Ranking the Late, Great Gilbert Cates's 14 Oscar Ceremonies, From 1990 to 2008

Say what you will about the legacy, taste and accomplishments of Gilbert Cates, the veteran producer and director who died today at age 77, but few people over the last quarter-century had more influence over the public perception of the Academy Awards. Maybe eight-time host Billy Crystal -- except that 14-time producer Cates was responsible for hiring him.

Among those 14 Cates-produced Oscarcasts -- more than any other producer in the show's 83-year history -- is a trove of milestones, meltdowns, snafus, poignancy and otherwise peerless instants Hollywood history. Movieline looks back now at each, ranking Cates's work and its impact on the Oscars, its attendees, its viewers, its organizers and the world as a whole. Re-order as you like in the comments.

14. 63rd Academy Awards (1991)

Host: Billy Crystal

Most Remembered For: Kevin Costner's Dance With Wolves punking Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas for both Best Director and Best Picture.

Highlight: Maybe not a "highlight" per se, but the Best Director presentation has everything: Tom Cruise butchering "Good Fellows," Scorsese clapping with resignation, and Costner's quaint tribute to Michael Ovitz, his wife and children, and his parents --in that order.

13. 62nd Academy Awards (1990)

Host: Billy Crystal

Most Remembered For: The utterly unremarkable run of Driving Miss Daisy to Best Picture. Helmer Bruce Beresford was snubbed by the Academy, prompting Crystal to quip in his opening song, "Did Driving Miss Daisy direct itself?"

Highlight: While many purists would lean toward Steven Spielberg and George Lucas's presentation of an Honorary Oscar to Japanese auteur Akira Kurosawa, I'll stand by the awarding of Best Original Song to Alan Menken and his late partner Howard Ashman for "Under the Sea." It was everything great, poignant and powerful that the Oscars stand for -- not to mention weird, featuring presenters, um, Paula Abdul and Dudley Moore:

12. 80th Academy Awards (2008)

Host: Jon Stewart

Most Remembered For: Nobody watching it.

Highlight: Dark horse Best Actress winner Marion Cotillard's thrilled, emotional acceptance speech (sadly not embeddable, but available here.)


11. 65th Academy Awards (1993)

Host: Billy Crystal

Most Remembered For: Incumbent Supporting Actor winner Jack Palance hauling Crystal onstage aboard a huge Oscar. (Palance's IMDB credit for the night actually reads "Himself - Presenter: Best Actress in a Supporting Role & Pulling Billy Crystal on giant Oscar")

Highlight: It took them a while to get to their actual introduction, but Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni's Honorary Oscar presentation to Federico Fellini -- and the maestro's subsequent speech ("I didn't expect this, but maybe I did!") -- narrowly edge out a night that also saw Elizabeth Taylor collect the Hersholt Humanitarian Award and a WTF performer roster including Placido Domingo, Sheila E., Natalie Cole and Nell Carter. Bonus: Watch for Robert Downey Jr.'s glassy-eyed equanimity in the standing ovation.

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  • miles silverberg says:

    I think Stewart's first reaction to Three Six Mafia was even more priceless: "You know what? I think it just got a little easier out here for a pimp!" Also, Three Six Mafia included Cates in their list of thank-yous. We'll miss you, Gil.

  • Dimo says:

    Oh man, I love watching all these clips... But how could you not include at least one of those fantastic Debble Allen choreographed dance numbers? Those were a Gil Cates staple!

  • cjodell12 says:

    I agree with putting the 66th ceremony (1994) at the top. SO much stuff happened that year.

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