Last year’s Oscar ceremonies, then, revealed an industry going through an identity crisis. The theme seemed to be “remember when movies were meaningful?” In a pre-taped segment actors and directors wistfully described the moment they fell in love with movies, Billy Crystal hosted with the grim boredom of the same old shit nine times around, and Kodak, famous sponsors of the Academy Awards’ theater, had declared bankruptcy just weeks before the ceremony. The whole thing felt like one long In Memoriam tribute. The films celebrated last year, too, showed that nostalgia for cinema had become the mode of critic and producer alike: Hugo, The Artist, Midnight in Paris… Outside the ex-Kodak’s hollow halls, the proliferation of sequels, reboots, remakes and franchise films revealed a ‘creative’ industry which couldn’t even make up new images as it lay belly up at the trough of profit, which, despite the loud legal protestations of the anti-piracy goons, was as full in 2011 as it had ever been.
Last year’s program copped to the death of Hollywood cinema-as-art. All that was left was looking backward over a once-hallowed institution and weeping over the corpse. This year, though, the tears have dried. What we see instead is a clear vision of the utility of cinema. The 85th Academy Awards, like no show before it, will elevate films that are openly ideological, weaponized tools of the state.