The Oscars and BBC Persian Television

Ekran, a monthly arts and culture program on BBC Persian Television, had a special segment on the Academy Awards this month. Bahman Maghsoudlou, film historian and critic, was interviewed for this segment in February 2010 to discuss expectations for winners and losers as well as who he believed would get the prizes.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences doubled the number of movies nominated for Best Picture this year to ten in order to boost sagging ratings for the Oscar broadcast. The last time there were ten films in the running was 1943, the year that Casablanca won Best Film.

The ceremony was held on Sunday, March 7 at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, and for the first time there were two hosts: Steve Martin, in his third time as the Oscar emcee, was joined by first-timer Alec Baldwin.

The Hurt Locker, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, received six prizes out of the nine for which it was nominated, and Avatar, directed by James Cameron, thought by many to be a shoo-in for many prizes, unexpectedly received only three.

Kathryn Bigelow was the first woman to receive an Oscar for Best Director. Three women have previously been nominated, but none received the award.

There was also a bit of drama at work in the fact that, for the first time, two of the films in the top running were directed by, respectively, an ex-husband and wife. Cameron and Bigelow were married for almost two years, two decades previous. In the competition between these two, history would have been made either way: as already stated, Bigelow’s win was the first for a female director, and, had Avatar won, it would have been the first science fiction film to take home the top prize. And, of course, there was additional interest in watching two such disparate films going head to head, one the new top-grossing blockbuster of all time ($2.5 billion to date, breaking Cameron’s own previous record of $700 million with Titanic, for which he took home both top prizes), the other a small independent production that has so far made about $16 million.

Jeff Bridges’ fifth nomination turned into his first win when he was awarded the Oscar for Best Actor for Crazy Heart, while Sandra Bullock took home the Best Actress prize for The Blind Side.

The night’s most unexpected Oscar came in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Germany’s award-winning The White Ribbon, the dark metaphoric masterpiece that took the top prizes at last year’s Cannes Film Festival and this year’s Golden Globes was widely expected to win here as well, but instead the prize was given to an Argentinean film, The Secret in Their Eyes by Juan Jose Campanella.

The following day on its March 11 program, Ekran revisited Maghsoudlou to analyze the academy presentation, why Avatar lost to The Hurt Locker and other issues regarding this year’s ceremony.

It is important to note that the audience of this year’s broadcast rose 14% from 36 million to 41 million households.

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