An Academy Award


In contemporary cinema, making a film is about more than a blend of cinematography and skill. It is about branding, marketing, selling, selling, and selling. Welcome to the digital age of “show business,” where directors and producers bring us films that will pointedly invest business in other businesses. And whilst you are at it, say hello to the Academy Awards, the film industry’s greatest tool in exploiting the businesses of Hollywood. Why? Because these are the people currently shaping your DVD collection.

Have a serious look at the films you’ve felt compelled to watch this last year. Consider The Artist, The Iron Lady, and The Help. And further consider the fact that We Need to Talk about Kevin, and Drive are missing from your collection. Why? Because what do they say about the film industry – and more importantly, what are they doing for the businesses upon which the Oscars are backed? Notably nothing. Yet again, The Oscars made way for the financially tied and politically charged films of 2012, in sacrifice for films that signify a developing cinematic landscape. This year, shows no change.

With the Oscar nominations announced, 2013’s “most prestigious” acting and cinematography awards steps forward with a list of predictable, and sadly unoriginal, films and actors. There could almost be a checklist: two political, three historical (American History and legacy of course – with the exception of Les Mis, the glee-esque capture of the French Revolution) one topical medical health issue, one life-affirming story of beauty, one independent [who they shall deign to give a helping hand] and the one that nobody has heard of.

Whilst I don’t take away the worth of these films; I do argue the reasons for their place at the Academy Awards, a ceremony that boasts its trophies as merit for distinctive achievement in the film industry. Why, when many of these films are all achieving the same thing? They are backing a ‘political’ issue. And by political, I mean several things. I write initially regarding the political interaction of Argo and Zero Dark Thirty, whose stories are regarded as ‘distinctive’ by engaging in the current climatic drama of American politics. By which I mean, exploiting the industry by creating a film with a deep connection to the average US citizen, playing both to the period and politics of America. The same goes for Amour and its exploration of Dementia, a somewhat ‘trendy’ topic for mental health, with its ever adapting media coverage.

More importantly than either of these though is the ‘politics of acting,’ the notion of giving out an Oscar to the back story of a movie. Case and point; Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables. No one can doubt her performance is beautiful, but is her Oscar nomination due to the context of the film? The fact that she dropped dress sizes, and cut her hair physically showed a dedication to her role. That and the fact that the film cost millions, and sapped time, energy and resources out of the film industry, means that surely it is only fair that they get something for their troubles – other than multi-million pound profits, of course.

It’s because of this that you miss the other movies. The films that took risks – that explored options, and who don’t rest on a political [acting or government] agenda. And it also makes you wonder whether the Academy Awards can be called the most ‘prestigious’ honour in acting. In my opinion – it will get there when the highest esteemed films aren’t there because of politics.