Here's a tough Oscar trivia question: Who is the only person to twice achieve the feat of receiving nominations for acting, writing and directing on the same film?
Wait. Was that not hard enough? Try naming the four worst-performing best picture winners from the past 10 years.
Trivia champions live for questions like this. That's why they flock to O'Brien's Pub in Santa Monica, Calif. Regulars such as Brad Rutter (Jeopardy!'s leading all-time money winner) and Daniel Avila (a game show staple since 1984) compete over a $75 bar tab.
These people have won hundreds of thousands of dollars — if not millions — in televised trivia contests. So why bother to hang out in this green-ceilinged Irish bar a few blocks from the beach?
Three-time Jeopardy! winner Warren Usui explains: "Some trivia places ask what sank the Titanic. Here, they ask you to name all the passengers."
Usui modestly describes himself as "better than the average bear." But movies are admittedly not his specialty. So the 60-year-old computer programmer prepared for Oscar trivia night by memorizing every single Oscar-winning best picture. In order.
Usui attends this trivia night faithfully. Adam Waldowski does not. He comes only once a year — for the Oscar quiz.
"I watch about 400 movies a year," he says. "I've seen thousands of Oscar nominees at this point. It never, ever comes in handy. Except for tonight."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Waldowski and his team — including Cliff Galiher, Josh Haroutunian, Turner Hay and Hans von Walter — are destroying everyone else at O'Brien's.
"No, no no. I know it," groans Stefan Goodreau, as quizmistress Rebecca Ward asks, "Of this year's nominees for best director, whose last three feature films all began ... with the same letter?"
Goodreau, a five-time Jeopardy! winner, correctly comes up with director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu — of Birdman, Biutiful and Babel. But he has lots of help. His team includes Tim Jones, a Ph.D. candidate studying animation history, and Jackie Fox, a trivia buff who also happens to be the former bassist of the pioneering 1970s all-female band, The Runaways. As they puzzled over such questions as, "Which is the most Oscar-nominated family?" I couldn't resist asking if they ever longed to reach for their phones and just ... Google it.
"Would you bring an atom bomb to a duck hunt?" scoffed Usui in response. But then he grew thoughtful. Right now, he said, the Oscars seems like a big deal. But in 20 years, who will care who won best actress or best picture in 2015? Only the trivia buffs, like him.
O'Brien's Irish Pub Oscar Quiz
Feb. 18, 2015
Quizmasters — Jonathan Dinerstein and Rebecca Ward
[Answers are below]
1. Name the only three best picture winners that are longer than 3 1/2 hours.
2. What is the longest-ever title of a film nominated for best picture? What is the longest title of a film nominated for best picture this year?
3. This year the same four people have won the acting awards given by BAFTA, SAG-AFTRA, and the Golden Globes (in a drama). Who are they?
4. J.K. Simmons, the odds-on favorite to win best supporting actor, currently features in two long-running television ad campaigns, one live-action, and one a voice performance. Name the two products he pitches.
5. Only twice have nonprofessional actors won acting awards. In both cases, they were portraying fictionalized versions of real war victimhood they suffered. Name the films for which they won.
6. Who is the only person to twice achieve the feat of receiving nominations for acting, writing and directing for the same film?
7. Match the films nominated for best foreign language film with their countries of origin. Films: Ida, Leviathan, Tangerines, Timbuktu, Wild Tales. Countries: Argentina, Estonia, Mauritania, Poland, Russia.
8. Which of this year's acting nominees had no speaking lines in his or her film debut in a named role? That debut performance came in a film nominated for best picture.
9. Write down the names of the following actors: Cate Blanchett, Ben Kingsley, James Cromwell, James Caan. For each one, name the film nominated for best animated feature in which they provide a voice performance.
10. Of this year's nominees for best director, two have had their last three feature films begin with the same letter. Name both.
11. In both 2011 and 2014, the same two actors appeared in Oscar-nominated films playing characters employed by MI6. Name the two actors and the two films.
12. The Black List is an annual inside-Hollywood industry survey of the most buzzed-about unproduced screenplays. Name the three films nominated for best picture this year that had previously appeared on the Black List.
13. Name the only two films for which two people shared the best director award.
14. Adjusted for inflation, four of the 10 lowest domestic grossing best picture winners of all time are films from the last 10 years. Name those four.
15. What is the most Oscar-nominated family?
16. Who is the only person to direct films that garnered nominations in all four acting categories, in back-to-back years?
17. What living person has won the most Oscars?
18. Who is the only non-Caucasian person to win best director?
19. Since the expansion of the best picture field from five to up to 10, who is the only person to be nominated for best director without his or her film also being nominated for best picture?
20. During the ceremony, the Oscar orchestra will, as usual, accompany the proceedings live. It won't, however, be anywhere inside the Dolby Theatre. Where will the orchestra be?
21. When giving your acceptance speech, how long do you have before the orchestra begins to play you off?
22. Who was the only adult person to receive an official Oscar statuette from the academy (not an Academy Juvenile Award) which was other than the standard size? (Including noncompetitive recipients)
23. Bradley Cooper has now been nominated for an acting Oscar in three consecutive years. If he is nominated again next year, he will tie a record among male actors, held by which two actors?
24. What was the first best picture winner in color?
25. What is the only Bond song to win best song?
26. According to academy rules, how long must a film be to be eligible as a feature film?
27. There are two films tied for most nominations this year, with nine each. Which actor appears in both of them?
28. What two characters have generated the most acting nominations for their portrayals? (Hint: real people)
29. I will play four audio clips of people accepting Academy Awards. For each, name the recipient.
Tiebreaker: List as many as you can of the venues in Los Angeles County that have hosted the Academy Awards.
ROUND 1 ANSWERS
1. Gone With the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia, Ben-Hur -- 1/2 point each
2. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb; Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) — 1 point each
3. Eddie Redmayne, Julianne Moore, J.K. Simmons, Patricia Arquette — 1/2 point each
4. Farmers Insurance, M&M's (voice of the yellow M&M) -- 1 point each
5. The Best Years of Our Lives (Harold Russell, hooks for hands), The Killing Fields (Haing S. Ngor, doctor oppressed by Khmer Rouge) -- 1 point each
6. Warren Beatty (Heaven Can Wait, Reds) -- 1 point
7. Ida/Poland, Leviathan/Russia, Tangerines/Estonia, Timbuktu/Mauritania, Wild Tales/Argentina — 1/2 point each
8. Robert Duvall, who played Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird -- 1 point
9. Blanchett — How To Train Your Dragon 2; Kingsley — The Boxtrolls; Cromwell — Big Hero 6; Caan — The Tale of Princess Kaguya — 1/2 point each
10. Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu (Birdman, Biutiful, Babel), Richard Linklater (Boyhood, Before Midnight, Bernie) -- 1 point each
11. Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Imitation Game — 1/2 point each
12. American Sniper, The Imitation Game, Whiplash — 1/2 point each
13. West Side Story (Robert Wise & Jerome Robbins), No Country For Old Men (Joel & Ethan Coen) -- 1 point each
14. No Country for Old Men (2007 — $88 million), 12 Years a Slave (2013 — $56 million), The Artist (2011 — $47 million), The Hurt Locker (2009 — $18 million) — 1/2 point each
15. The Newmans: Alfred (45); Randy (nephew, 20); Thomas (son, 12) -- 1 point
ROUND 2 ANSWERS
16. David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle) -- 1 point
17. Alan Menken (eight: four for song, four for score) -- 1 point
18. Ang Lee -- 1 point
19. Bennett Miller, for Foxcatcher -- 1 point
20. Playing live remotely from the Capitol Records Building -- 1 point
21. 45 seconds -- 1 point
22. In 1939, the academy awarded a special Oscar, consisting of one regular-size statuette and seven miniature ones, in recognition of the achievement of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, to Walt Disney -- 1 point
23. Marlon Brando, Al Pacino -- 1 point each
24. Gone With the Wind — 1 point
25. "Skyfall" -- 1 point
26. 40 minutes -- 1 point
27. Edward Norton (Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel) -- 1 point
28. Henry VIII (Charles Laughton, Robert Shaw, Richard Burton); Elizabeth I (Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett x2) -- 1 point each
29. Jack Palance, Adrien Brody, Joe Pesci, Anna Paquin -- 1/2 point each
Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, Ambassador Hotel, Biltmore Hotel, Grauman's Chinese Theatre, Shrine Auditorium, Academy Award Theater, Pantages Theatre, Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Kodak/Dolby Theatre
ANSWERS FOR THE CARTOON ROUND
12 Years A Slave, Around the World in 80 Days, Million Dollar Baby, It Happened One Night Theme: Numbers
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Deer Hunter, Dances With Wolves, The Silence of the Lambs Theme: Animals
Gigi, Mrs. Miniver, Rebecca, Annie Hall Theme: Women's names
The Sound of Music, Chicago, My Fair Lady, Oliver! Theme: Musicals
Forrest Gump, The Bridge on the River Kwai, How Green Was My Valley, On The Waterfront Theme: Geographical features
The French Connection, An American in Paris, American Beauty, The English Patient Theme: Nationalities
ANSWERS FOR THE DRESS ROUND
Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Julie Andrews, Barbra Streisand, Faye Dunaway, Diane Keaton
Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine, Kathy Bates, Jodie Foster, Helen Hunt
Gwyneth Paltrow, Julia Roberts, Hilary Swank, Natalie Portman, Jennifer Lawrence
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
You could call them the smartest of the smart, and each week they head to O'Brien's, an Irish pub in LA for trivia night.
BRAD RUTTER: I'm the all-time leading money-winner on "Jeopardy!"
MEGAN BARNES: I've been on "Jeopardy!" I won three games.
DAN AVILA: Actually, I've been on game shows since 1974, before you were born. I was on "Jokers Wild" and "Sale Of The Century" and "Break The Bank."
CORNISH: Dan Avila is also a "Jeopardy!" winner, just like the two you heard before him, Brad Rutter and Megan Barnes. NPR's Neda Ulaby joined these game show veterans for an annual event at the bar Oscar trivia night.
NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: O'Brien's is the kind of bar with wood paneling and worn-out vinyl stools. But here they're occupied by the likes of Stephanie Yoss, another "Jeopardy!" champion.
STEPHANIE YOSS: Well, technically a super champion.
ULABY: That's someone who's won more than five games. Many of the people crowded in the back room have won hundreds of thousands of dollars playing "Jeopardy!" Here, they're competing for a $75 bar tab.
YOSS: When I came for the "Jeopardy!" Tournament of Champions, all we could talk about was who's going to O'Brien's?
WARREN USUI: Some trivia places, they ask you, what sank the Titanic? Here they ask you, name all the passengers.
ULABY: Warren Usui won "Jeopardy!" three times. The 60-year-old computer programmer modestly says he's better than the average bear. But movies are not his specialty, so Usui prepared for Oscar trivia night by memorizing every single Oscar-winning best picture, in order.
USUI: "Wings" won in '28, "The Broadway Melody" '29, "All Quiet On The Western Front," then "Cimarron," then "Grand Hotel," then "Cavalcade," then "It Happened One Night," then, you know...
ULABY: Usui attends this trivia night faithfully. Adam Waldowski only comes once a year, for the Oscar quiz.
ADAM WALDOWSKI: I watch about 400 movies a year. I've seen thousands of Oscar nominees at this point. It never, ever comes in handy, except for tonight.
ULABY: OK, let's get to the questions. Of this year's nominees for best director, whose last three feature films all began with the same letter?
STEFAN GOODREAU: No, no, no - I know it.
ULABY: Five-time "Jeopardy!" winner Stefan Goodreau guesses correctly. The answer is director Alejandro Inarritu, of "Birdman," "Babel" and "Biutiful."
ULABY: Goodreau's playing with a group that includes a Ph.D. candidate studying animation history, and Jackie Fox, who happens to be the former bassist of the all-female 1970s band The Runaways. She and her teammates are briefly stumped by this question, who are the only non-professional actors who've won acting Oscars? Hint - they both played fictionalized victims of wars they actually survived.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Who's that guy? His name was Hodden (ph) or something...
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Haing Ngor.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I know who Haing Ngor is, but this guy, he was a...
ULABY: Haing Ngor, best supporting actor for "The Killing Fields." The team also guessed Harold Russell, who lost both hands in World War II and won an Oscar for "The Best Years Of Our Lives." The contestants also had to identify Oscar winners based on hearing their acceptance speeches.
(SOUNDBITE OF ACADEMY AWARDS SPEECH)
ANNA PAQUIN: I'd like to thank the Academy for the honor of letting me be here today. I'd like to thank Jane, Jen and Holly.
ULABY: Anna Paquin - duh. Now, most of us, if asked which is the most Oscar-nominated family, would guess maybe the Barrymores? Dan Avila, Mark May and Tim Jones knew immediately.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: It's the Newmans.
ULABY: The Newmans? Like, Paul Newman?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Alfred, and there was like, Thomas, Randy...
ULABY: Alfred, Thomas and Randy Newman - the only one I'd heard of - have almost 80 Oscar nominations between them, for music. I couldn't resist asking the players if they ever itched to just reach for their phones and Google.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: It's not fun. The challenge is gone.
ULABY: Warren Usui compared Googling to bringing an atom bomb to a duck hunt, but then he grew thoughtful. Right now, he said, the Academy Awards seem like a really big deal, but in 20 years the only people who will care who won best actress or best picture will be the trivia buffs, like him. Neda Ulaby, NPR News.
CORNISH: And you can find O'Brien's Oscar quiz at our website, at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.