Monday, 24 February 2014

And The Oscar Goes To...

Sentimentality has always trumped merit at the Oscars. That is why non-actors like John Wayne (`True Grit’) and Henry Fonda (`On Golden Pond’) walk away with the statuettes while the O’Tooles and the Burtons are left high and dry.

12 Years A Slave
This year promises to be no better. A front runner this time around is a vapid attempt at a tear jerker called `12 Years a Slave’. In about two and a half hours of mind numbing ennui, it packs in every conceivable cliché on slavery – the mandatory slave auction, a `good’ slave owner, a `bad’ slave owner, a white abolitionist, the journey by boat in chains, the whippings, the bloodied backs.

But for all its efforts to tug at my heart strings, it left me quite cold. Sadly, since it has all the sentimental trappings that the Academy so loves (a black director, the collective guilt that white Americans still harbour, et al), I expect it to win big time. And God forbid, if Chiwetel Ejiofor wins the Best Actor Award for merely scowling and grimacing, I swear I’m gonna pull my hair out!

Bale's pot belly
McConaughey's Gaunt look
The Best Actor category this year is actually all about body weight. While Mathew McConaughey lost about 25 pounds for his role as an AIDS patient in `Dallas Buyers Club’, Christian Bale actually put on the same amount for his role as the 70’s conman in `American Hustle’. To my mind, both would be deserving winners, although I find it strange to see that Tom Hanks hasn’t even been nominated – he should have walked away with the award if only for the last ten minutes of `Captain Philips’!

Meryl Streep apparently just has to appear in a movie to be nominated for an acting award! How else does one explain her nomination for her role as Violet Weston in `August : Osage County’ – her performance has more ham in it than Wodehouse’s Empress of Blandings!

Dubey in the Indian version
`August : Osage County’ is actually a Pulitzer Prize winning play written by Tracy Letts. Since all the action takes place in a single room, the play doesn’t easily lend itself to a credible film script. Incidentally, an Indianised version of the play was staged by Lilette Dubey, which I happened to catch at Poona. Both the play itself, as also Dubey’s performance, outshone both the film and yes, Meryl Streep!

The Best Actress will be a straight fight between Kate Blanchette (`Blue Jasmine’) and Sandra Bullock (`Gravity’). While I know, Blanchette will in all likelihood take home the trophy, I’m still secretly rooting for Bullock!

An aside here. We were taught early in school that the feminine gender for `actor’ was `actress’. Why then do actresses of the day prefer to be called actors? Anybody??

The Supporting Actor award has probably been sewn up by Barkhad Abdi for his role as the Somali pirate in `Captain Philips’. I had mentally given the award to Jake Gylenhaal for the twitching Detective Loki in `Prisoners’ – but he’s nowhere on the scene.

And the delectable Jennifer Lawrence will pick up her second award in succession this year. This time for the Best Supporting Actress in `American Hustle’.

And what of the Best Picture? 

Let me gnash my teeth in frustration as Steve McQueen (seriously?) gloats as he takes it home for the eminently forgettable `12 Years a Slave’. My advice to him? Sir, please read Harriet Beecher Stowe’s most moving ode to slavery `Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ – you’re not even close!

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