Lights, camera, Césars!
The national French film awards, Les Césars, are upon us again for their 42nd year. Created in 1974, the Césars were made to be the French equivalent of the American Oscars. How similar are they really though? Frenchly compares the good-ol’ American Oscars with France’s chic Césars.
Both the Oscars and the Césars happen every year, in late February or early March. The nominees for awards are announced six weeks before the ceremonies. This year’s Oscars are February 26th, while the Césars happen two days earlier on February 24th.
The Nomination Categories
The nomination categories for both ceremonies are nearly the same. In fact, the Oscars only have three categories that the Césars don’t have (Best Makeup and Hair, Best Original Song, Best Digital Effects). And the Césars only have three categories that the Oscars don’t have (Most Promising Up and Coming Actor, Most Promising Up and Coming Actress, Best First Feature Film). The Best Short Film category exists for both the Césars and the Oscars, but the Oscars have divided the category into Best Live Action Short and Best Animated Short.
As with the Oscars, it’s a bit hazy who is actually voting on the Césars. For both ceremonies, those who have won awards can vote (of course), as well those with established careers in film (who have been approved to vote by certain reputable associations and groups) may also vote.
With such dramatically different population sizes, France and the US aren’t quite on the same playing field for this one and can’t really be compared. The Césars draw 2 million viewers, and the Oscars draw a whopping 43 million viewers. What can be definitely be contrasted is each country’s level of involvement: Americans often place Oscar bets amongst friends and have viewing parties—costumes mandatory! For the French, it’s not that different from any other night.
The Ceremony’s Location
After a 15-year stint at the stunning Théâtre du Châtelet on the edge of the Seine, the Césars are moving the ceremony to the less beautiful Salle Pleyel in the 8ème arrondissement. The Oscars move locations often as well, passing through only a few particularly nice theatres, like the Pantages for a few years in the 60s, and currently the Dolby.
The Length of the Ceremony
Don’t hold your breath if you’re trying to get to bed early after either of the two ceremonies. In 2015, the Oscars clocked in at 3 hours 43 minutes. Hardly better than the Césars with its run time of 3 hours 34 minutes.
Again, both the Césars and the Oscars have the same idea, employing an actor or comedian to crack jokes about actors and keep the show running smoothly. American comedian Jimmy Kimmel will host the Oscars, and French comedian Jérôme Commandeur will host the Césars. Apparently the Césars are funnier—though Kimmel’s comedic timing and dry delivery will certainly offer Commandeur some stiff competition in our fake “Funniest Host” award category.
The President of the Ceremony
In addition to having a host, the Césars have an honorary President of the Ceremony every year who gives a short speech before passing the mic off to the host. Past presidents of the ceremony include Jodie Foster, Marion Cotillard, Gerard Dépardieu, Gene Kelly, and more. This year’s president was set to be director Roman Polanski, but he recused himself from the position following protests, most significantly from French feminist leaders and groups. (Polanski was charged and convicted in 1978 of raping a minor in Los Angeles, but fled to Poland before he could be sentenced. Poland would not extradite him, so he never served his sentence in the US.) The Oscars have no such honorary president of ceremony.
Though similar in height and weight, the Oscar statuette of a man is worth significantly more than the César… log. The 8.5” Oscar man is solid bronze, and plated with 24K gold. While technically the statuette is called an Academy Award of Merit, for unknown reasons it’s widely referred to as an Oscar. The César award is named after the sculptor who made the first award, César Baldaccini, and is made of compressed metal objects. The appearance of the award itself often ends up being a bit of a joke, especially when compared to the Oscar statuette or BAFTA globe. (The Oscar statuette is valued around $15,800, while the César bronze log values closer to $1,580.)
Vanity Fair Party vs. Governor’s Ball vs. Elton John AIDS Foundation Party? Only in America do the stars have to decide where they want to celebrate their wins and drink away their losses. In France, the after event to the Césars is a sit-down dinner at Le Fouquet’s, host to the César’s after-show soirée for more than 40 years.
Kristen Stewart is the only American actress to ever win a César. She won Best Supporting Actress in 2015 for her role in the French film, Cloud of Sils Maria. Marion Cotillard is the only French actress to win a César for a French film. She won Best Actress in 2007 for her role in La Vie en Rose. This year, Isabelle Huppert might become the second French woman to win Best Actress for a French film. George Clooney will win the Honorary César this year.
How to Watch Les Césars
You can live stream them on Canal+ though you might need an account. More information to come.