From the Sidelines to the Mainstream

From the Sidelines to the Mainstream

The journey of Indie cinema into popular culture has been cemented by its showing at the Oscars

So the Oscars are done, and all the concerns over the writers’ strike seem to have been put to rest, giving some much-needed breathing space before the actors’ strike sometime this summer. As for the ceremony itself, it was somewhat low-key – as far as Academy Awards can be so – attracting an unusually small television audience, which may have been a result of the lack of preparation time for an extensive publicity campaign or a more entertaining ceremony. As far as on-the-night performances were concerned, the European contingent seemed in high spirits – look at Marion Cotillard’s endearing exuberance, Tilda Swinton’s Clooney-bantering, and Javier Bardem… well, just being Javier Bardem – making their American counterparts appear rather subdued by comparison, Diablo Cody notwithstanding. But enough has been said about the ceremony, and there’s not much of interest that hasn’t found its way to YouTube already. What’s more interesting is the distribution of the little statues themselves.

As good as No Country was, the Coens may be counting their lucky stars to have pipped There Will be Blood at the post for Best Picture. On top of its near-flawless direction (“I drink your milkshake” may be too comical), disciplined technical flair and two remarkable performances from Day-Lewis and Dano, There Will Be Blood honed in on the difficulty of the myth of American self-sufficiency with a layer of subtlety No Country never reaches. Bardem’s Anton Chigurh may embody chaotic evil in a way unmatched since Silence of the Lambs, but the movie’s overall treatment of violence is inferior to the brutal economy of P.T. Anderson’s work. Day-Lewis and Bardem were near enough shoo-ins for the acting gongs, and though I’ve seen neither Swinton’s nor Cotillard’s performances, it seems the right decision was made. Of course, these are still questions of aesthetics, and as such entirely subjective. But hey, at least Atonement didn’t get shit.

As I say, this is all nitpicking, and the Academy has continued in its encouraging habit of rewarding both small-budget and foreign-language movies. Once’s award for Best Song may be as much a statement of recognition, considering its limited resources, as a reward for composing a catchy tune. It’s been noted that this year’s nominees have been the lowest-grossing quintet in recent years (a trend that stretches back to the bygone days of 2003 when Lord of the Rings was cleaning up), while the concentration on non-American productions and performers is noteworthy in itself. Is there a concerted effort to bring the art-house into the mainstream? Time will tell, but – considering the economic constraints raised by internet piracy and the various striking artists – it’s a cause for cautious optimism that relatively small-profit movies continue to be recognised by the Academy.

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