Many a time have we been reproached for not covering movies like we used to.
Guilty as charged. However, we are ready with an answer: “They do not make movies as they used to.”
During the last two decades this column has covered the best in films on a regular basis. Prominent international festivals got their due as well as excellent films from India, Japan, China, Korea, Palestine, Iran, Belgium, Britain, and the US. Even animated films were reviewed, not to mention franchises such as the James Bond films, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Batman, Spiderman and all the other fantasy men that Hollywood churned.
Motion pictures peaked in the late 1950s, 1960s and 1970s and continued through the 1980s and 1990s. In fact, the 1990s ended with a bang, presenting us with great films such as Titanic (1997), and even Star Wars, Episode 1, actually the third in the franchise, was released in 1999, creating much excitement and anticipation amongst its fans.
At the turn of the millennium movies had lost their appeal, turning mostly to science fiction, action, visual effects, computer imaging, which amazed young audiences, but the dialogue had disappeared and shortly after, the story also disappeared.
We still reviewed excellence in films but they were few and far between. Can you blame us for turning to other subjects with more sense and sensibility?
One aspect of film we never neglected was Hollywood’s award season, which ends with the American Academy Awards fondly referred to as the Oscars.
In filmdom, this is the zenith for filmmakers worldwide.
The season is launched early in January with the Golden Globe Awards, held this year on 10 January and terminates with the grand finale of Oscar night which will take place this year on 12 March. Nominations will be announced on 24 January.
Instead of the usual five nominations in each of the 24 categories, the Best Film category has extended its number to about 10 films, scantily viewed or unknown. This means that academy members could not decide on excellence and squandered their votes on several films, which diminished the quality and prestige of the year’s best film.
Second only to Oscar in value and prestige in Hollywood are the Golden Globe Awards.
They were first held in 1944 by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a small band of foreign journalists, now about 90 writers, who report from Hollywood back to their homelands, an impartial view on stars, motion pictures and their impact. They decided to follow in the academy’s footsteps and offer awards to the best of Hollywood from their perspective, which would be more of an international rather than a purely American viewpoint.
In order not to be swayed or influenced by the Oscars, they decided to start the award season at the start of the new year. The first Best Actress Award was given to the beautiful and accomplished actress Jennifer Jones for her performance in Song of Bernadette. Many of our readers may not have heard of Jennifer Jones, but of many other Jennifers of today; in which case we recommend they take a look back at Miss Jones, for none of the present Jennifers can even hold a candle to her attributes.
The foreign press buoyed by their success created their own golden trophy— a shiny golden image of the globe, encircled with a strip of film and mounted on a small cylindrical pedestal. Their theme song was written by Japanese musician and songwriter Yoshiki Hayashi. They were on their way with a different approach and style from other awards.
This was one award the members did not vote on. Instead a poll was taken in over 50 countries to really make it an international award.
They donated millions of dollars to entertainment-related causes as well as funding charities, scholarships and other programmes for future filmmakers. Their aim was excellence rather than celebrity and glamour.
It is unfortunate that politics pointed its rude head at an international association, forcing it to comply to their “politically correct” paradigm. NBC refused to broadcast its award ceremony last year because of the lack of ethnic representation.
The international community may not feel the guilt Americans feel towards the slave era, for which they are trying hard to make amends. The Black community is only 10 per cent of the population, but the new law in Hollywood is that they must maintain a high profile in every film, or it is rejected. Therefore, the Golden Globes hired a black comedian, Jerrod Carmichael, to host their event this year and the first words he uttered were: “Do you know why I’m here… coz I’m black.”
Since the Obama era race relations have taken a dive and with the new Biden administration, they have gone to extremes.
One of the first victims was the Golden Globe ceremony, which was the worst in its 80-year history. The setting was the same, the dinner, the music, the friendly chit-chats and even a little glitz and glamour.
However, it all seemed forced and artificial and all the awards have already been forgotten except for Stephen Spielberg, who won as Best Director for The Fabelmamns, ever heard of it?
The Cecil B De Mille’s Award was presented to Eddie Murphy for outstanding contribution to the entertainment world.
Undoubtedly, a great entertainer, but we cannot help but wonder if that too was a “politically correct” move.
“The greatest award is the appreciation of the people”
Gopi Sundar (1977-)
*A version of this article appears in print in the 19 January, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.