Oscar Time: Art vs. Commerce

Although all eyes will be looking forward to the results of this year's ceremony, the Oscars also provide an opportunity to take a look backward, at Oscar's past.

Back in 1928, screenwriter Ben Hecht was awarded the first Original Screenplay Academy Award, for 1927's "Underworld." Despite his Hollywood success, Hecht was skeptical about filmmaking.

"Movie making, though offering a small tax on the mind, is, of all human endeavors, the most dangerous to the nervous system. There is something about the way movies are made and the way they disappear that gives you in Hollywood the feeling that you are mysteriously wasting your time -- and not using your real talents," Hecht said to The New York Times in 1944.

Author and critic Daniel Eagan might disagree with Hecht: Eagan spent a great deal of time considering the lasting impact of certain films on the overall course of film history, by writing "America's Film Legacy: The Authoritative Guide to the Landmark Movies in the National Film Registry." While "Underworld" isn't on the National Film Registry yet, many of Hecht's other film contributions are.

Hear Eagan discuss The Docks of New York and Selected Shots in the National "Film Registry" on Monday, March 22 at Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street.

Andrew Sarris writes regularly for Film Comment. Go here to read his work."