Oscar Island Is Shrinking

Sasha Stone‘s just-posted article, “Where The Oscars Go When Television Starts To Lead,” is well worth reading. It basically (a) acknowledges the steady, gradual drift of quality-level talent (especially writers) away from theatrical and over to cable television while (b) urging that the Academy needs to start giving a special annual Oscar to the Best Effects-Driven Film — “a separate category for the kinds of films they don’t like to award for Best Picture, the same way they’ve done for Foreign Language film and Animated Feature.”

Excerpt #1: “American film is moving away from good, quality storytelling and towards branded tent poles. This started during my childhood with the advent of the blockbuster. Now we’re actually rebooting Star Wars via JJ Abrams. Movies as video games, movies as amusement park rides, movies as familiar, comforting, non-challenging entertainment. Tent poles — get used to them. Get used to every beloved director being hired to make one. Branded tent poles are power in Hollywood. Directors can do those and then turn around and make what they want.”

Excerpt #2: “The Academy is going to have to find a way to deal with effects-driven films within the next ten years. Either that, or the Best Picture/Best Director race is going to represent world cinema — films made by foreign directors who aren’t seduced by the tent poles and are still being encouraged to simply tell good stories, to make good movies. This is what you see at the Cannes Film Festival, and it should be said [that] the Sundance Film Festival offers up many films by up-and-coming filmmakers. That hasn’t changed. Independents will continue to find a seat at the table, with unknown but talented filmmakers while the best directors this country has to offer are off doing This New Piece of Crap, Part 10: The Formative Years or else they are making coffee and music as David Lynch is doing, or they have exiled themselves to television where the ground is fertile, the audience engaged and the future limitless.”

Excerpt #3: “Right now, Oscar Island still makes room for the best directors working at the top of their game, like Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, like Paul Thomas Anderson’s upcoming Inherent Vice, like David Fincher’s Gone Girl. But it certainly isn’t easy for them. Scorsese had to go outside the studios to get funding. Television is going to continue to thrive in this, its second Golden Age. Effects movies are going to continue to make too much money to stop now. Americans are going to condition themselves to watch only one kind of movie when they go to movie theaters. The baby boomers are [soon] going to be senior citizens soon so perhaps they alone can keep alive the art house.

“Or maybe we can keep looking to pioneers like last year’s Ava DuVernay, who is broadening the reach of the art house to, gasp, people of color. Or Benh Zeitlin who used crowd funding and a good idea to make his movie. Oscar Island waits for them and offers them safe passage through the storm.”