I have watched the Oscars for many years, not just because like hundreds of millions I love the movies but also because I think they are a cultural artifact which can help us understand the direction American and our own society is heading.
Hollywood , of course, is still the capital of the American entertainment industry and is driven in large part by the money that it generates from not only American markets but global markets where its influence on popular culture has been enormous and sometimes resented. This has been particularly so when the films it produces offer a seductive alternative to domestically made films which speak directly to the local regional or national culture. But increasingly the world is a global place and Hollywood itself and its awards are increasingly open to global influences. We can see this in the results. A Brazilian story originating with the Brazilian novelist Dr.Moacyr Scliar adapted and changed by a Montreal writer , Yann Martel which wins the Booker prize and directed by a Taiwanese American Director who is a Hollywood star, wins several awards including the award for best director. An American story,Argo, with a central Canadian role, the brave and daring rescue of six American diplomats hidden in the Canadian embassy and spirited out of the country on Canadian passports by a CIA agent on tickets acquired by the Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor who along with his colleague John Sheardown had risked their lives to hide and shelter the diplomats in revolutionary Iran in the grip of Ayatollah Khomeini until they could be smuggled out of the country wins the award for best picture. Again a global story with a strong Canadian twist that is I suppose understandably underplayed by the American film makers who wrongly suggest that it was largely the Americans doing that rescued the diplomats. Among the other films nominated for best film is the French film Amour, winner of many awards in Europe and itself winner of the best foreign language film. Winner of the best actor award Daniel Day Lewis the great Croom’s hill Greenwich UK actor who himself is the son of the British writer and poet C.Day-Lewis and the British Jewish actress Jill Balcon and who amazingly brilliantly portrays the great American President Abraham Lincoln in Stephen Spielberg’s wonderful film Lincoln.
Many of the Oscar winners are from Britain, one is from Germany, one from Chile and others from Europe. The winner of the best supporting actress role Oscar is Anne Hathaway who wins for the musical version of the great French writer Victor Hugo’s magnificent story Les Misérables.
Culture clearly transcends boundaries and it is the genius of the American cinema that has remained open to the world and influences and in turn is influenced by the evolving potential humanistic global culture that we see presented in many of these films. It is still a world of tinsel and popcorn, occasional American triumphalism, violence and dreams and fantasies but it is one whose better side offers the promise of a better world that celebrates values like freedom, compassion, healing, courage and love, despite the dark times that surround us.