There’s nothing wrong with the Oscars. It’s a night
of American celebration, done in American style. American film
stars are the world’s most recognised people, most glamorous
people and some of them the most talented people in cinema. The
talent pool is 250 million people deep. Many if not all awards
presentations around the world have copied the ancient Oscar
recipe, in a poverty of imagination that flatters by imitation
but pales in comparison. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and
Sciences has a legitimate and proud history of magnificent
achievement in cinema, and globally recognised (and loved,
admired, respected, shunned, hated) people whose mere presence as
a person, not acting or otherwise engaged in their profession,
delivers megawatts of live and televised oomph.
It hardly matters, in that scenario, what you do. It is enough
that these people appear on stage, in a collusion of intimacy
with the live audience and you, the viewer.
This can not be said of the AFI Awards, a copy of the Oscars
in style if not substance. It is astounding that a society so
enamoured of its individuality and a profession so dependent on
fresh ideas has so far failed to come up with something more
innovative than a mere copy of a foreign format. I say this with
no ill will, but a degree of impatience.
"The focus is on
‘celebrity’ not so much the films."
The structure and style of the award presentation is
inappropriate for Australia, partly because the focus is on
‘celebrity’ not so much the films. Yes, there are clips
(but not for every category, such as original music, for example)
and there is a brief piece of patter for every category, borrowed
in style at least from the Oscars. The emphasis is on who
presents the awards, not who has been nominated. The focus is on
which presenter ‘name’ will attract more interest, not
which of the film and television achievements propel our screen
culture and entertainment. (Even so, many presenters are chosen
by misguided criteria: as in design, form should follow
This is the industry that shouted ‘Make it
Australian’ 20 years ago; this is the industry that speaks
our voice, has our unique accent, tells our own stories.
It should now find its own way of honouring its achievers.