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Filmism.net Dispatch March 5, 2012

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Well, the 2012 Oscars are behind us and, although I'm sure it's been commented on all over the place, it was the year of nostalgia. With The Artist scooping all but one of the three major awards (very well done to Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady) and Hugo cleaning up in most of the technical categories, 2012 was the year the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences fell victim to retro fetishism. It seemed fitting Woody Allen won his first Oscar in ages (and got his biggest box office return) for Midnight in Paris, a movie with love of nostalgia firmly on its sleeve.

Hugo beat out The Tree of Life in cinematography, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 in art direction, sound mixing from Transformers: Dark of the Moon and visual effects from Rise of the Planet of the Apes, each one a superior film in their respective categories if you ask me.

It can only mean one thing. Academy voters responded to the glory afforded to the stars, the craftspeople and the culture of films in the early 20th century depicted in The Artist (silent films) and Hugo (the birth of cinema).

So just why did Hollywood fall in love with its own past this year? I have a theory it's because at this point, the past is looking a lot more attractive than the future. Maybe those actors, directors, producers, executives and moguls saw George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) getting limo-driven to the studio and rolled a small tear knowing those days were long over. Maybe they watched the Georges Mélies (Ben Kingsley) fan load the reel of film on the old time projector and tried to block out the thought of the kids downloading bittorrent files of Hugo at that very moment.

Hollywood mounted another frontal assault against piracy in 2011 with SOPA but as usual, it butted heads with free speech. With the much more powerful technology industry against SOPA, it never really stood a chance and the way was assured for unbridled access to digital networks and its many effects (like porn and piracy) once again.

DVD revenues are not only not taking up the shortfall in film profits, they're falling too. Other media are encroaching on consumers' time and wallet. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 earned a billion dollars faster than Avatar did. No wonder Hollywood's hankering after a simpler, better time where it was the force to be reckoned with.

A lesson they could be learning is from the Australian producers of The Tunnel, who released their film on DVD, VOD, a few theatrical showings and the torrent networks all at the same time late last year. They're close to making their money back and it's a very cool, very effective horror film.

Maybe the lesson is twofold. First, it's not movies that are dying, just the old Hollywood systems. And second it's more true than ever that good stories have a way of being found and seen.

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