The Oscars are on Sunday, and I think we can all agree that the best movies always revolve around estates and trusts. Just look at the plot of my favourite Best Picture nominee this year:
After an eventful career and life, the family patriarch suddenly passes away. Heartbroken and feeling responsible, his son (our hero) struggles as he takes his father’s place. His father’s estate was massive and contained very valuable intellectual property.
Our hero’s long lost cousin comes out of the woodwork and makes a claim on the estate. Considering the jurisdiction where the story takes place, the claim is valid and both sides have to battle it out. The cousin satisfies the necessary legal conditions and inherits everything. The ramifications are significant and a huge family conflict results.
And then there are 2 Black Panthers and they fight and it’s pretty awesome.
Not all of the drama is happening onscreen though, because estate issues with the Oscar trophy itself seem to be coming up more and more. All of the winners this Sunday will be signing an agreement with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences stating that they have no rights in the copyright or goodwill of the Oscar statue. As per Oscar Regulations:
Award winners shall not sell or otherwise dispose of the Oscar statuette, nor permit it to be sold or disposed of by operation of law, without first offering to sell it to the Academy for the sum of $1.00. This provision shall apply also to the heirs and assigns of Academy Award winners who may acquire a statuette by gift or bequest.
These rules have been in place since the 1950s, but when you’re looking at a potentially large payday, you can’t blame an executor for trying. The 1940 Best Picture Oscar for Gone with the Wind was purchased at an auction in 1999 by Michael Jackson for $1.54 million. Before you start practicing your acceptance speech with your newly purchased Oscar, be prepared for a legal battle with the Academy.
*Plot Twist* – Apparently MJ’s estate can’t seem to find the Oscar now
Getting back to this year’s nominees, some of the other top films deal with estate issues as well.
Despite the lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody, Freddy Mercury was not just a poor boy from a poor family. His estate was worth $100 million and most of it went to his one-time fiancée Mary Austin. She also inherited Garden Lodge, Freddy’s London mansion where he lived with his long-term boyfriend, Jim Hutton. That’s an awkward eviction. Meanwhile, Queen is still touring today. Royalties anyone? Magnificooooo.
Green Book tells the story of jazz pianist Dr. Don Shirley who befriends Italian-American bouncer Tony Vallelonga. Shirley’s family claims that they were not consulted during the development of the film, and have said the movie is “full of lies”. It’s also full of nominations at 5, including Best Picture.
Finally we have Vice, which received 8 nominations. The critically acclaimed film didn’t have much to do with estates, but I just want to remind everyone that Dick Cheney once shot a man in the face. “By accident”. If that poor guy didn’t have a will before that, he definitely did after.
Enjoy the show!