It is not necessary to be a sceptic to dismiss the Oscars as a low-cal smoothie, mixing a marketing love-in and a hiring fair. After all, every industry has self-aggrandising jamborees. The Oscars are no different, even if they wear a couturier-sponsored veil of artistic endeavour. They are about selling product but there often is more. The Oscars have honoured work of questionable merit, but the awards also recognise films that have reach far beyond their setting.
The 2016 winner of the best film accolade, Spotlight, is an example. It focussed on Boston Cardinal Bernard Law who, like his Irish peers, encouraged paedophile priests by transferring them when their preying on children ruffled too many feathers. Law died the Vatican and Pope Francis officiated at his funeral. That scandal was the framework supporting Spotlight, but the role of a free press was its heartbeat.
In a country where another bishop has resigned over a paedophile priest and where Taoiseach Leo Varadkar may disband his “communications unit” because it took his administration on a ill-advised spin on the fake news merry-go-round, these issues are as relevant, and as socially toxic, as ever. Martin McDonagh’s wonderful Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was nominated for seven awards at the 90th Academy Awards. Frances McDormand, who played Mildred Hayes in the lead role, was named best actress. The film’s theme is the idea of how corrosive, how increasingly unsettling the absence of justice always is. Hayes’ daughter was murdered and raped but no progress has been in the case. She cannot accept this and t The film records her deepening anger with the police whose efforts have run into a brickwall. Just as with Spotlight, that theme resonates loudly here, though murder or rape are not involved.
Last week ’s announcement that , AIB, a rescued zombie bank announced that it may, from next year, offer senior personnel an annual allocation of deferred shares worth the equivalent of up to 100% of salary. That’s half a million-worth for the bosses with salaries capped at €500,000. AIB is 71% owned by the State which purports to champion the common good above all else.
Anyone familiar with our recent history will know that, just like the Three Billboards murder, no one has been held to account for our €64bn banking implosion. Anyone familiar with AIB’s relationship with Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe will know it is not smooth. Late last year, he criticised AIB boss Bernard Byrne over his audacious call for the Government to sell its stake in the bank. Mr Donohoe has also been critical of the bank’s response to the tracker mortgage scandal. Mr Byrne admitted to an Oireachtas committee that wrongly switching thousands of customers from low-cost tracker mortgages or applying incorrect interest rates probably boosted AIB’s income by up to €100m.
In any other situation, the majority shareholder would exercise their power to ensure their wishes prevail. The AIB shares issue paints backs our Government into a corner — one they can only escape by showing whose interests it really represents. Hollywood might imagine it but we tolerate it. Why are we, and by extension, our Government so supine?