March 01, 2004

As of today, SiriusGraphics.Com is up and running. Bear with me, I'll get the site cleaned up in a few weeks. My blog will be posted here exclusively now, as to avoid the Blogspot Ads.

The Academy Retires an Old Prejudice
History has been made, folks, and you probably know that I'm talking about Lord of the Rings. Last night at the Academy Awards, there was an 11-oscar sweep for Lord of the Rings, tying the record with Titanic and Ben Hur. I'm so glad that the Academy has broadened it's horizons in light of such an incredible set of films.

"Fantasy is an 'F' word that hopefully the five-second delay won't do anything with," Peter Jacksons said when "Return of the King" won Best Picture. Many fans of the film were worried that it would be overlooked because the Academy has never given Best Picture to a Fantasy/Sci-Fi film. My friend, Justin Patterson, said it best : "I think that the Academy realized that if they didn't recognize Lord of the Rings, that they would appear less credible." I agree, if the Academy kept their stance that there can be no drama or in science Fiction or Fantasy settings, in the face of such an amazing cinematic accomplishment, they would start to lose their audience.

Put simply, Movies are a drug, and large numbers of us are unquestionably addicted. The "pushers" of the movie industry are largely movie store clerks and other movie buffs, usually with wide social connections. "Justins," if you will, in reference to Mr. Patterson. Each social group has at least one "Justin" that can appreciate the whole spectrum of film without discrimination: They can recommend "Memento" and "Casablanca" with as much fervor as "From Dusk Till Dawn" and "Lord of the Rings." Justins are the biggest driving forces behind the DVD renatal and sales market. Long after the distributor has spent it's last advertising dollar on a film, the Justins of the world continue to promote it by recommendations to friends and co-workers. Case and point is "Office Space," which was a low performer at the box office but has earned cult fame by word-of-mouth and become one of the best selling video & DVD releases of all time.

Many people don't realize that it's in the secondary market that most of the movie's revenue is made. Popular films can easily recoup the production and advertising costs from just from theatrical releases and make a tidy sum on top. This makes the $19.99 that fans will pay to buy the movie on DVD almost pure profit. Some distributors can even lower themselves to releasing "Special Edition", "Collector's Edition" and "Director's Cut" versions of the same DVD, with very little extra value-added content, to squeeze more money from fans. (Don't get me started on Mr. George Lucas.)

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is universally viewed as the "Official" recognition for great films. Although the Academy is not a democracy or even a representative democracy, the public seems to feel that the Academy's decisions should reflect public opinion, to some degree. Like elected government officials, the public may feel that since they pay the salaries of the film industry, that the industry should represent the people and their views. The Academy, like any other organization, is only as powerful and influential as we decide to make it. I believe that the Academy decided to soften their rigid stance on Fantasy & Science Fiction films in the face of such overwhelming public support for "Lord of the Rings" in order to maintain their status of officiality. This was a wise move on their part.

Some may see this change of stance may as "watering-down" the importance of the Academy, but I disagree. This was not pandering to the public, and this willnot lead to granting Best Picture awards to movies solely on box-office reciepts and fan base. This decision was simply the removal of an entrenched discrimination, which now allows the recognition of great films of any genre. "Lord of the Rings" shows us that the drama of a film can overshadow it's fantasy settings and special effects and be just as moving as films in a more realistic setting.

The Academy has wisely decided to become more in tune with the Justins of the world, and see the greatness in the multitude of cinematic works, not solely dramas. Some members might have had reservations about this decision, but I think it is a great step forward for the Academy and the film industry as a whole. In this move, the Academy has defended its integrity, stating that an award with no genre-specific categories should and will recognize great accomplishments in film, regardless of realism.

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