Thursday, 17 February 2011

The Oscares

The Oscares
and why should we care?!
We're in the midst of the award season now and every year I come back to the same thought with regards to it.  There is a part of me that savours this time of year as it's a break from the usual substandard blockbusters (apart from Nicolas Cage - who manages to release guff all year round) and treats us to arguably the best of the best.

The fan boy side of me looks forward to the award ceremonies and the possibility to cheer for your favourite films of the year but the rest of me detests the fan boy.  The biggest problem I have with the awards ceremony season and the selection of films they have for consideration is exactly that...the films considered to be the best of the best.

Cinema is an artform, regardless of what Weinstein and co have to say about it, it (like other artforms) should be passionate, experimental, beautiful and rich with context but most importantly undefinible.  For the most part, the award ceremonies like the Oscars or the recently hosted BAFTAs celebrate those films that have been in the public eye and have been responsible for the generation of money.  These films are popular with the public because of their ability to communicate their messages successfully to the audience and the audiences ability to correctly interpret them.  The implication here is that cinema is more of a language and the more the film is able to successfully adhere to the agreed codes and conventions of the language the better the film. 

I'm not arguing against the importance of the cinematic language, some of my favourite films adhere to the conventions of many of them but allow themselves to subvert others in order to challenge the audience and provoke some form of conscious thought post film...but cinema is art.  Surely the best film of the year is not the one that fails to challenge the status quo, surely it's the film that takes the expectations of the audience and challenges them, refuting them successfully and installing a new understanding within the context of the film.

So does anyone even care about the Oscars?  An annual exercise in conformity and industry self congratulation.  History remembers the winners but the cream always rises to the top.  Citizen Kane (1941) a film so revolutionary that a studio insider attempted to bribe the editor to burn the master print, and when that didn't work attempted to set Orson Welles up as a child molester...a film that broke all codes and rules that Hollywood held dear.  The film that mastered the use of depth of field and translated the notion of montage for American audiences.  This film did not win the Oscar for Best Picture!  The film that consistently tops best film ever polls couldn't even win the Oscar in it's year, instead being beaten out by How Green Was My Valley.

Don't Look Now! my favourite film of all time, a film that challenges the audiences idea of causality, linear editing and has a visual palet that is a form of poetry.  Clearly a film this beautiful, challenging and artistic won the Best Picture Oscar the year it was released...wrong again.  That little golden statue was taken home by The Godfather Part 2 which of course is also an excellent film but adheres to the codes and conventions of cinema as a "language", stayed faithful to linear editing and clearly distinguishes between present and flashback.

So for all those films that strive for art against a world of language thank you, you'll never be recognised on a grand scale but if that's what you wanted you'd probably conform to what's expected.  Great artists have come before you, many of whom were never appreciated for what they contributed to art but some people will stumble across your work and they will altered by your view on the world.

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