Mo Rocca Yearns For Yesteryear's Oscars

mo rocca sunday morning
Sunday Morning correspondent Mo Rocca remembers when the Oscars used to be special. Today, he just feels "Eh" about them.

And the nominees for the Best "Way to describe how I feel about the Oscars" are: excited, nervous, jittery, elated and "...Eh."

And the winner is ... "Eh."

I used to love watching the Oscars. The first telecast I remember was in 1981. That year my parents let me see my first R-rated movie, "Ordinary People," and it was nominated for Best Picture. I had a dog in the fight so my parents let me stay up and watch Johnny Carson host till the wee hours of the morning.

The whole event seemed otherworldly in it grandeur, the stars larger than life. Sissy Spacek won for portraying country music great Loretta Lynn, Robert DeNiro for playing boxing champ Jake Lamotta. Both Loretta Lynn and Jake Lamotta were in the audience — legends in their own right who'd come to Hollywood's Mt. Olympus to pay homage.

Fours years later the star power was blinding, with Cary Grant presenting a lifetime achievement award to Jimmy Stewart Gene Kelly was there and Lord Laurence Olivier presented best picture to "Amadeus."

The Oscars were special then. Audrey Hepburn or Ingrid Bergman would float across the stage to present an award, then disappear from our TV screens for the rest of the year.

These days the show makes up for a lack of wattage with montages of yesterday's greats. Lots of montages. Tonight don't be surprised if they end the program with a montage of all the montages seen throughout the evening. (By the way, am I the only one who feels badly for the people who don't get much applause during the dead people montage?)

You'd think the event would be bigger than ever in a country so obsessed with celebrity. But that may precisely why it all seems smaller. The tabloid Us Weekly has a section called "Stars ... They're Just Like Us." Photos of Joaquin Phoenix cleaning his car, Reese Witherspoon sucking down a smoothie, Nicolette Sheridan sniffing cilantro, Keanu Reeves picking spare change up off the ground. Louis B. Mayer must be spinning in his grave.

With all the problems in the world right now, I know it's a silly thing to dwell on — but I don't really want Hollywood's biggest stars to be just like us. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy that I live in a democracy, without a royal family. But come on, we all want to dream, to imagine lives lived in brilliant Technicolor, in epic CinemaScope dimensions, with a grand score by Max Steiner sweeping us to new heights. Isn't that why we go to the movies?