Sunday, March 7, 2010
Drum roll please....
It's Oscar night, which as you may imagine is not marked on my calendar, nor do I ever watch it. I have also often wondered what the great Oscar Wilde would think of this event that has so grandly misappropriated his name. My first reaction would be to think that he would have hated the morass and pretension, but then I'm sure his more fanciful side would like the idea of being feted in public to such an extent. I guess we'll never know, much like I wish I could never know anything about it at all, as I don't exactly hold the awards with much degree of respect as a sound barometer of quality in movie-making.
However, due to my friend's control of the remote this evening on one of the rare occasions I was actually watching television, I did get to see a bit of it. I think the last time I saw it was maybe 6 years ago, and then I only saw a small part before changing the channel in disbelief at the sheer decadence and sordid back-slapping of it all, a feature that has become all too common at most awards shows.
And I may as well say that it hasn't changed much. It's still the trademark "look at how great we all are" Hollywood attitude. Which is all part of it, and kind of always has been, so I don't want it to sound like I'm blaming the people involved. The thought just always occurs to me whenever I actually go to a mainstream cinema (and my long-suffering siblings can attest to this) that there is an absolutely ridiculously exorbitant amount of money spent on making these movies, and in particular, promoting them.
Now, I am all for movies as a form of art and expression, and a great form of social commentary and conveying messages. The movie 'The Cove' which took out best documentary is a fantastic example of this. But I just wonder if the millions upon millions of dollars that are spent on promoting stupid mindless crap like Alvin and the Chipmunks or the recent Terminator or any movie Eddie Murphy's made in the last five years, could not be better spent on more valuable causes like poverty or public health?
There's something to be said for escapist entertainment, and that it does serve a purpose. But if people want to see a movie, do they really need all the posters and cardboard cutouts and all that extra stuff constantly REMINDING them to see it? In many cases, it's actually compensating for something. The main thing that makes people go and see a movie is and always has been word of mouth, or a recommendation. So the key really seems to be: make a good movie, people will go to see it. Simple enough. So why does there need to be SO much spend on movie advertising?
Before we get carried away here, let me point out that I do recognise the issue in proposing that the money spent on movie advertising should instead go into the public benefit, feeding the starving masses or what have you. Both fields of industry are extremely different and despite one's temptation to do so, one can't simply say to the movie executives "shouldn't all this extra money you're using to make MORE money for yourselves be put towards charitable causes instead?". If only it could be that simple. But as we know, whilst corporate charity does exist and plays a very large part in helping many worthwhile causes, poverty and poor quality public health care still exist too, and quite frankly, they shouldn't.
The main problem is that while Big Movie industry does occasionally turn out worthwhile pieces of celluloid, infinitely more high-quality movies that are foreign or made independently don't reach a wider audience. Which is a real shame. I'm not really in the movie industry and I don't know how this can be helped, but I think perhaps the mainstream movie industry has come to dominate so much, and has so much control over the mediums through which movies are advertised, that it's a struggle for smaller movies to get through. It's more and more up to the individual discerning movie goer to find the quality movies that they get the most enjoyment or fulfillment from. Sound familiar, music lovers?
Getting back to the 'Academy Awards', I think my Australian upbringing may have something to do with my apparent revulsion of all things that are 'hyped' up. It tends to be a fairly consistent Australian trait that we tend to take most things with a grain of salt, especially in a situation where a big fuss is made of something fairly lightweight, and in the overall scheme of things you would have to say the Oscars is pretty lightweight.
People who manage to bring half their family across the world as refugees to start a new life, escape persecution in their own homeland and hope for something better in ours are maybe more deserving of our attention than all these moviemakers under those oh-so-bright lights reassuring themselves through the medium of interpretive dance (really), expensive staging and prompted applause.
But then, I guess that's the point of these awards shows. For a brief shining moment, we can choose to forget all these political and social issues constantly confronting us in those headlines for just a minute and focus on something that looks shiny and pretty. There's no harm in that. Providing it's for just a minute.
However, to use a filmmakers turn of phrase: keeping and maintaining proper perspective and focus on key plot elements is critical, and has the greatest power in determining how the audience follows the story.
Whilst stories are important, it's how we apply the lessons in these stories to our own flesh-and-blood existence, and maintain perspective on the tangible issues of our time that can make all the difference in this real, not celluloid, world. I think if the movie industry keeps trying to make dollar signs instead of changing lives for the better, then this is a great missed opportunity.