Wednesday,19 June, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1187, (6 - 12 March 2014)
Wednesday,19 June, 2019
Issue 1187, (6 - 12 March 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Return to Oscarville

Once a year, for 86 years, the world is invited to a spectacular soiree of excessive splendour by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In customary fashion it puts on an Oscar extravaganza of razzle - dazzle that seldom disappoints. This international affair is fed by more glitz and glamour and zillions of dollars, but is not necessarily all ‘arts and sciences’, mostly artsy - craftsy; still it is eagerly anticipated by fans, critics and filmmakers alike.

The war over this little golden statuette is more cold, fierce and bloody as all the world’s conflicts combined. The trophy itself costs $500, but the cost of the hyperbole, publicity, competition and super-production for that one tiny gold-dipped object, can make your head spin.

The sight of the endless parade of lovelies, beguiling and bewitching in their slinky gowns and opulent jewelry must be worth it, to most of us, as it draws over a billion viewers worldwide.  This is Hollywood nobility gracing us with flashing smiles, smouldering eyes and moonstruck sighs. This is Hollywood’s ultimate movie night when its citizens crown film’s new royalty, in a style, more royal than the royals! The menu of 50 different dishes could feed  the world’s hungry with tons of edibles and gallons of the bubbly, prepared by 950 staffers and 350 culinary experts, to help master-chef Wolfgang Puck, serve 50,000 lobsters, 7500 shrimp, 1250 stone-crab claws drowned by 2400 bottles of sterling wines and 1350 bottles of champagne.

The desert is so sinful, best leave it out and get down to business!

What is a better opener than a hefty serving of Ellen De Generes’ humour? She kept the evening light and easy as one golden statuette after another was handed to the winners, while the losers’ smiles were wider and their applause, louder.

Of late, the Academy has departed from the traditional five nominations for Best Picture, reaching nine this year, not all Oscar-worthy. Could it be they are making up for quality by quantity? There is often no rhyme or reason for their picks and their list of goofs and gaffes, is as laughable as it is shameful. Having ignored Chaplin and Hitchcock why do we still trust the competence of this august group? 

They have done it again this year, omitting Baz Luhrman’s lyrically compelling version of the best American novel ever written, Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”, in the Best Picture Category.  They have also overlooked an astounding performance by a consummate actor and filmmaker, Robert Redford, in “All is Set”. 

Best Picture went to “12 Years A Slave” by Solomon Northup, based on a true story of a free black man, forced into slavery in the 1800s. The choice is classic Academy, emotionally charged and poignantly humane. Handing the first Oscar to its black director, Steve McQueen, who created the Best Picture, would have made sense, but sense is not the Academy’s strongest asset. To compensate for their guilt, they split the reward giving Best Director trophy to Alfonso Cuaron for ”Gravity” which still swept with the most gold. The foul-up resulted in the electrifying moment of the night, bringing tears to our eyes, as the regal and still ever so handsome Sidney Poitier, on the arms of the exquisite Angelina Jolie, presented  director Cuaron his much deserved trophy.

A well-deserved Best Actor award went to the usually dashing, husky Matthew McConaughey in “Dallas Buyers Club”, who lost 70 lbs to play a red-neck cowboy assailed by AIDS. His fans were thrilled and happily his high cheekbones are reappearing.

What else can be said about Cate Blanchett that has not already been said? Envied by every actress, I suspect even Meryl Streep, she walks away with her second Oscar for “Blue Jasmine”, this time for Best Supporting Actress.. Did you know that the great Cate once played an extra in an Egyptian film when she was only 18? She stood in the crowd while an Egyptian boxer beat an American boxer… Well, it was an Egyptian film!

One of the hardest categories, so they say, is Best Supporting Actress. The gold went to Kenyan Lupita Nyong’o, whom you have never seen or heard of before. As Patsey in “12 Years A Slave”, her film debut, her eyes were more haunting, more alluring than Oscar gold. Lupita was born in Mexico to Kenyan parents and is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama. Looking angelic in her ethereal blue Prada gown, her tears were genuine and her acceptance speech as moving as was Jared Leto’s, Best Supporting Actor, who paid homage to his single mother, simply, sincerely and briefly.

Best Animated Feature award “Frozen” went to, who else but the great Walt Disney, and what a thrill it was to see Kim Novak, present the trophy with McConaughey at her side!

 With 76 submissions to the Foreign Film Category, a Palestinian entry “Omar” by Hany Abu- Assad, was one of the five nominations, the second Palestinian nomination.  The magic number three may well bring the trophy home.

To the disenchanted viewers, remember the world does not think as Hollywood thinks. This is another night’s entertainment for us… For Hollywood it is life itself.

The immortal creator of animated films, Walt Disney received more Oscars than any other filmmaker dead or alive, with 65 nominations and 26 wins. Hollywood can admirably redeem itself!

All the movies used to be ‘colossal’. Now they’re all ‘frank’. I think I liked ‘colossal’ better.

Beryl  Pfizer

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