sequence. She is the third actress in three films to play Linda (following actresses Betsy Baker and Denise Bixler). Fonda—a huge Evil Dead II fan—had originally auditioned to be in Raimi’s previous film, Darkman, but didn’t get the part.

4. ASH'S CAR HAD A LOT OF SCREEN EXPERIENCE.

The 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 allegedly appears in all of Sam Raimi’s films.

5. DARKMAN MADE ARMY OF DARKNESS POSSIBLE.

Raimi wanted to make Army of Darkness immediately following 1987’s Evil Dead II, but he struggled to find funding to finish his trilogy. The financial success of Raimi’s 1990 film, Darkman, eventually convinced Universal Studios to split the $12 million budget with executive producer Dino De Laurentiis.

6. A SUBTLE SCIENCE FICTION REFERENCE PLAYS A KEY ROLE.

The words Ash must utter to safely retrieve the Necronomicon (“Klaatu verata nikto”) are actually a variation on a phrase from the original version of The Day the Earth Stood Still. In that film, “Klaatu barada nitko” is the phrase one must say to stop the robot Gort from destroying Earth.

7. THE SKELETON DEADITES WERE AN HOMAGE.

Their design is a tribute to visual effects legend Ray Harryhausen.

8. THE STAY PUFT MARSHMALLOW MAN MAKES AN APPEARANCE.

Billy Bryan, the actor who portrays the second monster in the medieval pit, also portrayed the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters.

9. SAM RAIMI'S BROTHER WORE A LOT OF HATS.

Ted Raimi—who makes cameos in all of his brother’s films—appears as three different background characters in Army of Darkness. He is first seen as a sympathetic villager, then as a dying soldier during the final battle, and, finally, as an S-Mart employee in the last scene.

10. RAIMI HAD TO FIGHT FOR AN R-RATING.

In keeping with the gory first two films in the series, Army of Darkness received an NC-17 rating from the MPAA. It was subsequently bumped down to an R rating after the filmmakers pointed out that the ostensible gore in the film was happening to skeletons.

11. PLAYING EVIL ASH WAS TOUGH FOR CAMPBELL.

It took makeup artists three hours to get Campbell ready for shooting.

12. RAIMI STORYBOARDED EVERY SINGLE SHOT IN THE MOVIE HIMSELF.

About 25 shots in the final battle are taken from storyboards originally used in the 1948 Victor Fleming film Joan of Arc, which were brought to Raimi’s attention by visual effects supervisor William Mesa. Mesa got them from a friend, who got them from Fleming himself.

13. THERE'S AN EASTER EGG FOR TREKKIES.

Star Trek fans will recognize the location where Ash learns the “Klaatu verata nikto” incantation. The scene was shot at the iconic Vasquez Rocks in Agua Dulce, California, where the famous “Arena” episode from Star Trek was also shot. The movie also shot in the Bronson Canyon area of Griffith Park in Los Angeles that served as the Batcave for the 1960s Batman television show.

14. THE STUDIO CHANGED THE ENDING.

Bruce Campbell stars in 'Army of Darkness' (1992)
Universal Pictures

The original conclusion of the film—which Universal Studios deemed too negative—featured Ash taking too much potion to get back to the present day and waking up in a future, post-apocalyptic London. The ending can be seen on subsequent director’s cuts of home video versions of Army of Darkness.

15. EVEN AFTER YEARS OF TRYING, A SEQUEL NEVER MATERIALIZED.

Beginning in 2015, Bruce Campbell reprised his role as Ash in the Ash vs Evil Dead TV series. While fans of the Evil Dead franchise love it, Raimi spent years trying to get a sequel to Army of Darkness off the ground. On the commentary track for the first season of Ash vs. Evil Dead, Raimi even shared a few of the discarded ideas he had for the film.

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6 Times There Were Ties at the Oscars
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getty images (March and Beery)/ istock (oscar)

Only six ties have ever occurred during the Academy Awards' near-90-year history. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) members vote for nominees in their corresponding categories; here are the six times they have come to a split decision.

1. BEST ACTOR // 1932

Back in 1932, at the fifth annual Oscars ceremony, the voting rules were different than they are today. If a nominee received an achievement that came within three votes of the winner, then that achievement (or person) would also receive an award. Actor Fredric March had one more vote than competitor Wallace Beery, but because the votes were so close, the Academy honored both of them. (They beat the category’s only other nominee, Alfred Lunt.) March won for his performance in horror film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Beery won for The Champ (writer Frances Marion won Best Screenplay for the film), which was remade in 1979 with Ricky Schroder and Jon Voight. Both Beery and March were previous nominees: Beery was nominated for The Big House and March for The Royal Family of Broadway. March won another Oscar in 1947 for The Best Years of Our Lives, also a Best Picture winner. Fun fact: March was the first actor to win an Oscar for a horror film.

2. BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT // 1950

By 1950, the above rule had been changed, but there was still a tie at that year's Oscars. A Chance to Live, an 18-minute movie directed by James L. Shute, tied with animated film So Much for So Little. Shute’s film was a part of Time Inc.’s "The March of Time" newsreel series and chronicles Monsignor John Patrick Carroll-Abbing putting together a Boys’ Home in Italy. Directed by Bugs Bunny’s Chuck Jones, So Much for So Little was a 10-minute animated film about America’s troubling healthcare situation. The films were up against two other movies: a French film named 1848—about the French Revolution of 1848—and a Canadian film entitled The Rising Tide.

3. BEST ACTRESS // 1969

Probably the best-known Oscars tie, this was the second and last time an acting award was split. When presenter Ingrid Bergman opened up the envelope, she discovered a tie between newcomer Barbra Streisand and two-time Oscar winner Katharine Hepburn—both received 3030 votes. Streisand, who was 26 years old, tied with the 61-year-old The Lion in Winter star, who had already been nominated 10 times in her lengthy career, and won the Best Actress Oscar the previous year for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Hepburn was not in attendance, so all eyes fell on Funny Girl winner Streisand, who wore a revealing, sequined bell-bottomed-pantsuit and gave an inspired speech. “Hello, gorgeous,” she famously said to the statuette, echoing her first line in Funny Girl.

A few years earlier, Babs had received a Tony nomination for her portrayal of Fanny Brice in the Broadway musical Funny Girl, but didn’t win. At this point in her career, she was a Grammy-winning singer, but Funny Girl was her movie debut (and what a debut it was). In 1974, Streisand was nominated again for The Way We Were, and won again in 1977 for her and Paul Williams’s song “Evergreen,” from A Star is Born. Four-time Oscar winner Hepburn won her final Oscar in 1982 for On Golden Pond.

4. BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE // 1987

The March 30, 1987 telecast made history with yet another documentary tie, this time for Documentary Feature. Oprah presented the awards to Brigitte Berman’s film about clarinetist Artie Shaw, Artie Shaw: Time is All You’ve Got, and to Down and Out in America, a film about widespread American poverty in the ‘80s. Former Oscar winner Lee Grant (who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1976 for Shampoo) directed Down and Out and won the award for producers Joseph Feury and Milton Justice. “This is for the people who are still down and out in America,” Grant said in her acceptance speech.

5. BEST SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION) // 1995

More than 20 years ago—the same year Tom Hanks won for Forrest Gump—the Short Film (Live Action) category saw a tie between two disparate films: the 23-minute British comedy Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life, and the LGBTQ youth film Trevor. Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi wrote and directed the former, which stars Richard E. Grant (Girls, Withnail & I) as Kafka. The BBC Scotland film envisions Kafka stumbling through writing The Metamorphosis.

Trevor is a dramatic film about a gay 13-year-old boy who attempts suicide. Written by James Lecesne and directed by Peggy Rajski, the film inspired the creation of The Trevor Project to help gay youths in crisis. “We made our film for anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider,” Rajski said in her acceptance speech, which came after Capaldi's. “It celebrates all those who make it through difficult times and mourns those who didn’t.” It was yet another short film ahead of its time.

6. BEST SOUND EDITING // 2013

The latest Oscar tie happened only three years ago, when Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall beat Argo, Django Unchained, and Life of Pi in sound editing. Mark Wahlberg and his animated co-star Ted presented the award to Zero Dark Thirty’s Paul N.J. Ottosson and Skyfall’s Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers. “No B.S., we have a tie,” Wahlberg said to the crowd, assuring them he wasn’t kidding. Ottosson was announced first and gave his speech before Hallberg and Baker Landers found out that they were the other victors.

It wasn’t any of the winners' first trip to the rodeo: Ottosson won two in 2010 for his previous collaboration with Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker (Best Achievement in Sound Editing and Sound Mixing); Hallberg previously won an Oscar for Best Sound Effects Editing for Braveheart in 1996, and in 2008 both Hallberg and Baker Landers won Best Achievement in Sound Editing for The Bourne Ultimatum.

Ottosson told The Hollywood Reporter he possibly predicted his win: “Just before our category came up another fellow nominee sat next to me and I said, ‘What if there’s a tie, what would they do?’ and then we got a tie,” Ottosson said. Hallberg also commented to the Reporter on his win. “Any time that you get involved in some kind of history making, that would be good.”

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