Last month’s 2013 Oscar awards could go down in pop history as one of the more unpredictable, contentious and controversial editions of the annual cinematic competition, with the members of the United States film academy coming up with more than the usual number of questionable choices and nonchoices.
For instance, “Argo” was a best picture nominee, but its director, Ben Affleck, wasn’t. Right off the bat, that strange state of affairs rankled, because logic has it that the director, the captain of the cinematic ship, as it were, is “directly” responsible for its quality.
If a movie is deemed outstanding but its director’s work is, well, not so much, what is being said about the filmmaking process and the “authorship” of the entire production?
Indeed, there are film people who believe that all aspects of a production bear the stamp of its director’s mind and heart, since it’s his vision of the material being filmed that is the entire production’s organizing and unifying point of view.
Similarly, it was disingenuous of the academy to cite “Zero Dark Thirty” as a best picture finalist, but leave its director, Kathryn Bigelow, out in the unwelcoming cold.
After “Argo” won the best picture plum, the film academy’s members had their work cut out for them in making sense of and explaining their palpably contradictory verdicts.
Also inexplicable in some people’s view was the loss of Steven Spielberg, the director of “Lincoln,” despite the vaulting grandeur and complex significance of his historical film’s achievement.
In this regard, we recall that ever since his early successes as a filmmaker, Spielberg has generally not been favored by the academy.
Or, could it possibly be that he has not been popular with its jurors because he has been so successful? Could some of them be envious of his phenomenal success, and think that he should be “penalized” for it?
If the “envy factor” is indeed operative in this instance, it’s a great pity because, with “Lincoln,” Spielberg has done a great service to freedom-loving people everywhere, by reminding us of the Great Emancipator’s heroic struggle for universal equality, for which he was tragically felled by an assassin’s bullet at the very height of his popularity and power.
On the plus side, the evening was a triumph for Jennifer Lawrence, the female lead of “Silver Linings Playbook,” who trounced much older rivals, serving notice that the film world does indeed belong to the young, despite the occasional singular achievements of their artistic mothers and grandmothers!
Indeed, the “youth card” was played during the entire awards ceremony, from beginning to end, starting with the choice of young and relatively still unknown comedian-writer-director Seth MacFarlane as this year’s solo host.
In 2011, James Franco and Anne Hathaway bombed as cohosts, so MacFarlane’s relatively good showing was a relief, and boosted his popularity in a big way.
Truth to tell, the US film academy’s desperate moves to appeal to a younger viewership for the Oscars show are well taken, because the average moviegoer is young, so it doesn’t make sense that the annual awards show is popular mainly with older viewers.
With the good showing of relative youths like MacFarlane and Lawrence, hopes are high that the awards rites will appeal to a younger demographic from here on in.
Other highlights at the Oscar rites included the show’s thematic tribute to movie musicals, and the luminous solo performance of Barbra Streisand, who honored the late Marvin Hamlisch with her beautiful rendition of “The Way We Were.”