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In a sign of the times, the studios had very little presences in the winners circle. The Artist was directed, produced by and starred French folks (though it was the only Best Picture nominee actually filmed in Los Angeles) and was distributed by The Weinstein Company.
So what does it mean that a tiny film made by French producers won the biggest film award of the year? It’s a good thing for independent film. The independents needs awards more than the big studio films do. An award can add as much as 17% to the box office of a film and it gives a movie the distinction of always being known as an Oscar winner. Every year when the ceremony comes along and video distributors (like the cable guys and Netflix) look for ways to get you to watch old films again they can group those films as Oscar winners.
The studios have basically ceded the high ground to the independents. They now prefer to focus almost maniacally on “tent pole” films that cost hundreds of millions of dollars, attract young viewers and can earn as much as $1 billion at the box office.
The Help was the only big studio film that walked away tonight with any significant awards — Octavia Spencer won Best Supporting Actress for her work in the film. The movie was produced by DreamWorks and distributed by Disney.
Paramount also won a good number of smaller awards (like Cinematography and Art Direction) for Hugo which has not performed so well at the box office. The 3-D film has only earned $115 million so far. Rango, which won Best Animated Film, is also a Paramount movie.
The big losers tonight: George Clooney, Viola Davis and Billy Crystal. Clooney, who has yet to win a Best Actor award, was widely expected to win this year for The Descendants but he was beat by Jean Dujardin who only spoke two words in The Artist. Meryl Streep (who was nominated for a 17th time) beat Davis who many thought would win for The Help.
Crystal was a late addition to the Oscar telecast after Eddie Murphy and Brett Ratner dropped out. While he helped the show move quickly his bits felt incredibly out of date and he made the whole event feel very much like a small group of old people patting themselves on the back. The show is still struggling to find a way to appeal to the older people in the room and the younger people who watch. Maybe next year.
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