Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Oscars

The Oscars were a few days ago, but I still feel the urge to comment. I liked Jon Stewart, I thot he was good, if a little subdued. Somehow that felt appropriate. I haven't seen Enchanted, but someone who has said that the musical numbers just couldn't come close to the movie. I'm glad Diably Cody won. There seemed to be something of a generational divide in the Best Picture race. There were four nominees aimed at older voters; Atonement, Michael Clayton, No Country for Old Men, and There Will Be Blood. All very serious, somber movies. And mostly about men. And then there was Juno, written by a woman, about a teenage girl. I think the generation coming up will be more open to movies by and about women.

Patrick Goldstein in the LA Times has a great piece about how to improve the Oscars. I really hope someone takes his advice. He's got some very good ideas.

There was also a plethora of awards for people who are not American. The LA Times:

"There Will Be Blood's" best actor Daniel Day-Lewis lives in Ireland, while "La Vie en Rose" surprise best actress winner Marion Cotillard makes her home in Paris. Spain's Javier Bardem was named best supporting actor for "No Country for Old Men," and Scotland's Tilda Swinton won best supporting actress for "Michael Clayton." Many of the evening's lower-profile awards -- for art direction, makeup, costume design and animated short among them -- went to non-American filmmakers and designers.

But this is now a new phenomenon. Tilda Swinton, who is from England, pointed out:

"Hollywood is built on Europeans! Go back and look"

She's right, of course. Some of the best directors were from Europe: Charlie Chaplin, Hitchcock, Billy Wilder. Lots of movie stars have come from other countries. Three of the four stars of Gone With The Wind were from other countries. Vivien Leigh was born in India.

But even most "American" movies have a strong interntational flavor. "Titanic" is a classic American blockbuster. But the HMS Titanic was a British ship, and it sank in the North Atlantic. The movie starred an English woman (Kate Winslet), was directed by a Canadian (James Cameron), and was mostly shot in Mexico.

Or another classic Best Picture blockbuster, Gladiator. A throwback to the old swords-and-sandals epics. But other than its cinematic origins, it's not very "American." It takes place in ancient Rome and was shot mostly in Europe and North Africa. It's directed by an Englishman, Ridley Scott, and stars an Australian, Russell Crowe, a Dane, Connie Nielsen, another Englishman, Oliver Reed, an Irishman, Richard Harris, and the only movie star from Benin, Djimon Hounsou.

Harrison Ford is famous for starring in two great series: Star Wars and the Indiana Jones movies. Neither really takes place in America. And not much of either series was shot in the US; both series were shot all over the world.

Even the great fantasy series of the recent past were barely "American." The Lord of the Rings movies are based on books written by an Englishman who was born in South Africa, and they were shot in New Zealand, directed by a Kiwi. Harry Potter is almost entirely English. The Pirates of the Caribbean movies take place mostly in, well, the Caribbean, and star a couple of Brits, Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom, and an Australian, Geoffrey Rush.

So the fact that all of the Best Actors and Actresses were "foreign" should not be a surprise, but a sign of how strong Hollywood's connections to the rest of the world are. And a testament to how well America, at its best, engages the rest of the world.


Laryssa said...

Wow...I am feeling so nostalgic for "So I saw this movie..." right now! :)

JohnTEQP said...

Ahhh, thanks! I'm nostalgic for it, too. But it seems to have had several lives after I lost it. At one point, it was a porn site. A few months ago, it was some gaming site. And now it's some shopping site. I should really try to buy it back one of these days.