It was pleasing to see two great actors, Frances McDormand and Sir Anthony Hopkins collecting Oscars for Best Actress and Best Actor. Their awards will no doubt place them in the category of all-time greats of the cinema. For Frances McDormand it was her third best actress award following her gongs for Fargo and Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri. Sir Anthony Hopkins is now the oldest actor to receive this award. It is his second best actor award – who will ever forget his performance in Silence of the Lamb when he played Hannibal Lecter.
In the case of McDormand and Hopkins, you can almost say that they never turn in a bad performance. Irrespective of the quality of the film, they are always worth the ticket price alone. There are not too many actors you can say this about, but as a taking point I would throw in Jack Nicholson and Steve McQueen.
I was particularly pleased to see Emerald Fennell receive an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Promising Young Woman. Following on from her writing credits for Killing Eve and her talent as an actress for playing Camilla Parker Bowles in The Crown and Patsy Mount in Call The Midwife, she is an enormous British talent that we will no doubt be hearing a lot about in future years. I must also confess to being pleased to see Promising Young Woman win a major award as it is the only film at last night’s award ceremonies that I had seen – by the way - it is a terrific film – do go see!
Which brings me onto my observation at the header of this blog. Film monoculture was until 20 or so years ago, the embodiment of the Oscars. Think of some of the all-time great movies up to the turn of the last century – Gone with the Wind, Ben Hur, One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Sting, Titanic – the list could go on and on - and not only did they win a handful of Oscars but they were generally watched by one and all – certainly anyone with even a passing interest in cinema. Now look at the Oscar winners over the past 20 years and their award successes are rarely, if ever, matched with box office dollars. Of course, the most successful films in the past 20 years have been about superheroes or franchise films. Take two of my favourite recent films that won a Best Film gong – Green Book and Parasite – and their box office take hardly broke into the top 100.
The advent of streaming and digital platforms has led to a much greater fragmented market compared to an age when audiences queued round the corner to get into the Odeon. Oscar-winning films today, which recognise great works of cinema, are far more likely to be handed out to niche productions.
But there is nothing small in the achievements of either McDormand or Hopkins.