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The Oxymoron of Oscar Films

by Anthony Kaufman
February 10, 2010 2:59 AM
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From the lowest budget productions to James Cameron's costly, ambitious blockbuster "Avatar," it's a surprise that any of this year's leading Oscar nominees were ever made in the first place. Indeed, Hollywood perennially overlooks its eventual Oscar contenders on their way to fruition; Danny Boyle's "Slumdog Millionaire" and Bennett Miller's "Capote" were cast out by their original distribs' parent companies, and how many of Hollywood's most celebrated directors -- Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Sidney Lumet -- have faced resistance on subsequent projects after earning honors from that very same establishment?

With studios relying ever more on familiar commodities, specialized divisions seen as a drag on resources and the dogged persistence of the economic slump, "executionally dependent" films have increasingly become Hollywood's neglected stepchildren -- eventually dressed up nice and paraded out only during award season. As one director told me, "No one wants to take a risk. Unless you're extremely brave or extremely wealthy, it's very hard not to think seriously about making a safer choice and doing something more commercial."

See my full story, "Directors push uphill pics," in Variety's Best Director special issue.

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