So, the big night is over! Determined winners in the categories are celebrating, fans are happy or sad, and news are full of gossip about dresses, haircuts and falls on the red carpet. Winners are expected, and this “Oscar” season is one of the most predictable ones in the last few years. So, fasten your seat-belts, we’re taking off.
BEST MOVIE: 12 YEARS A SLAVE
This season was fruitful in the best movie category, and “Dallas Buyers Club” or “Philomena” could also be deserved winners, but “12 years a slave” was favorite for a reason. Deep and not so conventional story about slavery, based on a true story of Solomon Northup, is deserved victor of the “Oscars”. Steve McQueen borrowed heavily from Terence Malick regarding direction and cinematography, but he also did nuanced portrayal of character. Fassbender and Ejiofur did great job in conflicting their different views, and production and promotional job of Brad Pitt helped the film a great deal.
Why I said that “12 years a slave” was different than most “slavery films”? First of all, most of this films were made “or from white slave molesters”, or “from black slave victim” perspective. Here though, things are not so black and white. Nobody is entirely black or entirely white and I don’t mean that just by color of their skin. Association on “Days of Heaven” is imminent. Movie is seen from the perspective of protagonist, and his deep psychological disturbance. He doesn’t try to change the system which did this to him, he adjusts and survives (occasional rebellious outbursts aside). Distinction in the movie is “to live or to survive” and it becomes some sort of Shakespearean dilemma for the Solomon N. who, on every way known to him, just try to get by and maybe at some point – come home. Historically, in 1840s, Civil war is yet to come, and free man becoming a slave is some sort of civility challenge for the American people today. Questions are asked: What would’ve happened if South has won the war? Would the cases like Solomon be something that is socially acceptable or event desirable? Would such cases be something as common as having breakfast in a favorite diner? Some could argue that such questions are extreme, but in them is hidden reason why “12 years a slave” is one of the most important movies about slavery ever made. It’s made from the perspective of the individual, but its significance is social and general.
The story of the movie is told in eclipses, transformation of the main character is not on the screen all the time, there’s a space left for the viewer to imagine parts of the story that are missing, allowing the viewer to become the part of the movie himself. The greatness of the movie is to be seen in the years to come, because its codes can be read in second or third viewing and every time have different meaning. Because of all that’s said “12 years a slave” is deserved this years victor in the best movie category. My personal opinion is that “DBC”, “Philomena” and “Nebraska” were also great films, but McQueen’s film has something universal in itself, which made it stand out in the bunch.
Best Actor (Leading):
Matthew McConaughey stirred some dust with his “Oscar” winning speech this year and I really don’t see the reason why. His speech, like so many others over the years thanked his parents, God and influences that made him stand where he is today. Part of the speech now widely known as “the hero part” is also as common as it can be. I see two main problems with his speech, first of all is – he mentioned God – and that’s heavily unpopular in mainly left intellectual community; and second is that his speech was so obviously rehearsed and prepared that nobody could relate to it in any way. There was no spontaneous crying, V for victory, or as his colleague from the movie did, political engagement about Ukraine.
Hell, MM was here as he always is – just some bloke from Texas who won the award for being just that – the bloke from Texas. “Dallas buyers club” is, for me personally, the best movie in this year “Oscar” season and his performance as Ron Woodroof was great. One thing that’s getting on my nerves is that everybody is talking about how much weight he’d lost for the part, but that’s not the main quality of his performance. His portrayal of a man with AIDS and character transformation in a movie that’s not primarily about AIDS but about pharmacological companies and lobbyists is so good that nobody had a chance of winning Oscar in this category but him. Correction, they had a chance but if anybody else had won the award but him, we could call it injustice and never speak about Academy’s taste again.
BEST ACTRESS (LEADING):
For me, this was the most difficult category to choose. Leading actresses (with the exception of Sandra Bullock) were great this year and Cate Blanchett, Meryl Streep and Judi Dench were equally good and each of them deserved award for their performance. But, since that’s not possible I’ll try to show why Cate Blanchett was a little bit better than the rest and why Blanchett deserved the award more than the rest of the company in this, again I say, most difficult category. Amy Adams was also very, very good in “American Hustle” but these three were really the best pick in this year “Oscars” crop.
Cate Blanchett knows how to choose the part. Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine”, as I said in the previous post was modern retelling of the classic story, both in film and in theater – “Streetcar named desire” by Tennessee Williams. Blanchett played Jasmine as easily as Vivian Leigh played classic Blanche Dubois. It’s symbolic similarity of Blanchett’s last name and the first name of legendary Blanche Dubois that comes to mind as intentional mind game of a great writer that Woody Allen certainly is. Her blues mood and mental instability in a postmodern take of classic story, something that is known to go well with the Academy over the years, and knowing how to make every shade of emotion to come out on the screen and still leave enough of acting composure to know when to make emotions go away and leave herself to the pure improvisation is why she’s one of the most important actresses in the early 21st century. All of that she’s shown in the “Blue Jasmine”, film so good and unjustly neglected by the Academy in the category of the best film, that her performance alone is enough to make her stand in the same sentence as Vivian Leigh in the original movie. If that’s not the reason to win, I don’t know what is.
BEST ACTOR (SUPPORTING):
When I was watching the “Dallas buyers club” at first I didn’t recognize Jared Leto. It was only after the first fifteen minutes of the film that I jumped out of my chair and said: “Hell, that’s Jared Leto!” His performance was that good. DBC is character driven movie with a great sense for social criticism but performances of both McConaughey and Leto are really the best male individual performances in this year’s awards season. Fassbender, Ejiofur and DiCaprio will have to wait some better opportunity because this year with those two in the categories they didn’t stand a chance. Although, somebody said that they should all be thanking Daniel Day Lewis for not filming anything major in this year. 🙂
BEST ACTRESS (SUPPORTING)
During the “Oscar” live coverage on E!, commentator said that she gave a name to the new color naming the color of her dress Nairobi blue. As she really had one of the best dresses on the red carpet (and I’m not fashion expert) she also had one of the best performances in this year’s awards season. Nevertheless, as predictable as this year is, this category is one of the few in “Oscars” that I disagree with the Academy. Lupita’s performance in the “12 years a slave” was memorable, but for me the best performance in the category was one of the Jennifer Lawrence in the “American Hustle”. Since you can’t make all satisfied I will respect the Academy’s choice and say that Lawrence probably didn’t win this year since she’s won the last.
Lupita was main female character throughout the movie and her performance is marked with the whipping and a rape which were both most provocative scenes in the movie that was pronounced best movie of the year. In that perspective, win by Lupita isn’t so surprising especially since provocative scenes like that have its place in the hearts of Academy voters for the long time. Then again, Lupita is new, fresh face in Hollywood and God knows that Hollywood needs freshness in every aspect so repeating Jennifer’s winning an “Oscar” (she repeated the fall, maybe for the good luck charm) wouldn’t do anyone much good. So, Lupita it is. Personally, I hope that she’s not one time wonder, can’t wait to see what she’ll do next.
As much as i have my personal problems with “Gravity” in the terms of storytelling and plot, every award for direction and effects that this film have won is well deserved. If there ever was a safe bet when the “Oscar” winner is in question this was the one. “Gravity” did something new and groundbreaking in the terms of direction, cinematography, photography and effects.
Alfonso Cuaron did great job in this motion picture. Of course, I must say that I hope that next time he’ll employ a better screenwriter than himself.
AND IT WILL BE CONTINUED:
The final chapter of the trilogy of “Oscar” posts will be about foreign movies and documentaries, since that are also two categories that I would choose different victors. All in all, this year was predictable, favorites won and there were no surprises. Bookies probably didn’t like this year. For me, it was one of the best in the past few years. As far as the quality of the nominated movies goes, every year should be similar to this one.