You know how it is. A great little film goes on limited release. You see it before the hype settles in and tell your friends that they must see it too. A couple of weeks go by and the papers are raving about it. Fair enough, its nice to feel your taste in movies is vindicated. Then the Sun declares it film of the year. Oh well, you think, maybe theyre right. Then ten other papers do, and all your colleagues are asking you if youve seen it yet. But despite the jealousy, despite the fact its no longer just a good little film, that its An Event, you still stick by the fact you like it.
Then the Oscar nominations come out. Youre subjected to inhuman quantities of TV coverage. You cant open Screen International without a double page spread headed For Your Consideration. And on every BBC News 24 special, the same clips of Anthony Hopkins sucking his lips at Clarice Starling, or Mark Addy wrapping himself in cling-film, or Ralph Fiennes shooting from his balcony in black and white are shown again and again and again and again.
Its at this point that I get that sinking feeling. The film has gone from being enjoyable to being An Event before gaining that most terrifying of status - An Institution. People prowl Sainsbury's whistling the theme to Schindlers List. Your petrol station clerk shouts Show Me The Money and twelve year-olds talk about the brilliance of widening camera shutters to get the disturbing Normandy beech landing effect.
And YOUR film (because it is YOUR film dammit - you saw it before anyone could give a hoot) becomes as inevitably successful as a Best Actress nomination for Meryl Streep. And when the director of YOUR film steps onto the Academy podium to collect their award and perhaps declare that they are the King of The World or that The Brits are Coming or that What They Really Want To Do Is Act, it is no longer your film. And its art, its originality, the brilliance of the film that the director probably fought for with the Studio over months on end, has become its unique selling point, a way for the studios to make bigger and bigger bucks.
So how many times will we have to watch Lester Burbank shout at Annette Benning over dinner before American Beauty begins to jar? How often will we see Al Pacino tell Russell Crowe that the world needs people like him before the scene starts to suck? How much of Timothy Spalls Topsy Turvey dancing does it take to rip the humour from the film? I dont know, but Im pretty sure when Sam Mendes bounces up to the podium to collect Best Picture (and he does bounce), when he feigns astonishment and marvels at the standard of the other films, then, and perhaps only then, will the film fail to appear a paradigm of daring originality. Then it will be An Institution, and us UK filmmakers can hiss behind our hands as Mendes is offered more lucrative deals than we get rejection letters.
So I salute the fact that Stanley Kubrick never got offered an award. That Hitchcock, Chaplin, Hawks, Welles, Kieslowski, Leigh and Loach suffered similar treatment. Im quite happy to see Gone With The Wind and Titanic share stupid amounts of golden dildos if The Third Man, The Killing and Vertigo never have to share it with them.
But then I have to admit loving the whole thing. I love Billy Crystals almost-risque-one-liners, which you know have been crafted by a team of twenty over the past eighteen months. I love seeing Tom Cruises smile stretch to breaking point when he fails to win (and boy does he keep on clapping). I love the fact that half the audience are stand-ins because the real celebs are powdering their noses in the bar. I love the fact that when any nominations for Boys Dont Cry are read out, there will be the largest cheer from the lesbian transsexual brigade at the back of the circle. I love the fact that in, but a few years, Meryl Streep will have an awards category set aside just for her.
You love them. You hate them. They turn good films into schmaltz and ignore great ones. The Oscars epitomise everything cheap and crass about filmmaking. But youd struggle to find a filmmaker in the world today whod send a Native American to collect the award on behalf of the environment like Brando once did. Lets face it, weve all practised our acceptance speeches in front of the mirror when were drunk. Its Hollywood, its horrible, but I want in.