Romantic Authors in Hollywood

The Oscars (oops: “Academy Awards”) are on tonight, and I’ve watched enough nominated movies over the last month to feel like I can keep up with what’s going on.

More than any other area of popular or technology culture, the motion picture industry thrives on the cult of romanticism. Peter Guber’s op-ed in the Times today about “due process for producers” is the ultimate pining for recognition of a “romantic author”; read his piece carefully, and you still won’t know what producers do, even if you’re persuaded that they deserve the credit. Manohla Dargis bemoans the disappearance of the romantic consumer: “A nation of iPod-people, each staring at his or her individually downloaded film on the delivery system of his or her choice, seems a poor substitute for the oceanic feeling that comes with watching a film with a crowd, finding communion in the dark.”

Increasingly, I suspect that annual orgy of film awards isn’t as pointless as it seems. I think that both the industry and popular culture need it — if only to give context and energy to things like Cubanomics. If Hollywood weren’t as overblown and puffed up as it is, how could Mark Cuban and Steven Soderbergh and others steal some of its wind?