Os­car win­ners: 2013 a night of sur­prises, pleas­ant and not so much

The Kurdish Globe - - CULTURE -

Os­car win­ners of 2013 in­cluded some up­sets, such as Ang Lee as Best Di­rec­tor, for 'Life of Pi.' But some movie in­sid­ers saw Os­car night as un­set­tling, in­clud­ing first lady Michelle Obama's involvement.

Os­car night 2013 was full of sur­prises – not all of them pleas­ant, judg­ing from the re­sponses of some of Hol­ly­wood's cre­ative folks, stu­dents of Amer­i­can cul­ture, and so­cial me­dia com­men­tary.

Most of the up­set win­ners, such as Ang Lee, who took home the Best Di­rec­tor stat­uette for “Life of Pi,” sur­prised and pleased many who had ex­pected Steven Spiel­berg to sweep most of his 12 nominations for “Lin­coln.”

“Argo,” a taut tale about the CIA-Hol­ly­wood-en­gi­neered res­cue of six Amer­i­cans dur­ing the 1979 Ira­nian rev­o­lu­tion, be­came only the fourth film in the his­tory of the Academy Awards to win the top prize with­out hav­ing its di­rec­tor, Ben Af­fleck, even be nom­i­nated. The coup pleased many in­sid­ers who felt Af­fleck had been over­looked. "Lin­coln" fans, though, were ap­peased when Ir­ish ac­tor Daniel Day-Lewis won the Best Ac­tor award for his por­trayal of "hon­est Abe," mak­ing him the first ac­tor ever to take home three Best Ac­tor awards dur­ing his ca­reer.

But the big­gest sur­prise of all was the star­tling, and un­set­tling to some, per­for­mance by none other than first lady Michelle Obama. Just when it looked as if a blowsy Jack Ni­chol­son was get­ting ready to yuck it up over the Best Pic­ture nominations, he handed the evening over to Washington, via satel­lite. Be­fore open­ing the en­ve­lope to an­nounce the win­ner, Mrs. Obama de­liv­ered a solemn homily about the cul­tural im­por­tance of movies.

She noted that films can lift spir­its, broaden minds, and “trans­port us to places we never imag­ined." She went on to laud the nine nom­i­nated films, not­ing that they “took us back in time and all around the world.” She con­tin­ued, “They taught us that love can en­dure against all odds and trans­form our lives in the most sur­pris­ing ways. And they re­minded us that we can over­come any ob­sta­cle if we dig deep enough and fight hard enough and find the courage to be­lieve.”

To some in­dus­try in­sid­ers, the first lady's ap­pear­ance was noth­ing short of dis­turb­ing.

“I find this down­right Or­wellian,” says Charles Evered, a screen­writer and di­rec­tor whose film “A Thou­sand Cuts“was just nom­i­nated for the Saturn Awards, which rec­og­nize thrillers and sci­ence fic­tion films. He ac­knowl­edges that movies are a busi­ness – af­ter all, the Os­cars are per­haps the planet’s most-watched in­dus­try trade show – but he also says they are an art form. "When the movers and shak­ers in the in­dus­try get so chummy with or­dained pow­ers, how can they be ex­pected to make the kinds of films that de­liver a gen­uine cul­tural cri­tique of Washington pol­i­tics?” says Mr. Evered, also a pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, River­side.

Ac­cord­ing to The Hol­ly­wood Re­porter, ar­range­ments for Mrs. Obama's ap­pear­ance were made two weeks ago by film mogul Har­vey We­in­stein, who shut­tled back and forth be­tween the first lady’s han­dlers and the Academy of Mo­tion Pic­tures Arts and Sciences in Los An­ge­les. On Sun­day night, Ni­chol­son re­port­edly stood by with a du­pli­cate en­ve­lope in case of a glitch.

But what the Academy con­sid­ered to be a broad­cast mile­stone – the first first lady to ever par­tic­i­pate in the Academy Awards so di­rectly – Gwen­dolyn Fos­ter, ed­i­tor of the Quar­terly Re­view of film and Video at the Univer­sity of Ne­braska, Lin­coln, saw as an in­dict­ment of artis­tic in­tegrity in Hol­ly­wood.

The Os­car tele­cast, she said via email, is “a gi­ant com­mer­cial pos­ing as an artis­tic awards event.” The cap­per was Mrs. Obama’s sur­prise ap­pear­ance, she adds.

“The rather bizarre na­ture of the awards this year re­flects the po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic times we are liv­ing through,” Ms. Fos­ter says. "The idea of Hol­ly­wood be­ing bet­ter at sav­ing Amer­i­cans from ter­ror­ists, as in 'Argo,' was un­sur­pris­ingly what thrilled Hol­ly­wood in­sid­ers and got their vote. Hol­ly­wood to the res­cue.”

For event at­ten­dees, the evening “had a very happy vibe,” says com­poser Charles Bern­stein, as he ex­ited the Dolby The­ater in Hol­ly­wood af­ter the awards were handed out. He sug­gests that the ab­sence of a sin­gle big win­ner sweep­ing all the cat­e­gories is a sign of the health and di­ver­sity of the movie in­dus­try. A former gov­er­nor of the Academy, Mr. Bern­stein points out that it is im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that the film in­dus­try re­sponds to what movie­go­ers will pay to see at the box of­fice. “If peo­ple don’t want to see the films we make, then there is no in­dus­try,” he adds.

The show’s ef­fort to at­tract a younger au­di­ence by hav­ing co­me­dian Seth MacFarlane serve as host was gen­er­ally well-re­ceived.

But even that had its strange mo­ments, says Brian Volk-Weiss, head of pro­duc­tion and se­nior vice pres­i­dent of tal­ent man­age­ment at New Wave En­ter­tain­ment. “I was pretty shocked with his open­ing mono­logue,” he says via e-mail, “and not in a good way.... It was way too long, and even though I am a 'Star Trek' fan, the Shat­ner bit was weird.” MacFarlane chat­ted with Wil­liam Shat­ner in a comic bit show­ing the former "Star Trek" cap­tain re­turn­ing from the fu­ture to cri­tique the host’s per­for­mance.

Ac­tors Daniel Day-Lewis, win­ner of the Best Ac­tor award for "Lin­coln;" Jen­nifer Lawrence, win­ner of the Best Ac­tress award for "Sil­ver Lin­ings Playbook;" Anne Hath­away, win­ner of the Best Sup­port­ing Ac­tress award for "Les Mis­er­ables;" and Christoph Waltz, win­ner of the Best Sup­port­ing Ac­tor award for "Django Un­chained," pose in the press room dur­ing the Os­cars held at Loews Hol­ly­wood Ho­tel on Fe­bru­ary 24, 2013 in Hol­ly­wood, Cal­i­for­nia.

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