The 78th annual
film industry publicity stunt Oscars are now in the bag, ably hosted by Jon Stewart, with a whole host of Daily Show-esque comedic interludes voiced by (who else?) Stephen Colbert. The big news, however, was the upset victory of the racially-charged Crash over front-running gay cowboy flick Brokeback Mountain.
In a field loaded with controversial subject matter, spawned from a year of lackluster overall box office returns, Brokeback Mountain was the heavy favorite for Best Picture, after sweeping the preliminary “feeder” awards. But Crash, a gritty movie that takes place in 36 hours of intersecting stories, prejudices, and redemptions in Los Angeles, scored the big prize instead.
Was Crash the better story? That’s truly impossible to say — both were excellent films, and trying to objectively compare two works of art is like dancing about architecture. Which film is actually better is not even the point, as it was the story the Academy wanted to tell that determined the outcome.
As the conservative Dallas Morning News puts it, Crash was the safe choice. That’s interesting, isn’t it? A blunt examination of racism and cultural tension between blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians and Iranians is the safe choice in 2006. That’s a testament to the true power of Hollywood storytelling over time. Racism is by no means a non-issue, as Crash forcefully reminds us. But at the risk of vast understatement, the attitudes toward the subject are drastically different than in the days of the film-adaptation of To Kill A Mockingbird.
Stories are the most important communication technique there is, and that’s especially true for business. The film industry tells stories on many levels, as should we all.
Other storytelling highlights:
- The Academy Awards broadcast is one of the most powerful “content-remixers” around, with the archives of the film studios at its montage disposal. Interesting things to consider for prospective editors of the Internet info-glut.
- Academy President Sid Ganis discusses storytelling by calling Hollywood the “salesmen of stories.” That’s a lesson for entrepreneurs and business people of all kinds, because it’s not just Hollywood anymore.
- The brilliant introduction to Robert Altman’s Lifetime Achievement Award by Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep was a joy. The two ladies gave an improvisational demonstration of Altman’s natural dialogue philosophy — talking over one another, stopping and starting, playing off each other, laughing. A big part of Altman’s genius is his realization that real conversations are often messy, but therein you find the true gold. The only “right” way to have a conversation is naturally.
- Reese Witherspoon’s win for her portrayal of June Carter Cash in Walk the Line and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Oscar-winning role as the flamboyant writer in Capote continues a trend started last year by Jamie Foxx’s Oscar for Ray. People are hungry for “real” stories.
Moving from the Hollywood Circus over to a Carnival — the Carnival of Marketing, that is. Jack Yoest is hosting this week, and he was nice enough to mention The Viral Copy Report among several other selections. There’s lots of good stuff over there, so go check it out if you have a moment.
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