How Are Each Year's Oscar Presenters Chosen?

Kevin Winter, Getty Images
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

There's no moment more dramatic at the Academy Awards than those few seconds when the presenter opens that envelope and reads the name of the winner. For that brief pause, the presenter is probably the most important person in the film industry. But how are they chosen? Is it random, is there a tradition involved, or does the presenter have a relationship with the inevitable winner? As with most things, the answer is a bit of everything.

In 2012, Entertainment Weekly set out to debunk the myth that presenters usually had some sort of relationship with the winners. This isn’t a conspiracy theory of magic bullet proportions, but the article did find some evidence that was too coincidental to be left to chance. How else can you explain Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg presenting the Best Director award to Martin Scorsese in 2007? It’s well known that these four have a long history together and changed the movie industry forever back in the 1970s and ‘80s.

The article also points to other pieces of evidence, like Barbra Streisand awarding Clint Eastwood the Best Director award for both Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby, and more than a few winners being presented awards by former co-stars. But these instances are few and far between: At the time the article was written, a presenter with a connection to a winner seemed to happen about 12 percent of the time. And, as the article points out, who knows how many of those just happened to be a coincidence—Reese Witherspoon presenting her American Psycho co-star Christian Bale with a Best Supporting Actor award for The Fighter isn’t exactly the type of wink-wink, nudge-nudge Easter egg that most people will really pay attention to. (Let's not forget that the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon theory is also at work here.)

There are also instances in which the reverse comes true—like when Harrison Ford presented the award for Best Picture to Shakespeare in Love rather than Saving Private Ryan, which would have allowed him to give the gold to his Indiana Jones helmsman Steven Spielberg.

So, then, how are the presenters chosen in most other instances? Film critic and historian Carrie Rickey gave the following answer on Quora:

"Traditionally, best actor from the prior year presents best actress and vice-versa; the best supporting actress of the prior year presents supporting actor and vice-versa. (Sometimes the prior award winners are making a film and can't be there.)

"A sprinkling of other acting nominees (since they will be there) will present non-acting awards.

"Typically the producers try to get the stars of the top box-office movies to present and get a spectrum of [new] and established performers."

Rickey also said that well-known foreign stars like Christoph Waltz and Penélope Cruz will usually have a spot presenting (Baby Driver star Eiza González will be one of 2018's presenters), as will musical acts when it comes to the award for Best Original Song.

So the answer comes down to a bit of everything: star power, tradition, national intrigue, and perhaps (if you believe in conspiracy theories) even a relationship between the presenter and the recipient. If you're taking bets on winners, you could possibly factor these relationships in, but you might wind up with another Shakespeare in Love switcheroo.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

Celebrate the Holidays With the 2020 Harry Potter Funko Pop Advent Calendar

Funko
Funko

Though the main book series and movie franchise are long over, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter remains in the spotlight as one of the most popular properties in pop-culture. The folks at Funko definitely know this, and every year the company releases a new Advent calendar based on the popular series so fans can count down to the holidays with their favorite characters.

SIGN UP TODAY: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping Newsletter!

Right now, you can pre-order the 2020 edition of Funko's popular Harry Potter Advent calendar, and if you do it through Amazon, you'll even get it on sale for 33 percent off, bringing the price down from $60 to just $40.

Funko Pop!/Amazon

Over the course of the holiday season, the Advent calendar allows you to count down the days until Christmas, starting on December 1, by opening one of the tiny, numbered doors on the appropriate day. Each door is filled with a surprise Pocket Pop! figurine—but outside of the trio of Harry, Hermione, and Ron, the company isn't revealing who you'll be getting just yet.

Calendars will start shipping on October 15, but if you want a head start, go to Amazon to pre-order yours at a discount.

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Are Halloween Pumpkins Edible?

Diane Helentjaris, Unsplash
Diane Helentjaris, Unsplash

When people visit their local family-owned pumpkin patch around Halloween, they aren’t usually looking for dinner. The majority of the nearly 2 billion pounds of pumpkins cultivated in the U.S. each year are carved up instead of eaten, making the squash a unique part of the agriculture industry. For people who prefer seasonal recipes to decorations, that may raise a few questions: Are the pumpkins sold for jack-o’-lanterns different from pumpkins sold as food? And are Halloween pumpkins any good to eat?

The pumpkins available at farms and outside supermarkets during October are what most people know, but that’s just one type of pumpkin. Howden pumpkins are the most common decorative pumpkin variety. They’ve been bred specifically for carving into jack-o’-lanterns, with a symmetrical round shape, deep orange color, and sturdy stem that acts as a handle. Shoppers looking for the perfect carving pumpkin have other options as well: the Racer, Magic Wand, Zeus, Hobbit, Gold Rush, and Connecticut field pumpkin varieties are all meant to be displayed on porch steps for Halloween.

Because they’re bred to be decoration first, carving pumpkins don’t taste very good. They have walls that are thin enough to poke a cheap knife through and a texture that’s unappealing compared to the squashes consumers are used to eating. “Uncut carving pumpkins are safe to eat; however, it's not the best type to use for cooking,” Daria McKelvey, a supervisor for the Kemper Center for Home Gardening at the Missouri Botanical Garden, tells Mental Floss. “Carving pumpkins are grown for their large size, not the flavor. Their flesh can be bland and the fibers are very stringy.”

To get the best-tasting pumpkins possible this autumn, you’re better off avoiding the seasonal supermarket displays. Many pumpkin varieties are bred especially for cooking and eating. These include Sugar Pie, Kabocha, Jack-Be-Little, Ghost Rider, Hubbard, Jarrahdale, Baby Pam, and Cinderella pumpkins. You can shop for these varieties by name at local farms or in the produce section of your grocery store. They should be easy to tell apart from the carving pumpkins available for Halloween: Unlike decorative pumpkins, cooking pumpkins are small and dense. This is part of the reason they taste better. McKelvey says. “[Cooking pumpkins] are smaller, sweeter, have a thicker rind (meatier), and have less fibers, making them easier to cook with—but not so good for carving.” These pumpkins can be stuffed, blended into soup, or simply roasted.

If you do want to get some culinary use out of your carving pumpkins this Halloween, set aside the seeds when scooping out the guts. Roasted with seasonings and olive oil, seeds (or pepitas) from different pumpkin varieties become a tasty and nutritious snack. Another option is to turn the flesh of your Halloween pumpkin into purée. Adding sugar and spices and baking it into a dessert can do a lot to mask the fruit’s underwhelming flavor and consistency.

Whatever you do, make sure your pumpkin isn’t carved up already when you decide to cook with it. There are many ways to recycle your jack-o’-lanterns, but turning them into pie isn’t one of them. "If one does plan on cooking with a carving pumpkin, it should be intact,” McKelvey says. “Never use one that's been carved into a jack-o'-lantern, otherwise you could be dealing with bacteria, dirt and dust, and other little critters.”