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Oscar winners no one expected: mothers everywhere

Oscar winners dispensed morsels of wisdom in their thank-you speeches Sunday night. 'Listen to your mother' was the advice of Best Director Tom Hooper, who won for the 'The King's Speech.'

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Mr. Suber, author of “The Power of Film,” sees in the films of the past year a growing split between what the 6,000 or so Academy voters want people to think they love and what they actually do in their day jobs. “They vote their conscience,” he says, “but they make films to pay mortgages and buy their fancy cars.”

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Mainstream studios are abandoning ordinary characters, to whom everyday people can relate, in favor of cartoon figures that will play well with audiences around the world, says Mr. Suber. With only a few exceptions, he notes, the top-nominated films were all turned down by the major studios. He points to the money factor. A survey released last week by the Motion Picture Association of America shows the American film industry is making movies with more of an eye for foreign audiences than domestic. According to the survey, nearly two-thirds of the $31 billion global box office receipts come from foreign audiences. “Not all that long ago, that figure was more like fifty-fifty,” says Suber.

But small films – such as last year’s “Hurt Locker” and the previous year’s “Slum Dog Millionaire,” as well as this year’s “The King’s Speech” – continue to receive recognition, and that is encouraging to some filmmakers. Audiences are finding these movies and liking them, says filmmaker Jason Hewitt, founder of Films in Motion in Baton Rouge, La. He sees more opportunities for stories based on real people in true-life situations, noting that four of the 10 Best Picture nominations were based on actual events and people.

“As times get hard,” he says, “people want some authenticity, and that’s what these films are giving them.”

Producer Charles Bernstein suggests that the even distribution among a variety of genres is a healthy sign. Three of the biggest vote-getters – “The King’s Speech,” “The Social Network,” and “Inception” – represent important genres: the traditional history biopic, the youth-targeted hipster, and the special-effects-driven action flick.

“This says to me that Hollywood recognizes the need for all these types of movies and wants to reward the ones that are well done,” he adds by phone from the Kodak Theater after the ceremony.

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