Sunday, 22 February 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #236: Some Musings Before The Oscars...

1. The Academy Awards are on tonight. So far the nominated films haven't enjoyed the traditional "Oscar Bounce" in their box-office, and the awards themselves, despite the charms of host Hugh Jackman, are expecting to hit new lows in the ratings.

Of all the nominated films, I believeJ
Slumdog Millionaire deserves to win in every category it's been nominated in.

Not because of the quality of the film, I haven't seen it, but because it's the only film on the Best Picture list that wasn't made solely to win an Oscar for someone.
Benjamin Button, made to get Brad Pitt a nomination, Milk, ditto for Sean Penn, The Reader, get one for Harvey Weinstein. Slumdog, with its rags to riches story, romance, and even suspense, appears to have been made because the filmmakers had a story they felt needed to be told, because they believed that story would make that all important emotional connection.

All the others strike me as just Oscar bait, and after so many years of the Academy Awards rewarding such blatant Oscar whoring, it's cheapened the value of the awards themselves. Quality has very little to do with winning an Oscar, just convincing the 5,000 Academy voters that you're better than anything that demeans itself by being entertaining.

Perhaps an underdog
Slumdog win could shock the Oscars back into the real world.

It probably won't but it would be worth a shot.

I for one will be checking out the
Mythbusters rerun marathon on the Canadian Discovery Channel.

And I'm not mentioning that as a cheap excuse to post a cheesecake picture of Kari Byron, it was a
serious editorial decision.

Really, it was.


I have my integrity.


2. Nikki Finke watched the Independent Spirit Awards and pondered on just how independent these movies really are.

And I'm inclined to ponder that issue myself. Just about all the winners were not only produced by the boutique "indie" branches of major media companies, and the "fresh indie talent" making those films are pretty much the same people who have been making indie films and winning Independent Spirit Awards since the boom of the 1990s.

I fear that American independent film has become Canadianized.

No, I'm not implying that independent films have started drinking better quality beer, and having better manners than the other films, I'm saying that the independent film industry is turning into a Americanized version of the Canadian film industry.

Here's how...

Like Canadian films American indie films are for a shrinking niche audience, and no, I'm not talking about the "art house" crowd who dress in black and think everything's better with subtitles. I'm talking about a niche of a niche audience. You see Canadian films, except for the Francophone Quebec cinema, is, for the most part,
not for the general public.

Canadian films are made
by industry insiders for the other industry insiders who judge a festivals, hand out awards, and to the bureaucrats who control the purse strings of the film industry.

In Canada, those bureaucrats work for the government, in the USA, the bureaucrats work for the big media conglomerates, but what they do share is a dislike of these films enjoying mainstream success. Because these films are not made to earn money, or even entertain people. These films are made to give "street cred" as patrons of the arts to gray men in gray suits. It gets these gray men lots of fawning attention at film festivals, praise from filmmakers for the "creative freedom" they give them, honours for the "courage" they show in spending other people's money for little or no return, and a heavily subsidized social life among the cultural and financial elite that helps their own ambitions.

It's really showing in Canada, where our main film awards The Geminis, don't even rate an airing on our main public broadcaster, the CBC. A similar fate is no doubt waiting in the wings, first for the Spirit awards, and then the Oscars themselves. Because barring a major paradigm shift, it's inevitable.

There was a time when indie film sought to fill gaps left in the cultural mosaic by the big players, now they just look to please those same big players they claim to be rebelling against.

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