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David Miller: New Zealand's Night, Or Was It?

David Miller Online. The Oscars: New Zealand’s Night… Or Was It?

For yet another year, I failed to make it to the Oscars. Each year I watch the ceremony on television and promise myself that next year I will be strutting down the red carpet in my tux and mingling with all the stars. Unfortunately this year I left my hotel booking to the last minute so chances are I would have been sleeping in a bus shelter on Hollywood Boulevard after the ‘Lord Of The Rings’ party to which my invite remains lost in the mail. It is also doubtful that I would have been able to sit through all the speeches and Whoopi Goldberg that dragged on for over three hours. Still, this was tipped to be New Zealand’s night and now that the Oscar marathon is finally over, it would appear that New Zealand filmmaking has enjoyed its finest hour. Peter Jackson's epic blockbuster 'The Lord of the Rings - Fellowship of the Ring' collected four awards while ‘Shrek’, with its Kiwi co-director won one. We must not forget that Russell Crowe was nominated for Best Actor for his role in ‘A Beautiful Mind’ and one would have to say that it was a hugely successful night for the folks from down under. So why do I have my reservations?

I have to confess that I did not sit through the entire awards ceremony from start to finish. To be honest I could not sit through three minutes of it without getting restless, switching the channel or having to use the bathroom. Heaven help the poor person sitting next to me at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood next year when I am covering the awards ceremony for Scoop. Personally, I would much prefer that Scoop send me off to attend the Golden Globes because at least at that ceremony the organisers are kind enough to let you have a drink. After all, how can we forget Elizabeth Taylor’s effort last year when she was called on to present the award for Best Film and arrived at the microphone almost paralytic. If you were lucky enough to catch that effort you will know what I mean. I am surprised she managed to make it up the stairs to the stage.

The whole event is overshadowed by the fashion and the issue of who wore what. Those who got the thumbs up or down from the fashion police is as big a deal as whom takes home what awards. In my view Cameron Diaz definitely failed this time around. It appeared that there was a lot of black and white among the gowns and designer dresses this year and there was simplicity to the style of the clothing and hair design that contrasted to previous events. However make no mistake, these outfits still cost more to produce than most New Zealanders make in their entire working lives and the jewellery worn was worth millions.

Whether this sombre colour choice is simply a representation of current fashion trends or a response to the events of September 11 is a matter that has already been raised. Not only was security tight and extensive, it was reported that the mood of those attending was subdued also. One report I read said that this year’s event was a shadow of that of last year and this is understandable as despite the outward appearances the United States still carries huge scars from that day. America needed a boast and the Oscars is looked upon as one event that provided that shot in the arm.

The other aspect to the Academy Awards ceremonies is that the whole event is so contrived. For example the part were the stars are called upon to present an award. Their names are announced and they appear on the stage and then they lurch into a three-minute dialogue that is meant to be funny but which they are obviously reading straight from the auto-cue. Some of the presenters tonight struggled to see what it was they were supposed to be saying. We are talking about actors here and people who are paid a lot of money to learn their lines so why can’t these people be rehearsed properly? I am not for one second suggesting they improvise, having seen Steve Martin’s abysmal efforts last year, but lets try and make it appear just a little more natural.

This is also true of the awards themselves. I believe that all the major awards were going to be given to Americans regardless of how good their movie was. You may think this is a cynical view, but I think it’s a view that has merit. I was watching the early part of the ceremony with work mates and it was at the time ‘Lord Of The Rings’ was picking up its awards. One of my colleagues passed comment that the movie was getting all the awards for the minor categories as it was only going to Americans who were there at the end. This comment was reiterated by my flatmate who by the time I got home was getting rather upset that ‘Rings’ was missing out in the major sections and that Ron Howard received Best Director instead of Peter Jackson. It should be said that these views where not meant to detract from the achievement of those who did win awards early on but rather to make a point about these types of ceremonies as a whole. It is politics that decides who takes home the gold here.

It is for this reason why I believe the New Zealand contingent can feel a little hard done by this time around. Whether ‘Lord Of The Rings’ was the best film that was nominated depends on your personal taste but I have a suspicion that it was always destined for second place. This was America’s big night and nothing was getting in the way. Still, at the end of the day I guess it doesn’t matter. There is always next year and another movie to make. Regardless of whether it is all a set up or not, next year I might just make it myself. See you on the red carpet.

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