Monday, March 3, 2014


My tryst with the Oscars dates back to 1999.
I had watched the entire ceremony as Shekhar Kapoor’s Elizabeth had been nominated . With such a direct Indian connect there were bound to be questions raised in the subsequent quizzes .Interestingly the etymology of the Oscars is disputed.One biography of actress Bette Davis claims that she named the Oscar after her first husband, band leader Harmon Oscar Nelson. Another claimed origin is that the Academy's Executive Secretary,Margaret Herrick, first saw the award in 1931 and made reference to the statuette's reminding her of her "Uncle Oscar" 
  Whoopi Goldberg I remember had hosted the 1999 Oscars but was hilarious enough to make a novice like me laugh.Sadly the  internet  hadn't seen its inception around in those days but the Oscar tag left me captivated. Dad would pick and choose English movies that we could watch under parental guidance. Whenever newspapers or magazines covered anything on the Oscars I would read the entire story and dig deeper into it.  After all these years of following Oscars so closely,I am still enthralled by them and will continue to be. The academy comprises of intellectuals who celebrate victory of human spirit. The Academy embraces all and loves movies with a social message especially that of an individual’s strength. The indomitable human spirit that transcends sex,nationality,colour .There is a joke that if you want to win the Oscars make a movie either on Holocaust,War, Gay rights or handicap. Jokes apart human rights remain the  the most important issues we face today.
   The beauty of each nominated movie lies in the fact that they are  surreal and sublime. Like most stories the academy votes for human inspiration and pushing boundaries and limitless thinking.They are mostly based  on true stories. Be it this year’s Philomina,Captain Phillips or yesteryear’s Milk, Mystic River,Frost Nixon,Argo and so many more. If not that then they adapt some of the greatest books written. Eg To Kill A Mocking Bird,Shawshank Redemption, Lord of the Rings. Each of these being specimen of great storytelling..
 The special category of animated feature film also gets special attention. Winning the Oscar awards is extremely good marketing for these movies when they start fetching millions beyond English speaking countries as they get translated and subtitled. The science and maths that go behind making these movies is also a different form of innovation. There is the special Scientific and Technical awards given by the academy that is presented before the glitzy award night. The mega bucks pumped into art direction brings out the best of creative geniuses. Imagine dolby sound effects and 3D cinema experiences as cornerstones of technology.
       The choice of anchors has mostly been great with comedians like Whoopi Goldberg,BillyCrystal and Steve Martin hosting it more than once and  pleasing everyone with their satirical humour. Ellen was a pleasant surprise this year too. Her style was queer. My favourite joke was the jibe she made at Jonah Hill.. Here  is the entire joke summary. I have  also loved the concept of best music scores of the year interspersing the awards.It is done in a very neat fashion. Even better was when Hugh Jackman was the musical host in 2009. Though we didn’t see Tom Hanks in the audience this year but we saw the real life Captain Phillips and Philomina. Barkhad Abdi was nominated in his debut role of Somali pirate after he gave up his limousine driver's job at Minnesota in real life. Contrary to last year there were no political surprises. Last year  Michelle Obama was videocalled to announce the best movie that left a lot of fans and audience in a tizzy. Never before had this happened.This year The academy announced that it would be unveiling its  museum in 2017. Now I know when to visit  USA and do more than just walk on the Hollywood walk of fame.
    If you are a documentary person make sure you watch the listed nominees for the best documentaries(both short and feature) in the Oscars as each is a masterpiece.Some of my favourites being Born in Brothels,Cove and Inside Job. One of the most contested title is that of Best foreign feature films that invites nomination from most of the countries around the world. French,Italian and Iranian movies have been regular movies in this category.
   For all those who think the razzmatazz is limited to these rich haute couture following actors, gulp the fact that Givenchy and Naeem Khan and other designers  use a lot of local artwork and craftsmanship including the Indian zardozi and chickon . I always find it sad that we take down Aishwarya for her wardrobes at Cannes,when she could simply sizzle the in one of her sarees. What is “art” and “crossover” movie in India is the normal academy movie. I believe a lot of our Indian especially regional movies have substance to put the Academy jury in awe. But why doesn’t it get such a large audience?
a)    If we make movies on gay rights/communal atrocity there is bound to be a national outrage and meaningless politics.
b)  We can never expect a feat like Meryl Streep. Indian actresses die their screen deaths once they bear children. Audiences and directors cannot give good roles to actresses in their 40s. Look at Kajol, Madhuri and Juhi.
In a country that claims to be outsourcing its brains to NASA ,MS and Apple are we intellectually that hollow to not swallow sensible cinema ?So you see why Aamir doesn’t need the validation of the Filmfare awards and the likes.Alternately many of us believe that as Indians we have just too many worries to fret in our real lives so  cinema should be dumb fun with no brainer scripts and of course hogwash songs.

As the famous twitteratti Ramesh Srivats tweeted today, “ We as Indians start finding our slimmest connects with the Oscars”. My biggest regret remains that Lagaan and Swades both didn’t  win the Oscars. Another regret is the fact that a movie like Slumdog Millionaire grabbed so many awards.I don’t think it deserved the kind of attention it did. Hopefully Anand Gandhi and likes will keep making movies like Ship of Theseus and raise our expectation in the future for bringing home an Oscar,irrespective of the lukewarm response at the box office.All that is popular doesn't need to be good.

  Now as a Girl Interrupted my google stats show that on  The Social Network shrillvoices has more readers in Pardes than in Swades.Maybe the blog is Lost in Translation or I don’t have a Beautiful Mind .Either which way I am not going to be  a million dollar baby!
P.S. I am still waiting for the day when they will make a movie on Richard Feynman.

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