United States of Oscar?

As an Australian writing about American pop culture and the pinnacle of film awards (the Oscar), it is always fascinating to me when the nominees are announced. More and more “foreigners” make the grade to establish the Academy Award as not just a Yankee award for U.S. fare, but as more international and multicultural (albeit predominantly celebrating the best of English-language cinema with the odd foreign-language hit thrown in the mix).


This year not only looks the “whitest” Oscars in years, but it is also taking on a largely American flavor as well.

Among frontrunners in the acting races, only Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter (“The King’s Speech”), Lesley Manville (“Another Year”), Nicole Kidman (“Rabbit Hole”) and Sally Hawkins and Miranda Richardson (“Made in Dagenham”) are of the foreign legion: 5 Brits and 2 Aussies.

Of those that are in the mix but are by no means shoo-ins are Javier Bardem (“Biutiful”), Andrew Garfield (“The Social Network”), Colin Farrell (“The Way Back”), Vincent Cassell (“Black Swan”), Carey Mulligan (“Never Let Me Go”), Naomi Watts (“Fair Game”), Jackie Weaver (“Animal Kingdom”), Saiorse Ronan (“The Way Back”), Marion Cotillard (“Inception”) and maybe even Keira Knightley or Charlotte Rampling (“Never Let Me Go”). By my count, that’s a Spaniard, an Irishman, five more Brits, two from France and two more Aussies.

Looking even just at the films in contention for Best Picture, there are really only three in the top 15 of the pack. (“The King’s Speech”, a British/Australian co-production is the current joint frontrunner, and both Mike Leigh‘s “Another Year” and the sleeper hit “Made in Dagenham” are top British contenders.) Maybe five are in the larger group of “possible” contenders. (“The Way Back” is Peter Weir’s multi-national adventure epic that is being touted as a late-starter potential upset, “Biutiful” is Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu‘s latest, also entered as Mexico’s Foreign Language Film submission, and perhaps to a lesser extent, the Euro-centric “The Ghost Writer” and the British period sci-fi drama “Never Let Me Go” are also in the mix).

Perhaps I am missing something here, but is this just par for the course? Are foreigners always at a disadvantage when it comes to Oscar? Do we make inferior films and actors compared to our friends in the US of A?

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