During one of the vacuous “red carpet” fashion gush-a-thons before the Oscars, one of the film “experts” gave us the inside scoop that he believed this year would be a return of American cinema after The King’s Speech (UK) in 2011 and The Artist (France) in 2012 took the top prizes. He was only partially right, and at the rate film is going, it has to continue to be international.
It is no longer enough to have gung-ho American patriotic flicks that don’t resonate in markets such as India or Asia. Quite apart from many films needing money from the east to get made, the audiences are too large and the profits too tempting to ignore. That doesn’t mean films such as Lincoln or Zero Dark Thirty are not wildly pro-American. They can be appreciated or critiqued beyond those shores certainly. But in the context of cinema overall and an awards ceremony such as the Oscars, it is arrogant and naïve to now believe the world tunes in because they love America.
The rest of the planet loves the glitz (or specifically being judgemental about the glitz), the big names praising each other, and the absurdity and falseness of the entire thing. There will always be a few favourites we know to be human still, but on the red carpet especially it’s evidence of how much of cinema is artistry, public relations and “handling”.
Hardly any of the films were straight-forward “American” this year, beyond Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, Silver Linings Playbook and Django Unchained. Les Mis was British made, about France. Amour was distinctly French. Life of Pi was exceptionally global between Ang Lee and a host of Indian actors. Skyfall, which should have had a “best picture” nomination on the grounds that I enjoyed it, was quintessentially British, even if filmed in every corner of the planet.
Cinema audiences may be down in the US, somewhat, but they will never disappear. The world loves going to the pictures, suspending disbelief and pretending the world outside doesn’t exist, if only for 2-3 hours (depending on whether it’s a film or The Hobbit that you’re watching).
American TV audiences might still want to see a sign of exceptionalism when they host awards shows, but they’d struggle to identify what was American about the films or the outfits. Italian and French shoes and fragrances, diamonds from the world over, and German cars delivering stars. Hardly any of the dresses are from US designers, even if that’s where they make their money. Much of the technology used to create the cinema experience will have been made in China or Japan (to be fair, everything is made in China now, including the horse in British beef). And the phones that celebs now all tweet from are most emphatically not made in America.
So yeah, LA still hosts “the biggest show on earth”, but that’s about as American as the Oscars get. They exported cinema to the world and now the world is doing as good as job at creating exceptional film. This year’s Oscar crop and indeed much of the past decade has proven how competitive this world has become. That’s good for the Academy Awards audience numbers, ticket sales and moving-picture art.
Just don’t tell the American TV pundits that – they still think they’re fabulous.