Thank Goodness for That

What a relief—that huge marathon of tosh called Avatar won only three Oscars last night in Los Angeles, and all in the appropriate technical categories. Director Kathryn Bigelow’s ‘small’ Iraq war film The Hurt Locker (that means small in budget, small in box office) walked off with six, including that for Best Picture. It was good too to see Sandra Bullock—one of Hollywood’s most under-rated stars—win Best Actress, and especially for a film, The Blind Side, which has unsettled solidly liberal tinseltown by its celebration of Palin-style downhome values. 

But so what, you might say? What’s the big deal? Who even remembers last year’s winner? (Actually it was the absurdly overpraised Slumdog Millionaire, which was always going to fade from popular memory, Oscars or no Oscars). Isn’t it all one big phoney-fest?

Well, if one is going to have award ceremonies, there are many points to be made in defence of the Academy Awards. They are certainly done with some brio. The ceremony assumes people are and should be interested, and it procedes accordingly. This is far more tolerable than the smirky, post-modern, ironical tone of such occasions here: if you think it is all rubbish really, and that we’re just having a bit of fun, then it’s best not to do it at all. There’s nothing worse than a half-baked award ceremony. Having attended a few while living in LA, I can say that I’d much rather have good honest American vulgarity than two-bit British tackiness and having to stomach the cringe-making provincialism of Jonathan Ross.

It’s fair to say that no BAFTA win is going to increase your ticket sales. But winning the Academy Award will put millions onto Bigelow’s film. Winning the Oscar back in 1981 meant another £40 million for another ‘small’ film, Chariots of Fire.

But the most important point to make about the Oscars is that they are, in fact, oddly democratic. The awards are voted on by the 5,000 or so members of the Academy. The fact that it is all done by ballot leads to all the cajoling and lobbying that we have read about in recent weeks. It is the movie industry’s own election campaign. Contrast this with British award ceremonies, where the prizes are given out based on the deliberations of small committees of the great and the good behind closed doors.  

Now, to more meaty matters: is it beneath Standpoint to have a best-dressed list? Of course not! I will start the ball rolling and nominate Ms Bullock, pictured here. Let’s have your nominees please!

Underrated: Abroad

The ravenous longing for the infinite possibilities of “otherwhere”

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