It’s best not to think about the Oscar race when in Cannes. Why would you? The two competitions are worlds away from one another and vive la difference. Yesterday’s press luncheon for the Weinstein Co. brought the topic of Oscars to the forefront, however, and it’s never too early to take a look at the way things might be changing at this stage of the game, for better or worse. You can’t stop what’s coming and what’s coming is an unstoppable force. Effects-driven tentpoles on a quest for international box-office dollars slam like battering rams at the gates of the Academy, a bastion of traditional sensibility that is still very much stuck with old reliable models for Best Picture.
“Watching the unprecedented spectacle of this Superman picture, I thought of the producer Lynda Obst’s new book, Sleepless in Hollywood, in which Obst explains why studios are making so many action-heavy, 3-D, Imax monstrosities in lieu of anything else: This is what plays in the rest of the world, especially China, from which an astounding 80 percent of studios’ profits now come. The greed on display extends to the product placements. Amid the explosions and flying debris, the Sears, 7-Eleven, and IHOP logos are visible from all angles. Critics and even the American public might be cool to this War of the Worlds take on Superman, but if Asian markets are onboard, it’s pop-the-cork-and-green-light-the-sequel-time: truth, justice, and the Chinese way.” – David Edelstein, July 2013
Did you read that? Let it sink in. 80% of studio’s profits come from China now. 80%. Little wonder that Hollywood kowtows to its best-paying customers, and that means more movies like everything you’re seeing now — which mostly amounts to dependable reiterations of everything you saw last year and the year before that. Attempting to bridge the gap between originality, quality and effects-driven international tentpoles are films by directors like Jim Cameron, Christopher Nolan and Alfonso Cuaron, whose Gravity is the quintessential example of one of these jaw-dropping behemoths. Plug and Play films relying on astounding visual effects and devoid of difficult subtleties are what the mass international audiences want most. Of course, discerning moviegoers overseas crave greater depth the same as the brightest film lovers anywhere. But, as a rule, for blockbuster movies that need to put 150 million butts in seats, nothing is lost in translation when dialogue can be reduced to plain-spoken exclamations, wisecracks and catch phrases.