Lifestyle: The South At The Oscars
Over the years, Hollywood has given the world glimpses of Southern culture – some sincere, some appalling; some painfully accurate, some ignorantly stereotypical. Finding a consensus on what constitutes “good” filmmaking about the South is difficult. Is it the accuracy of the setting, the delivery of proper accents, the depth and understanding of the culture or the portrayal of the people?
In the early days of filmmaking, cinema depicted the South as a romanticized antebellum land inhabited by rich landowners, alluring belles and contented slaves (Gone With the Wind). Later the racial problems were no longer ignored (To Kill a Mockingbird) and other elements of our culture were handled with more depth and thought. However, while Hollywood’s portrayal of the South has somewhat developed, there are still an unfortunate and disproportionate amount of films that follow a formula underscoring misperceptions. From watching any number of films you could conclude that most Southerners are backwoods racists who value faith over intellect (as if the two are mutually exclusive).
Yet, the debates of how to best capture the essence and diversity of Southern culture on film are not likely to end anytime soon. As we recognize compelling filmmaking with the 83rd Academy Awards, it’s a fitting time to revisit a few Oscar-winning films and consider their portrayal of the South:
Gone with the Wind (1939 – 10 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress)
All the Kings Men (1949 – 3 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor)
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951 – 4 Oscars, including Best Actress)
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962 – 3 Oscars, including Best Actor)
In the Heat of the Night (1967 – 5 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor)
Cool Hand Luke (1967 – 1 Oscar for Best Supporting Actor)
Nashville (1975 – 1 Oscar for Best Original Song)
Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980 – 1 Oscar for Best Actress)
Driving Miss Daisy (1989 – 4 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actress)
Forrest Gump (1994 – 6 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director)
Dead Man Walking (1995 – 1 Oscar for Best Actress)
Sling Blade (1996 – 1 Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay)
Ray (2004 – 2 Oscars, including Best Actor)
Walk the Line (2006 – 1 Oscar for Best Actress)
Cold Mountain (2007 – 1 Oscar for Best Supporting Actress)
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008 – 3 Oscars, including Best Art Direction)
The Blind Side (2009 – 1 Oscar for Best Actress)
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