Monday, March 06, 2006


Did you watch the Oscars? I'll say that, on the whole, I was pleased with the winners. I was most excited to see Ang Lee win a long-overdue best director award, and inasmuch as I was sad that Brokeback Mountain didn't take home the best picture honor, at least another socially-conscious movie, Crash, did. Still, I was bothered....

I'll admit that the stage set was quite nice, decked out as it was in the look of a resplendent art-deco movie palace. The scrolling movie posters were a nice touch, as was the dynamic overhead marquee that displayed the winners' names. By mid-broadcast, though, it was clear that the set design was more than just elaborate window-dressing. It was part of a rather heavy-handed--and frankly pretty sad--effort on the part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences to convince viewers of the enduring virtues of theatrical movie-going.

Jake Gyllenhaal led the charge during what can only be described as a painfully awkward monologue in which he impugned portable DVD players--doubtless at the Academy's request. It was clear from his body language and the way he stumbled through his lines--I think he nearly laughed once--that he didn't believe what he was saying. Gyllenhaal was followed by Academy President Sid Ganis, who dragged out the tired old saw about how nothing's better than seeing a movie on the big screen, with the sound coming at you from all sides, and how the DVD home theater experience simply doesn't compare.

I have to admit to being baffled by these anti-DVD philippics. Sure, box-office receipts were down this year. But you'd think the movie industry would embrace the fact that DVD sales have become its cash cow, given how they've now more lucrative than theatrical movie-going. (See Charles Acland's brilliant Screen Traffic: Movies, Multiplexes, and Global Culture, if you haven't already.) So why dis the DVD? Why not simply own up to the fact that Hollywood needs to figure out how to make DVDs and theatrical movie-going lead an even more complementary and compatible existence? Is this just nostalgia for silver screens and celluloid, or is there something more at stake here?

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