Sunday, October 13, 2013

Oscar News 2014

And the Oscar goes to,...
There have been two bits of news regarding the Oscar Awards ceremony for 2014, when the Academy rewards the year's best films and actors: first, Ellen DeGeneres will be host; for this reason, I am boycotting the Oscars and will not be watching. The second bit of news is that the first in a very, very long line of award-submissions has begun, starting with nominees in the category of Best Foreign Film; a record of 76 films have been submitted for consideration as nominees for the prestigious Oscar (you can read the complete title list of all applicants here). Why is this important? First, it increases the revenue for that country's film industry because--knowing that film must be good or it wouldn't have been nominated--the potential winner has a far greater audience than otherwise, therefore, more people watch the film, which means the filming industry (be it great or small) gets quite a boost, especially in countries where film making has never really been a priority (such as Moldova and Saudi Arabia, who--for the first time in history--have made entries; Montenegro has, for the first time in history, made an entry as an "independent" country, and this is historically important for them because it emphasizes that the message and artistry of their film is going to have a specific/unique Montenegro flair to it that has perhaps been missing from previous entries).
The Iranian film A Separation was of  2012 won that year's Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. While many people, including my mother, thought this was a celebration of Iran's political rebellion against the United Nations (Iran was making nuclear threats against all its neighbors at the time of the Awards) and Hollywood celebrating Iran's militant Islamic against Christians and the US, Iran as a country does not fare well at all in the film and, if one didn't see it, one wouldn't notice the critique the film makers tried to "sneak in" through symbols and plot, but this is the purpose of art, to provide a means of communication and critique, and A Separation did that exceedingly well (for my review, please see A Separation: Sacrificing the Future).
There is, however and indisputably, a political overtone manifested by the Academy's final nominee choices: the films usually reflect a more international disposition to the film's home country than might be expected. In other words, while Hollywood tends to be more liberal than the mainstream, when it comes to international politics, the Academy tends to be rather conservative and more reflective of what the international community thinks (although, arguably, Hollywood doesn't chose the films because they reflect what everyone else thinks of that country, but the makers of the films themselves feel the same way about their country as the rest of the global village and that tends to come across in the final nominees because those film makers say it with so much passion and insight).
Amour provides an excellent case in point. From France, Amour totally undermines what most people think of France, and what people think the French think of themselves, but demonstrates a harshness towards the home country that would probably never come out in an American-made film about France. Amour won last year's Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and was nominated for Best Picture and Best Actress. So, does this undermine what I just said about the Academy being more conservative in choice of Best Foreign Language Film? No, because as Anne's dementia and physical disabilities increase, it's apparent that she symbolizes France itself and her husband, Georges, the government that can no longer emotionally or financially provide for her care, which debunks the myth of a successful socialist state (especially given that a government figure recently condemned the drain of wealthy people to tax because the richest in France were leaving the country so they could keep their money,.... which is what capitalists have always said is what always happens). So, Amour basically teaches us that "there is a limit" to what can be given and expected from one who takes and never gives back (an entitlement society [as a Christian, I see the relationship in the film from the perspective of redemptive suffering for both husband and wife, but because of the ending, I think it's clear there is a political message; for my review, please see Without Music: Amour and the Morality Of Love]).
So, who gets nominated from this list of 76 potential films is imperative to the film markets and industry in other countries (if it weren't so important, the number of films being submitted each year would not be increasing) not to mention the artistic impact here in America (for example, I expect to start seeing more films imitate Amour's use and non-use of music because it adds so much non-verbal communication to the audience about a character's state of mind). The final nominees (not the short list, I don't know if they do a short list for foreign films) will be announced Thursday, January 16 for the 86th Annual Oscar ceremonies and I will be posting on all Oscar news as well as all those critics' circles that come up with their winners in hopes that someone will notice they exist (the Oscars air Sunday, March 2).
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner