Once one of the most well-known critical theorists Theodor W. Adorno stated that culture was important to manipulate the audience. For him, films provide easy pleasure to people, giving them a false sense of reality. This theory has some valid points. Undoubtedly, some films can broaden our minds, portraying a different viewpoint than we are used to seeing in everyday life. However, we are tired of being in front of the screen, spending hours watching special effects, cheesy comedies and predictable happy-endings, all of which is far from representing our reality.
With this years Oscars, we were able to see a little bit of everything, including an off-beat, innovative film: Birdman or the unexpected virtue of ignorance, which won three golden statues. To understand a little more about it, I had a conversation with Donnchadh Tiernan, who is a filmmaker, stand-up comedian and journalist, so he knows what he is talking about. As we sat in the cafe of the Irish Film Institute sipping our americano coffees, TIernan said:
“I do not think that the Oscars has changed over the years, Birdman won because it was appealing to the masses and they have Michael Keaton. No matter how unusual the film was, the director Alejandro González Iñárritu cast Michael Keaton so he always remains in the mainstream. It is a big idea to be ignored.”
I was about to ask my next question when the outgoing actor added another comment: “What that mainstream appeals to is easy to understand. If you take it at a very basic level it is easy to understand what happens in the film. In Birdman, the events can be very funny but I think that it has something for everybody so that’s why people reacted so positively to it.” He liked the film for being “unusual” and “innovative in some ways”, but in his opinion many good films were completely left out.
Donnchadh believes that foreign language films can open our mind but, unfortunately, big producers are not interested in innovative narratives, only predictable stories which they can make lot of profits from. He says: “If each country that doesn’t speak English got to put forward two, three or four films every single year on the Oscars, obviously they would have a high quality and most of the films nominated for best foreign language would be better than any films nominated in any category.”
When Donnchadh left, an elderly man beside me had been listening to our conversation and said, “I am sick of seeing films from the Oscars, everything is so predictable.”
I did not hesitate to agree with him. It appears, the mainstream films have not changed over the years, but many of viewers are expecting something challenging.