Wednesday,20 March, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1384, (8 - 14 March 2018)
Wednesday,20 March, 2019
Issue 1384, (8 - 14 March 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Oscar turns political

In customary excessive splendour, they came out en masse. Bedecked in satin and lace, laden with priceless jewels, they marched along with their usual razzle-dazzle to celebrate filmdom’s most lavish soiree.

This flight of fantasy remains the biggest, loudest, richest party of the year for the citizens of tinsel town. The reason for this extravaganza of mammoth proportions is to crown the best of the best in their industry that year. But dig deeper and you will discover that the real motive is the splendid trappings of luxury power and the unquenchable thirst for fame and glory and the pursuit of the mighty dollar.

Now that the dust has settled and winners and losers went home elated or deflated, it is pretty obvious that the excellence of cinematic art was second to the political voice of liberal, progressive Hollywood.

Distinction in the arts was not the primary aim — politics was. Forgotten is the fact that this is not a political venue for mini stars to use as their platform to air their discontent. This is all about movies… period.

Listen to the wails of the leftists, Barbara Streisand, Madonna, Jennifer Lawrence, George Clooney and the rest. With a Republican Congress, Senate and president, Democrats have reached the end of their rope.

The hate for the Republican President Donald Trump, flamboyant, charismatic, wealthy and popular, is driving the largely liberal media and the totally liberal Hollywood up the wall. It is hard to fathom how 93 per cent of the media coverage is negative. Blind hate is the only answer.

Stars know nothing about the complexities of politics. They are too busy seeking their next “gig”. It is not love of country, but the desire to be part of the clan, please the boss or remain relevant, and still stash their millions.

What is wrong with that? That is what capitalism is. If it is their burning desire to switch to something else, like socialism, what will they do with their millions?

At the risk of hurting their feelings, no citizen will heed their voice. Who cares what they think?

The ceremony finally moved from politics and got down to the business at hand. 

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) would do better to look at its own foibles rather than that of politicians. During its 90-year history it has made some good choices, but let a few glaring ones fell between the cracks.  Should they not be ashamed that they never awarded Hitchcock, Cary Grant, Richard Burton, Greta Garbo, Barbara Stanwyck, Charlie Chaplin and others one of their golden statuettes, whose image is now more recognisable than its owners? It has achieved a life of its own, after it acquired the name Oscar rather than “the Academy Award of Merit”. When the academy librarian Margaret Herrick saw “the little golden fella”, she cried: “that looks like my uncle Oscar”. The name stuck and the academy adopted it officially 10 years later, in 1939. 

There is as more lobbying in Hollywood than there is in Washington, in which case not every “Best” award is necessarily best. The top grossing film of the nine nominated is Christopher Nolan’s WWII drama epic Dunkirk, $525.6 million, and by far the best. A dazzling blockbuster, it is staggering in its technical and directorial accomplishments. Nolan, a thoroughly respected filmmaker, has been vying for Oscar for years. Dunkirk should have sealed the deal for him. It did not. The academy chose to reward the two coveted awards Best Director and Best Picture to Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water — shocking to everyone.  A dark twisted fantasy about an explicit love affair between a mute cleaner and an amphibious sea monster in a government lab who finally escape to the ocean and live happily ever after. It is an embarrassment, to say the least, worthy of academy’s tasteless gaffes. 

Nolan will have to till Oscar smiles again.

A great actor, if not a great superstar, Gary Oldman won Best Actor Award for his unparalleled depiction of Winston Churchill struggling at a crucial period during the war. His acceptance speech is one for the history books.

 Oscar is awarding super actors, not super stars, this year which is how it should have always been and should always be.

A small film by all accounts amassing the least financial return, $121 million, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, won a Best Actress Award — no, not for Meryl Streep — but for little known, Frances McDormand, a superb performer, and a previous winner for Best Actress in Fargo  (1996). Her ferocious performance as the grieving, vengeful Mildred in Missouri is so exceptional, even the academy voters had no trouble handing her a second Oscar.

 Neither young, beautiful nor sexy McDormand will remain an actress for all seasons.

What does a win mean to the movie industry, to stars, agents, producers, distributors, directors, writers, studios, theatre-owners, etc? You guessed it… money. 

Although the biggest winners are usually the stars who will likely make even more money than they know what to do with.    So what if no one listens to their political views? They bring in the money, they propel the ratings.

“That is our life-blood”, said one disgraced producer, Harvey Weinstein, “stars are the main dynamos behind the industry.”

Once in a while, when a good actor gets the nod, Oscar hysteria is well worth it.

“The best actors do not let the wheels show.”

Henry Fonda (1905-1982)

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