The Tea Oscars

tea-oscars2Finally, now that the fuss over those other awards has died down, the winners of the Tea Oscars can finally be announced. It’s an exercise in tea silliness, but also an opportunity to explore the portrayal of the leafy drink in film. I’m happy to receive suggestions for new award categories, and other favourite tea moments in film.

Now let’s roll out the green carpet and let the Tea Oscars Ceremony begin! 


Performance by an actor in a tea film leading role

The Oscar goes to: John Kerr for his performance as Tom Robinson Lee in Tea and Sympathy (1956). There is an interesting connection between this result and Sean Penn’s win for his role as Harvey Milk. Both characters must cope with society’s prejudice against homosexuality, although their methods are leagues apart! This film, which also features Deborah Kerr, is based on a long-running Broadway play by Robert Anderson who died two weeks ago, sadly.

Performance by an actor in a tea supporting role

And the lifetime achievement award in this category goes to: Hugh Grant, in recognition of the number of times he has offered a costar (such as Julia Roberts in Notting Hill)  a cup of tea on screen. Special mention must go to his classic romance with Martine McCutcheon as the tea lady in Love, Actually (written and directed by Richard Curtis). It features the wonderful timing of the line: “Who do you have to screw round here to get a cup of tea and a biscuit?”

Best ensemble of leading actresses in a tea film

I haven’t seen Tea with Mussolini (1999, by Franco Zeffirelli) but the cast list of Cher, Joan Plowright, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Lily Tomlin says enough really, doesn’t it? It must have something going for it to have attracted such an amazing group of women. Bravo!

Performance by an actress in a supporting tea role

This Tea Oscar is presented to: Tamlyn Tomita for her “abridged” Japanese tea ceremony in Karate Kid, Part 2. Let’s face it, it’s not really anything like a real tea ceremony, and it takes place in some kind of shed while a gale blows outside. But I think the way in which Tamlyn performs the short sequence to romance Ralph Macchio is graceful and lovely nonetheless. It was actually one of my earliest introductions to the Japanese way of tea, and impressed me enough to want to find out more…

Best tea sequence in an animated feature film

The winner of this award is featured in Beauty and the Beast; the musical number called “Be our Guest”. It’s a ‘culinary cabaret’ featuring Mrs Potts, a teapot played by Angela Lansbury (Disney, 1991).

Achievement in tea art direction

And the Tea Oscar goes to: KK Barrett, Production Designer of Marie Antoinette (2006, directed by Sofia Coppola). This gorgeous film looks like a continuous tea-party, despite the fact that the characters are generally drinking Champagne, rather than tea. At the time when the action was set, tea would barely have been known in France. However, it makes a lovely appearance as a “gift from the Emperor of China” in the form of a jasmine tea blooming flower.

Achievement in tea costume design

The winner of this award is Merchant Ivory Productions, the company responsible for numerous costume dramas that regularly cover British, Indian and colonial themes. Naturally, the history of tea runs parallel to these concerns, so clinking teacups and sugar cubes feature often in Merchant Ivory films. The costumes in these films, which include A Room with a View,  A Passage to India and The Remains of the Day, are usually lavish, dramatic and memorable.

Best tea documentary feature

This award goes to All in This Tea, based on the number of times it shows up in a google search. I haven’t seen the film, but it’s either very good, or the marketing machine for the film is very good (both of which are commendable qualities). I’m seeking a copy, because it sounds very interesting; it was made in 2007 and follows David Lee Hoffman through China and its tea industry.

Best tea foreign language film

This award will remain pending for the moment, because there a number of Asian tea films that I would like to explore before choosing a winner. These include one called Green Tea for which the brilliant Aussie expat, Christopher Doyle did the cinematography; The Taste of Tea, a Japanese film by Katsuhito Ishii that looks a bit quirky and Herbal Tea, a Hong Kong romance by Herman Yau Lai To.  

Achievement in tea music written for motion pictures

The winner of the Tea Oscar in this category isTea for Two”, the song from the 1950 film of the same name. It’s a lovely film featuring Doris Day and Gordon McCrae, the winning romantic comedy team of the fifties. This is probably the only tea-song I can hum…. Or even name!

Adapted tea screenplay

The winner is: Eat a Bowl of Tea (1989). This film set in New York City is a romance that explores issues around the experience of Chinese immigrants and their attempts to assimilate while also retaining their own culture. Eat a Bowl of Tea is based on a popular Chinese-language novel by Louis Chu, and apparently the title refers to tea as medicine rather than as a social drink.

Original tea screenplay

This award goes to a film I am unlikely to ever see, but I decided that Nude Bondage Tea Party (1998, directed by Sharon Kane) deserved some credit for its original take on the porn genre and its unusual approach to the genteel, upper-class image of the traditional English tea party!

Best tea in a motion picture

I am happy to present this major Tea Oscar to a family-favourite and a classic that has provided pleasure for many years. The film is wonderful, overall, but it wins this award based on a particular sequence summed up by one of the young characters:

“We had a lovely tea party on the ceiling!”

I’m referring, of course, to Mary Poppins (1964), and the wonderful song called “I Love to Laugh”.  In the scene, jolly Uncle Albert tries to serve tea, but he tells numerous silly jokes until he and his guests laugh so hard that they float in the air.

I have chosen this as the ultimate tea/film moment because I think it demonstrates the way in which we should enjoy tea and life!



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