Hollywood on Sunday night woke up to a new reality; the Oscars are no longer a Hollywood hegemony. The fact that a record number of non-American or non-Hollywood winners at the Oscar this year are only a visible proof of the feeling that has been growing among the staunch Americans in Hollywood. Among the big winners this year are two brothers from Minnesota, who have never made a mainstream Hollywood movie and are known for their strong independent film-movement background. The Coens have won three of the major prizes up for grabs at the Oscars and their film No Country for Old Men have won four major awards, including Best Motion Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.
All the four acting awards this year went to Europeans. Irish Daniel Day Lewis won his second Oscar for his ‘turn’ as the turn of the century oil prospect in director Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood. Javier Bardem won for Spain its first acting Oscar for his role as the psychopath killer, Anton Chirguh in the Coen’s No Country for Old Men. The very British Tilda Swinton won a surprise Best Supporting Actress award for Michael Clayton. Infact in her acceptance speech, she thanked her secretary, without whom she said she wouldn’t be in this country. Bardem gave a part of his speech in Spanish and thanked his mother. Swinton, while speaking to reporters backstage, also said that she was sad that she could not give a part of her speech in her native Gaelic, a language in Scotland. However, the most disturbing win/winner was Marion Cotillard. Many can justify the other wins to sheer good work and lack of other serious contenders. But Cotillard’s was a shocking, upset win over the very respected veteran Julie Christie, who had won more of the pre-Oscar trophies for her turn as the Alzheimer’s patient in the beautiful, bitter-sweet film Away From Her. Infact Christie’s was a role and a film that was seen as most Hollywood and as such Oscar friendly. Cotillard, on her part just couldn’t believe it and gave an enthusiastic, emotion filled speech in which she said “I think there are some angels in this city”. For 32 year old Cotillard, her role as the extraordinary chanteuse Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose brought her international recognition and acclaim, and Sunday’s win capped an amazing season in which she won the Golden Globes, BAFTA and the Ceaser among others.And then there were the others. La Vie en Rose won for Didier Lavergne and Jan Archibald the award for he Best Make-Up. Diablo Cody, a ‘naughty, anti-establishment’ lady joined the ranks of the select few women who have won an Oscar for screenplay without sharing it with anyone. She won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for the indie-hit Juno. And finally, an Austrian film die Falscher (The Counterfeiters) won the award for the Best Foreign Language Film. Austria is definitely not among the favourite Hollywood foreign destinations. The Foreign Language Film Oscar has since its inception in 1955, gone traditionally to films from first world countries, mostly Italy, Netherlands, Germany and France. The one-off wins of third world and small countries were largely seen as a balancing act by the academy. But recent years have thrown in quite a few winners from other countries, namely Totsi (South Africa), and No Man’s Land (Bosnia). So is it wake up time for Hollywood? Its traditional domain is under a gradual attack from outsiders. The Oscars have for long been a typical and traditional Hollywood party. Past winners show that ‘non-Hollywood’ and different films have generally lost out in the cacophony of big studios and massive publicity. Stalwarts like Stanley Kubrick and Yashujiro Ozu have never won Oscars and this is widely attributed to the hegemony that Hollywood once held over the Oscars. But all this seems to be changing now. One reason for this could be the greater number of non-Americans who are now getting membership into the different Guilds that make up the Academy. Another reason could be the varied voices that are now coming out of Hollywood itself and Hollywood’s large box-office collections from overseas, especially the European market. However, for now the 80th Annual Academy Awards have given a reason for celebration to ‘the band of outsiders’.Anupam Dhar
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