The cynics have been confounded by this year's Oscars. Box office potential and big-budget productions have not determined the winning lineup. Hollywood hardly got a look-in. Yesterday's prize list had a truly international flavour, giving the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Award ceremony the flavour of a film festival instead of its usual image as Tinseltown's salute to itself. Most amazingly, a true Hollywood icon, Lauren Bacall, even lost out to a far less celebrated French actress, Juliette Binoche. Bacall has had a distinguished career in films for over 40 years, without an award to show for it. Unless Hollywood had shed every shred of sentimentality, that fact alone made her look like a sure winner. Instead, Binoche's film was the big winner. Though The English Patient had some American funding and a US$31 million budget, the bulk of the other winners were from independent film-makers, including small-budget affairs featuring actors whose names are unknown to the billboards of America. No doubt The English Patient will now become a big business. That strange little statuette handed out each year can triple takings overnight. Films from Denmark, Australia, and an American production costing a mere US$1 million will all begin to gross big money after this, enabling those involved to follow up with more and better films. That's what awards should be about. The choices this year can only arouse a cry of 'Hurray for Hollywood' for its ability to recognise talent beyond the superstar system.