Tuesday, March 6


Of the hundreds of awards ceremonies and festivals each year, the Oscars are by far the most ethnocentric and auteur-crushing of the lot. The very notion of having a category of "Best Foreign Film" is unspeakable. This of course gives the American audience the impression that there are only three or four films created outside the US worth watching any given year. The irony is that typically quite the opposite is true, namely that there are only about three or four films created inside the US that are worth watching. Ultimately, it seems that the Oscars are a pat-each-other-on-the-back-for-mediocrity-fest. This is why I was somewhat intrigued by a few of the nominees/winners this year.

This year, the works of three mexican directors were granted nominations (here's the kicker) outside the category of best foreign film. Perhaps the least significant of these is the nomination for best supporting actress to Penelope Cruz in Volver, an actress who has enjoyed years inside the hollywood corporate machine. Of more significance is the smattering of not only nominations but wins for del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. Finally, there are the major categories that Inarritu's Babel was nominated for (Director, Film, Editing, Original Screenplay, plus others). Of course Babel did not win these most coveted prizes because they all had to go to Scorsese for his body of work.

Ultimately, these nominations do not seem too significant, but it leaves me thinking about the gravity of a batch of films made almost completely in other languages receiving such nominations. It must be recognized that with the exception of Almodovar, these directors have worked inside the US system, probably granting them a greater audience. I am not saying that the problem of the Oscars is solved. Instead, this could be a baby step. So here's the question. Is this a step in the right direction for the Academy Awards, or is this a unique event that will likely not repeat itself?

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