Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1333, (23 February - 1 March 2017)
Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Issue 1333, (23 February - 1 March 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Oscar’s great expectations

You would not wish to be in Hollywood nowadays, or maybe you would.

The tension is so high in tinsel-town you can cut it with a knife. This is normal, it is award season. The New Year starts with a bang as the Golden Globes are given out early in January. The euphoria of the winners quickly dissipates as they anticipate the next round of awards and they are endless.  Anxiety, expectation and agitation pervade the kingdom of Hollywood. The series of awards go on and on and on, but the question on everyone’s mind is, who will seize the gold… the Oscar gold of course, which usually takes place in late February.

Heightened anticipation and great expectations prevail for two months as Hollywood sits on pins and needles until Oscar goes home with the lucky ones, but not always the best ones.

Now that the old year has been duly entrusted to the realm of memory what kind of a year was it, shattering? Not likely. But a little detail like that will not hamper Hollywood’s biggest, glitziest party.

Belles and beaux fidget and fuss over every aspect of their appearance, which is all that matters — over there. Puffy eyes, hair, make-up, right dress, satin or lace, buttons and bows and a good deal of starving starts in earnest, as awards from their many guilds decide who is the finest amongst them.

Stress and tension are at their highest… so are hopes and dreams, sighs and tears, exaltation and desperation. They have toiled and troubled all year long for the privilege of marching down the triumphal parade. Who among the bright, shining stars of tinsel-town shall hug that golden statuette?  In a few days we shall discover the new kings and queens of filmdom — for at least one year.

 A pot of gold awaits all who worked on an Oscar-winning film. It stands to make twice as much profit and can make or break a budding career. Stars benefit the most; they glitter more luminously, they get more offers and their salaries get larger. They are the ones who fill the seats at the movie theatres, they work hard to please the fans who idolise them, they are the gold spinners who make the flashy tinsel glint and glisten.

What is this elusive, mercurial, invisible quality that forms the earthly/heavenly body we call “film star”? Of the 200,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild, only 72 are considered stars. It is a bewildering, hypnotic power combining several traits. Charisma alone will not do it, but it helps. Neither will talent or beauty. Often it is but a smile, a wink, a certain walk, a certain style or even a raised eyebrow. That is the pleasurable enchantment we pay to see.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, (AMPAS), better known as Oscars, have a mind of their own, regardless of the viewers. Membership is by invitation only, about 6000 strong, is accorded to those who have achieved distinction and fit to judge their peers. Their judgement has more than often been impaired. Consider the nominees of this year. Most probably you have not seen any of them.  Most probably you will not recognise any of the names either, except for Denzel Washington in Fences and Mel Gibson, director of Hacksaw Ridge.

The members have made a habit of turning away from the traditional five best pictures, all truly great to nine nominations, none so great. Have you seen any of the following movies Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea, Lion, La La Land, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, Hacksaw Ridge, Fences and Arrival? No need to elaborate, you will not recognise any of the actors either. No Grace Kelly, no Bette Davis, no Elisabeth Taylor, not even Clooney or Pitt. Yet the academy members arbitrarily decided, while most critics find other films more deserving.

In such a crowded field there must be talent galore, but the confusion grows when a mediocre little musical: La La Land gets 14 nominations, bestowed only on two previous films in the history of cinema… Titanic and All About Eve. Some kids like it but even at the box office it was overtaken by Hidden Figures. The stars can neither sing nor dance and even following its nomination it has only amassed  $125.000 at the box office, for its duration. Some films make close to that on a weekend, yet it has been running since 9 December. What say you academy?

The goofs and gaffes of the academy are legendary. Richard Burton never won, neither did Alfred Hitchcock, Cary Grant among many others.   Elisabeth Taylor was overlooked for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Suddenly Last Summer and finally rewarded for an insipid piece of work Butterfield 8 which she herself called “salacious trash”. Also realising they never honoured the great Peter O’Toole, they gave him a Life Achievement Award fortunately before he died.

What can be expected from this academy on Oscar night of 2017? The bookies favour La La Land 1-7, Moonlight 13-2, Manchester 22-1 and Hidden Figures 25-1. La La Land is likely to be in the same league as Gigi, West Side Story, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, all winning musicals, not to mention Amadeus, Gandhi, The Godfather, and lest we forget, Titanic.

And so it goes! Today’s Oscars are not yesterday’s.

Still they manage to remain “the greatest show on earth”.     


“Give way to the better if way to the better there be,

It exacts a full look at the worst”

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)

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