Opinion: Why the Oscars aren′t the Nobel Prize for Film | Opinion | DW | 29.02.2016
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Opinion: Why the Oscars aren't the Nobel Prize for Film

The Academy Awards poked a finger into the US's wounds and raised crucial social issues, especially surrounding diversity. But the Oscars don't have much to do with the state of global cinema, DW's Jochen Kürten writes.

Imagine the following: In Stockholm in autumn, a man stands in front of the door to a room full of press representatives from all over the world and announces the winner of the Nobel Prize for Film.

Unthinkable, right? But the scenario is not actually that far-fetched. After all, there is a Nobel Prize for Literature.

In other artistic disciplines for which there is no Nobel - such as music and architecture - there are comparable accolades granted by committees of experts, such as the Chopin Competition for music and the Priztker Prize for architecture.

The film world already has the Academy Awards, you might say. But the Oscars are different.

An English-only Nobel?

First of all, the Oscars are largely a national film award, which, apart from a few international exceptions, mainly focuses on English-language movies. A Nobel Prize that, year after year, only honored American or British authors would be unimaginable.

Secondly, the Oscars are a commercial media event. They not only have a strong impact on the US film market, influencing production processes and the start dates of individual films, but the awards ceremony itself has become such a TV spectacle that it practically overshadows the movies it is supposed to be about. Furthermore, the media hype ahead of the big day has taken on absurd proportions.

From an artistic perspective, the Oscars don't have much to do with international cinema. They don't thrust innovative filmmakers from around the world into the limelight.

Leonardo DiCaprio accepting his Oscar, Copyright: Reuters/M. Anzuoni

DiCaprio used his acceptance speech to draw attention to climate change

The fact that a few very good and artistically interesting English-language films won Oscars this year does not contradict this theory. "Spotlight" is a dynamically produced film about two important issues: abuse within the Catholic Church and investigative journalism.

"The Revenant" is an overwhelming nature epic with broad panoramas. The six Oscars for "Mad Max: Fury Road" and prizes for films like "Ex Machina" and "Inside Out" direct attention to the wizards of the US's biggest studios.

But do these awards tell us anything about the artistic development of cinema? Hardly - apart from American film, which is certainly not a negligible market.

Biting social criticism

This year, the Oscars directed attention to social problems such as the lack of diversity in Hollywood and racial tensions in the United States. Host Chris Rock addressed the hot-button issues right at the start of the evening.

Best actor Leonard DiCaprio used the podium to address climate change. And, with best documentary short going to the Pakistani film "A Girl in the River," attention was brought to religiously motivated "honor" killings in the region.

Thanks to the Oscars, these issues are being talked about. And, of course, everyone enjoys the glamorous photos from the red carpet. For most viewers, that's the primary reason to tune in to the show.

But the Oscars are not a Nobel Prize for Film.

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