Good news for those who make independent "art house movies," as some might call them, as last night's Academy Awards showed, the big production houses like Twentieth Century Fox, and Paramount, may soon walk arm in arm with the dinosaurs down Madison Avenue as Focus, and Lion's Gate prevail. Most, if not all, of the five nominated films for "Best Picture," such as "Brokeback Mountain," "Crash," "Good Night and Good Luck," and "Capote" were made by independent producers, and the winner was "Crash," an independent film which is (imagine!) already available on DVD. Clearly, the efforts of (bless his heart) Robert Redford, and Sundance, in enabling maverick, off the Beltway, filmmaking in America have won out over the former venture capital ideology; well, last night anyway.
While there were 10% fewer viewers of the Oscars Sunday night than back in 2005, it warmed my heart to see Philip Seymour Hoffman accept best actor award for his inspired performance of (ohmygawd) Truman Capote, yes, a novelist, and it was equally moving to see Ang Lee win best director, the man is, in the best sense of the word, an artist. Likewise, giving "Best Screenplay from an Adaptation" award to "Brokeback Mountain" was judicious, and more than symbolic of how times have changed, as well as how we, as a society, have changed along with them.
For me, the crowning moment came when Robert Altman accepted his lifetime achievement award, and revealed that he is currently at work, in London, on one of Arthur Miller's plays. There is hope for Hollywood, after all, when one of its most prolific, and commercial, directors recognizes that cinema must return to the angst, and catharsis that propels great theatre, and great times.
There were no losers last night. Indeed, all those who believe that making art and making movies is still possible, in America, scored a major triumph.