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on audiovisual translation, subtitling, and the French & American film industries

Merit and the Oscars: an oxymoron?

Barbra Streisand from "Yentl"

Oy vey!  Pardon my un-French and not really English response to this idea, which was sparked this morning by the Times‘ Manohla Dargis, whose article on Kathryn Bigelow, and The Hurt Locker‘s decisive win Sunday night gloats over the director’s (just) annihilation of Oscar‘s glass ceiling, once and for all.

As a gay man, my instant response is: of course she did it, in what ostensibly is a “man’s” territory–war movie.  Had Nancy Meyers been nominated this year for it’s complicated, or my cousin Nicole Holofcener in past years–in both cases for what is arguably perceived as “girly” work and genres–that would have been different.  It was no great irony that the grandmère of “woman directors” Barbra Streisand presented the award, herself having not been nominated for her first effort, Yentl, a film in which she portrayed a woman masquerading as a man!   My head is spinning . . .

My appreciation of the film and Bigelow’s work had nothing to do with her gender, but the way it puts soldiers squarely on the same footing and territory as everyone else, and neither pathologizes their desire to fight, nor aggrandizes their humanity or social stature.  And not by making them more or less likable because their job is to fight and kill adversaries.  It is simply their job, which in one case, is a true calling for them.

The Oscars now are clearly so much less about merit–Sandra Bullock over Meryl Streep?!–than an annual cultural validation ritual.  If it were less remarkable when individuals from under-represented and -recognized groups won, e.g., in the so-called American real world where equality and fairness vacillate like the global warming “debate” and the weather, then the Oscars might really be about excellence in film, and not fake politics.

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