Hits and misses at the OscarsBy Nestor U. Torre
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The biggest and most unexpected winner at last week’s Academy Awards was Ang Lee, who trounced Steven Spielberg in the Best Director race with “Life of Pi,” vis-a-vis Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” which was generally expected to romp off with the directing and Best Picture trophies, but did no such thing because the topmost plum went to “Argo,” instead! —So, “Lincoln” was the evening’s top loser,—a most undeserved fate.
But, back to Ang Lee: The surprising outcome was a stunning success not just for him, but for Asian filmmakers in general, and we should bask in the outcome and feel reinvigorated by its reaffirmation of our actualized potential as masters of cinema.
Indeed, Asians may have a unique affinity to the visual aspect of the medium, since some of the region’s written languages are ideographic and thus, artistically and psychologically, tantamount to being a series of images.
This is particularly relevant to the success of “Life of Pi,” which relies more on visual than aural language to express and communicate its many philosophical insights about humanity and existence.
This could explain why Ang Lee’s work was adjudged to be superior to Spielberg’s admittedly more verbose creation—so, here’s to the hitherto unheralded and un-awarded Asian Advantage in filmmaking!
To be sure, other Asian film masters have been admired for their visual storytelling, like Kurosawa, Ozu, Ray and even Gerry de Leon. But, it’s taken Ang Lee’s Best Director Oscar for “Life of Pi” to formally enshrine it as a key strength that Asian filmmakers have in common. —All the more reason, then, to emphasize its use in our own movies!
Another big winner at the Academy Awards was Daniel Day Lewis, whose portrayal of the august title character in “Lincoln” survived the relative rout that befell Spielberg’s film. Even more remarkably, in winning the Best Actor trophy, Lewis became the Oscars’ most awarded living male talent, with three lead honors to his name.
It’s been a long time in coming. Lewis won his first Best Actor Oscar way back in 1989, for “My Left Foot,” which starred him in the tour de force portrayal of Christy Brown, a gutsy artist and writer who was born with cerebral palsy. The actor clinched his second trophy for “There Will Be Blood” in 2007.
Finally, the evening was a relative success for spanking-new program host, Seth MacFarlane, who clicked where James Franco and Anne Hathaway had bombed two years ago.
What accounted for it? His relative youth made him accessible and appealing to the younger demographic that the Oscars have unsuccessfully been trying to woo for some years now.
The fact that he’s not just a comedian but also a singer, dancer, writer and director has given him strong “street cred” in the biz. And young viewers liked his handling of the “sleeper” hit, “Ted,” so they looked forward to getting more of the same from him.
Finally, he’s brash but goodlooking, so even if he had failed, it would have been easy for viewers to “forgive” him. —Happily, however, he tickled their anti-tradition and counterculture funnybone, so they didn’t have to!
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