Sunday, March 6, 2011

And the Winner is— the Film, Not the Movie

It’s been six days since the 2011 Academy Awards, and I wanted to wait a week before making my comments to avoid a sudden knee-jerk reaction. Over a twenty year period, in film study lectures, Roger Ebert personally taught my wife and me the difference between films and movies. Films are intellectual. Films are made for “mature” audiences (which doesn’t necessarily mean old geezers) and they can often be on-screen versions of literate Pulitzer Prize novels. They star actors like Colin Firth, Paul Giamanti, Sean Penn, Meryl Streep, and Helen Mirren (notwithstanding her embarrassing role in RED). All of this is in contrast with movies, which are made for viewers in the 18 to 30 age bracket. Movies are more heavily advertised than films which explains why they usually make more money. Movies star actors like Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Aniston and Cameron Diaz. Nicholas Cage can go either way, although he’s primarily a movie guy.

Here’s the important distinction between films and movies. Movies are ONLY made to make money from younger viewers. Films are made to be an artistic statement, and many of them are made with the Oscar in mind. As a result, the Oscar— the Academy Award— is only given to the best film in a group of films which are nominated. Movies don’t get nominated. So it comes as no surprise to hear that younger theater goers in the 18 to 30 year old age bracket are not major viewers of the Oscar ceremonies each February. Why should they watch the awards when they haven’t seen the films? They go to movies.

And this finally brings me to James Franco and Anne Hathaway who co-hosted the Oscars last Sunday. The official story line was that the Academy Award producers were reaching out to younger audiences (who usually never see the nominated films). If youth was the objective, then why not Justin Bieber instead? Most people who’ve grown up with the Oscar ceremony over many years agree that Bob Hope was the best there ever was at hosting the Oscars. I think he did the job 19 times. For those too young to remember him, he was a witty, funny grownup who could make it through the whole night wearing the same tuxedo (in stark contrast to host, Anne Hathaway). There’s the model, the template, the prototype— Bob Hope. The Oscar producers didn’t need to reinvent the wheel. They just needed to find another Bob Hope, and Franco and Hathaway were not the answer.

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