Friday,21 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1235, (26 February - 4 March 2015)
Friday,21 September, 2018
Issue 1235, (26 February - 4 March 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Oscar hands out bonbons

In a faraway kingdom by the sea, its glow and glimmer shines as bright as any star in the heavens. There, all the talent, the art, the beauty and the frivolity have assembled to make it the capital of a new art, more popular than any other art in history. They called it the art of the cinema, and they called the kingdom, Hollywood. For the past 100 years and more, it has churned tens of thousands of films that have entertained and enlightened the whole world.

Its inhabitants are engaged in creating, writing and performing in those films and equally engaged in partying, carousing and celebrating their many feats, night after night. For the past 87 years however, one night was reserved to crown the year’s toil and mirth, awards and rewards… it is Oscar night… the most eagerly awaited show of shows in all of show business.

Over 121 countries and 1 billion viewers watch the biggest, richest, loudest extravaganza of mammoth proportions. Armies of Hollywood royalty come out en masse to strut their stuff on the lavish 150-metre red-carpet walkway on their way to the gilded gates of glory.

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences may have unknowingly created a veritable monster in 1927, when they decided to award the best year’s filmmakers in production, direction, writing, acting and camera technicians, the five pillars basic to the art of film-making. Through the years the monster grew to enormous proportions and must be fed regularly with more awards, glamour, hyperbole, publicity, controversy, as well as name-bashing, dirt-dishing, fur-stroking and political mud-slinging.

Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, a phenomenal box-office hit, earning the highest revenues for a war movie ever, was overlooked by the academy, despite six nominations. It lost Best Picture to Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu’s dark and quirky Birdman about the desperate comeback of an aging performer. Touchingly portrayed by Michael Keaton, he should have won  Best Actor Award but lost to young Brit Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of British physicist Stephen Hawking, in The Theory of Everything.

With never a false note, Inarritu’s Oscar for Best Director, was well earned for his work of classical perfection. Surprisingly, the academy got that one right.

Despite several nominations, there was little doubt that Julianne Moore would receive her first Oscar, for her turn as an Alzheimer victim in Still Alice.  She cleaned up all available awards and now, the golden boy himself. What a night for Miss Moore who never disappoints, but has often been disappointed. 

Patricia Arquette also won every trophy for Best Supporting Actress for her very real performance in Richard Linklater’s Boyhood.

Great anticipations for Russia’s Andray Zvyagentsaw Leviathan, as Best Foreign Film were crushed when the Oscar went instead to Poland’s Ida on, what else, a holocaust story.

Big Hero 6 was the big winner for Best Animated Film.

In typical Gaga fashion, the Lady paid tribute to the 50th birthday of The Sound of Music, for which she received a warm hug from the legitimate lady herself, Julie Andrews, bringing the crowd to their feet.

One milestone was Meryl Streep’s 19th nomination for In the Woods as Best Supporting Actress. Only Walt Disney won more nominations. What a blessing she did not win… too skilful… not too vulnerable.

The rains came pouring down on their parade but Oscar’s spirit was hardly dampened. There were broad smiles but more bitter tears as only one out of five nominees takes home the gold. An Oscar win can make or break careers, but there were other rewards.

Winners and losers and all 1500 guests got to kick their heels and party, dining and wining lavishly. The most important of these parties, the Governor’s Ball, had Master Chef Wolfgang Puck with 300 assistants, cooking up miraculous delicacies as he has for the last 27 years. How about, baked potato with caviar, lobster salad, dover sole, chicken pot-pie, and more caviar in Oscar-shaped salmon- steaks amongst 30 other entrees, topped with a chocolate cake in the shape of a Chaplin hat. 5000 Oscar chocolates covered in 24-carat gold happily cleared the palettes. An adequate reward, to say the least.

Always in search of an excellent host for the occasion, producers Neil Meron and Craig Zedan were turned down by Ellen De Generes, Chris Rock, Julia Louis- Dreyfuss and others. Finally they decided on the last name on the list, 41 year-old Neil Patrick Harris, who turned out to be the host with the most. He even displayed a bit of magic which was an unexpected delight. 

The August Academy of 6000-plus members, white, middle-class, aged, affluent, with a mind of their own, are easily swayed by extravagant publicity, sumptuous dinners and cases of rare wines and champagnes. Do they even know what they are doing? They never gave Hitchcock, Cary Grant or Richard Burton an Oscar, and their list of goofs and gaffes are legendary. 

They claim that they reward films that: ”illuminate and improve the human condition”, but do they? Fickle and checkered they have been described as “a precious Aubusson rug, laid over a cheap linoleum floor”.  

The Oscar’s have come and gone… a mixed bag of ‘ahs’ and ‘blahs’! Yet their shows are the gold standard of the industry and how can we resist watching this imposing assembly of a jillion glamourati who daze and dazzle, year after year.    

“The (Oscar) statuette is a perfect symbol of the picture business… a powerful athletic body clutching a gleaming sword, with half of his head, the part that tackles his brain, completely cut off.”

Frances Marion (1888-1973)

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