Your Oscar is no big deal: Cynthia Heimel explains why Americans don't give a damn about Emma Thompson

Share
Related Topics
I HATE to have to tell everybody in England this but, with very few exceptions, nobody in America cares whether Emma Thompson lives or dies.

'Wasn't she the one in Knots Landing?' asked a costumier. 'No, wait, that was Emma Samms, wasn't it?'

'Who?' asked the production assistant, 'Nope, never heard of her. Howards End? Isn't that a chick movie?'

'Isn't she Kenneth whatsisname's wife?' asked an Oscar-nominated movie actress.

Yes, I know that not only was Thompson also nominated for an Oscar, but that tomorrow night she'll probably win. This means nothing. Virtually no one in America has seen Howards End. It has had no impact on the consciousness of the country. It just happens to be English, and so we figure it must be very tasteful. Just like Masterpiece Theatre, which we all pretend to watch.

We Americans just dote on the English. We don't take them seriously or anything, but we think they're so damned classy with their civilised ways and quaint accents. When your basic, cigar-chomping Neanderthal of a movie producer wants to add a bit of tone to a dinner party or the cast of his film, he pops in someone English. They make great accessories.

The members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are predominantly these same Neanderthals. Old, male, stupid and greedy, they devote their lives to making Police Academy V and then, to prove what classy guys they are, they vote for Gandhi. Or for Jeremy Irons, Maggie Smith, Emma Thompson.

English actors win academy awards, but hardly ever make it into American consciousness. Unless they're sexy. Michael Caine springs to mind. Julie Christie. Daniel Day Lewis was given a chance to be sexy when they put him in The Last of the Mohicans, where his main job was to gallop around on a mighty steed with his shirt hanging off. Pity only men went to see him.

Over here, Emma Thompson is not sexy. I know you call her 'the thinking man's crumpet' (you sexist pigs), but we don't think and we've never heard of crumpets. The stakes for sexy are very high if you're an actress these days. Basically you have to be naked and blonde. You have to be Sharon Stone or Madonna.

Or a man. The movie from the across the Atlantic that has captured the imagination of America is The Crying Game. Neil Jordan's IRA love story, starring Jaye Davidson, which has a mystery at its heart, resolved by a most evocative twist. Everybody's talking about it. It's mentioned on every television talk show, sitcom writers are putting jokes about it in their scripts. It's the first topic of conversation at parties and at the supermarket.

'I knew the minute I saw that Adam's apple.'

'Hey, that's nothing, I knew when I saw the photograph.'

'Poor John, he didn't even guess until he saw the actual penis.'

'It was so clear to me right from the start that I figured the twist was going to be that it was really a woman.'

The nation is so titillated by this film, this little movie which is quite good but doesn't have near the depth or soul of Howards End. But Howards End is basically about the class system, something which is alive and well in America but which we refuse with all our mights to acknowledge. If we believed in the class system, then we couldn't believe that absolutely anyone could become a rich and famous movie star or even president and we would start feeling helpless and hopeless in our little lives. So forget Howards End, we don't want to know.

But we do love a penis. Some of my friends have told me that the popularity of The Crying Game is due to the primal resonance of its subject matter - we never really know the person we love, we can love people who are fatally flawed, etc, etc. But I personally think that the appearance of a bigger-than- life penis right in our faces is what got everyone excited.

Don't believe me, look at the money: after 374 days on release, Howards End made dollars 21m. The Crying Game, after 117 days, made dollars 43m. And, while this is neither here nor there, Teenage Ninja Turtles III made dollars 13m in five days.

What with our current fascination with penises, this has been a disastrous year for women in movies. Traditionally, the big, action-packed, Schwarzenegger-starring movies (with fashion models as romantic leads) are released in the summer and gross a skillion dollars. The 'women's' movies, about feelings and relationships with no car chases whatsoever, are released in the autumn and maybe make Schwarzenegger's lunch money. It's from these little movies that the best actress nominations are usually culled.

But there weren't any this year, what with the preponderance of the testosterone-laden A Few Good Men and Unforgiven. They had frantically to scrape around through almost invisible art-house releases such as Indochine (dollars 3m) and Love Field (not even on the charts) to find any suitable female performances at all.

So Emma Thompson will probably win, but I hope she doesn't get too thrilled about it. What, really, is the use of tepid accolades from a bunch of old guys with hair transplants who won't pay her more even if she wins? Meanwhile, the rest of us are much more excited about the real issue of Oscar night: What will Jaye Davidson wear?

Cynthia Heimel's latest book, 'Get Your Tongue Out of My Mouth, I'm Kissing You Goodbye', will be published by Macmillan on 23 April.

(Photograph omitted)

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Graduate Pricing Analyst - 6 months / 1 year analytical experience

£20000 - £25000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Project Manager (retail, upgrades, rollouts)

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Project...

IT Specialist for a one month cover role

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: IC...

History Teacher

£7200 - £36000 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: Randstad Education is...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A homeless person sleeps in the streets  

This is why I am sleeping rough outside the party conferences

Max J Freeman
Strikes were carried out by manned air force and navy aircraft (File photo)  

Syria air strikes: President Assad now has the enemy he always wanted – Islamist terrorism

Kim Sengupta
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits