Lauren Whittingham is a member of the SoTA Press team and a student in the Department of English.
The film industry has an increasing influence over our society and culture, from what we wear, talk or argue about, and what we chose to study. Students and staff in our Media and Communications department are waiting with excited anticipation to see what this year’s Academy Awards will ‘say’ about the industry and trends in the interests and views of the cinema-going public. It is difficult to imagine that the most famous film awards show on earth, hailed from humble beginnings, starting (out of the public eye) in the 1920s as a simple awards dinner in Hollywood – with tickets only costing $5! Surprisingly it only changed from a banquet to a theatre event almost twenty years later in 1942.
Of course, nowadays things have changed – the films are different and now include previously ignored genres and low-budget films;, the atmosphere has changed and, most important of all, it has become a global television sensation, allowing millions in 200 different countries to bask in the glamour of it all.
But the big question, every year, without fail is: ‘who will win Best Picture?’
For 2015, we have ‘Whiplash’, a drama focused on a young drummer in the competitive world of the music conservatory where his mentor stops at nothing to realise his potential; ‘American Sniper’ which centres on a navy SEAL sniper whose accuracy saves many lives, but back at home he finds he cannot leave the war behind; ‘Birdman’ a story of a ruined actor attempting to recover himself, his career and his family; ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ on the adventures of a concierge at a hotel for the fictional Republic of Zubrowka between the first and second world wars and the lobby boy who becomes a trusted friend; ‘The Imitation Game’ following a mathematician in WWII trying to crack the enigma code; ‘Selma’ a biopic of Martin Luther King Jr.’s campaign to secure equal voting rights via a march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965; ‘The Theory of Everything’ which tracks the relationship between physicist Stephen Hawking and his first wife; and ‘Boyhood’ which follows the life of a young man, from age five to age 18.
Lecturer and researcher in film from the University’s Department of Communication and Media, Dr Yannis Tzioumakis, proposes that indie films – those usually from independent film studios and concerning less ‘conventional’ storylines – seem to be doing a lot better in the Oscars in recent years than they have done in the past.
This being so, we can perhaps confidently predict that the winner could be either Birdman or Boyhood. Indeed, film journalists seem to agree, with many arguing that it is a clear fight between these two films, despite the opposite styles. The Guardian, for example, states that although two seemingly independent films, they are both backed by “mini-major studio” – a product of what is now becoming known as ‘indiewood.
So will this be the year for independent film? All will be revealed on Sunday, 22 February.