Oscar still on top

2013-02-21 06:53:11 GMT2013-02-21 14:53:11(Beijing Time)  Global Times
Oscar statue set pieces are made ready in Hollywood, as preparations are underway for the 85th Academy Awards. Photo: CFP Oscar statue set pieces are made ready in Hollywood, as preparations are underway for the 85th Academy Awards. Photo: CFP

Now with the 85th Academy Awards ceremony approaching, movie industry insiders, from actors, actresses, directors to makeup artists and producers, are all busy getting prepared for the big night. This annual award is no doubt one of the most important issues on their agenda.

Yet, quite a number of people in the US are losing interest in it. In an article on filmequals.com, an online news magazine, author L. M. Magalas wrote that she loves movies but finds it hard to get excited about watching the Oscars. She said it's like "hanging out with people you don't really know...You're excited to see certain people, but you don't really know them."

And her opinion is supported by an editor of Film Equals with the name "Americ Ngwije," who responded that, "The Oscars never feel like it's something that is [worth] our collective times. Plus [which movie gets] a nomination has more to do with their schmoozing ability than anything else."

Decreasing attention at home

Since being set up in 1928, the Oscars have gone through ups and downs. And from the late 1990s on, viewership in the US has gone down. According to a Reuters report, ratings for the annual broadcast "has dropped into the 30 million to 40 million range… after peaking with 55 million viewers in 1998, the year of Titanic."

However, in the opinion of Chinese movie critic and scriptwriter Succeed Be, the local audience began to lose interest in the Oscars much earlier in the late 1970s and early 1980s, which was due to the divergence between Oscar winning movies and the movies popular among average moviegoers.

"The mainstream box office winners in theaters in the late 1970s and early 1980s were sci-fi or action movies like Star Wars, Star Beast and Raiders of the Lost Ark. But what the Oscars encouraged were more warmhearted or civilian-related works like Ordinary People and Hannah and Her Sisters, or works reflecting the Vietnam War, like The Deer Hunter," Be said.

But then there was a small turn in the 1990s, when popular theater movies like The Silence of the Lambs, Forrest Gump and Titanic beat other popular films like JFK, Pulp Fiction, and L.A. Confidential.

"The year of Titanic was the last glorious period," Be added, because since then, nominations have mostly reflected critics views.

But Be thinks this year's ceremony will receive better audience rating because six out of nine nominees for Best Picture each made over $100 million in the North American market.

Teng Jingshu, a Shanghai-based movie critic, thinks having few surprises at the final outcome is another reason. "Audiences like to see some new faces or some black horses [winning big awards], not those they can already predict," Teng said. She raised an example that when Meryl Streep won the Oscar for Best Actress last year, even Streep said the words, "When they called my name I had this feeling I could hear half of America going 'oh come on, why her again?'"

And in fact, similar awards like the Golden Globes, Broadcast Film Critics Association Award, and Screen Actors Guild Awards also decrease the possibility of having surprises, for they, to some degree, help predict the finial champion on Oscar night.

Having more choices on TV since the 1980s and convenient ways to view highlights on the Internet are other reasons for the decline in ratings for the show.

Rising influence in China

Despite a downhill situation at home, Oscar frenzy is growing in China. Even without authoritative statistics to show how many fans tune in to watch the TV show, the Internet appears filled with Oscar-related names and issues months before the ceremony.

This is because, as Be analyzed, the Hollywood movies add color and variety to the Chinese audience's life. Having singular types of domestic offerings in China for a very long time, Chinese audiences feel as if they are dining at a feast while watching imported movies from Hollywood. That's why, according to Be, works like Transformers 3 and Battle: Los Angeles, which did poorly in the US, performed well in China.

Also, for Chinese moviegoers and movie makers, the list of Oscar nominees becomes a kind of "to-do" list. Having so many choices out there, non-professional movie fans may have no idea which films to prioritize: the Oscars help them decide which ones are the must-sees. 

And for producers and movie makers, the Oscars give them the direction for the future. As a veteran in the movie industry, Teng said usually when a movie wins best picture at the Oscars, similar types will be popular in a year or two.

In addition, as Chinese faces, stories and themes gain attention in the US movie circle, audiences in China feel a closer link to the ceremony on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.

Unshakable authority

On the global stage, the Oscars are still an unshakable authority compared with other awards, with the strongest influence and most well-known names.   

One of the reasons the Oscars stand out above its peers is that it has a total of nearly 6,000 judges, all of whom come from deep within the movie industry. And often, these judges are permanent members.

By comparison, there are only a handful of judges making the choices for other awards like the Cannes, Berlin and Venice film festivals, and though they are highly reputable professionals, still the small panel is different every year. "That's why personal preferences largely influence the results," Be said.

"It is also due to the development level of the movie industry in the US," Teng noted. As a result, she pointed out, the employees in the industry are in an authoritative position. "From its full name 'Academy Awards' we can see that [the awards reflect] not the taste of the general audience, but of professionals."

When all the A-list actors and directors still view having an Oscar as "the" big honor, no matter how much complaining the elimination process may generate, winning an Academy Award is still the pinnacle of achievement in this field.

Editor: Zhao Wei
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