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Monday, March 8, 2010

Women’s Day and Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar victory

Isn't amazing how symbolic some dates can be? On the very day that we celebrate the hundredth anniversary of International Women's Day, Hollywood's Film Academy bestowed, for the first time in its 82-year history, the directing award on a woman (and I'm not playing with dates since with the time difference between the West Coast and France, the two events took place almost simultaneously.) And in the process they sent that vacuous film, Avatar, packing. For once the Academy membership got things right, even if I was a bit disappointed that that perennial nominee, Meryl Streep, didn't win for a terrific performance in Julie & Julia. Isn't it astonishing that the greatest actress in the world hasn't won an Oscar for over a quarter-century. Well, the record-holder, Katharine Hepburn, did wait 35 years between her first award (in 1932) and her second one (in 1967.) So I have no doubt that la Streep will go on to win a couple more.

But let's get back to Bigelow's win, breaking one of the ultimate glass ceilings (and how poignant that it was given to her by Barbra Streisand who was snubbed in the early 1980's with Yentl.) In spite of all the hoopla and studio marketing, the better movie won showing that sometimes talent is all you need. More shocking was the quality press parroting 20th Century Fox's marketing slogans: "the highest grossing movie of all time," a meaningless phrase if there ever was one. Haven't they ever heard of inflation? A million dollars in 2010 bears little relation to a million in 1990. That's why even other media sectors, such as publishing or the music industry, talk in units: records (CD's) or books sold, since one book in 1930 is still one book in 2010. Have you ever heard of any other company in any other industry talking about "our best sales figures of all time"? Of course not, only Hollywood, with its predilection for creative accounting, engages in such hyperbole. But what is shocking is that the quality media, such as the BBC or The New York Times, reports those extravagant claims with no respect for truth or their viewers who deserve to be given news with perspective.

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