I Wish to Thank the Academy (Somewhat)


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences held its annual awards last night, better known as the Academy Awards or Oscars (as if you didn’t know).
First of all, given my special concern for Israel, it was too bad that neither “5 Broken Cameras” nor “The Gatekeepers” won in the documentary category, but I had expected that they’d knock each other out in the ballot. Both are great in their way, and I’d have a hard time picking between them. If anything, “Cameras” and “Gatekeepers” complement each other, with the first focusing on Palestinians and the latter on Israelis. I haven’t seen “Searching for Sugar Man” (the winner), but it didn’t surprise me that it would win, as it was the only one of the five documentary nominees that was about a phenomenon rather than an issue; the other two contenders were about the AIDS epidemic and sexual abuse of women in the U.S. military.
As for the biggies, I liked “Argo” but would have preferred “Lincoln” or “Les Miserables” for best picture. The latter has a score and presents themes of love and revolution that stir me every time, and I was very pleased to see Anne Hathaway come away as Best Supporting Actress for a role, albeit brief, that was unforgettable. I would have been even happier if there had been a tie vote with Helen Hunt for her outstanding work in “The Sessions” (something that happened in one Oscar category); by the way, that movie’s star, John Hawkes, was robbed of a nomination for Best Actor.
I see Daniel Day-Lewis as the male equivalent of Meryl Streep. It was both funny and apt in a certain way for Day-Lewis to quip that he was originally meant to play Margaret Thatcher and for Streep to portray Lincoln. After doing a credible singing job in “Mamma Mia,” I can see Meryl Streep doing anything. The most memorable 20-25 minutes I’ve ever seen in a motion picture was the prolonged almost-wordless closing chase scene of DDL and fellow cast members of “The Last of the Mohicans” running up a high Adirondack mountain path amid pulsating music. And who can forget DDL’s portrayal of a paralyzed character who communicated his considerable intelligence and charm through moving a limb in “My Left Foot”?
By the way, I saw DDL strolling along Manhattan’s 5th Avenue last Friday, with his family. I did something I normally don’t do during a celebrity citing (a fairly frequent happening in Manhattan): I wished him good luck and told him how much I enjoyed his work; he turned, smiled and thanked me. Happily, he didn’t appear annoyed and seemed to be a reasonably “normal,” down-to-earth person, despite his over-privileged and over-hyped line of work.
I like Jennifer Lawrence. She did fine in “Silver Linings Playbook” for which she won the Best Actress award, but for raw acting, her performance did not compare with that of Emmanuelle Riva, who may have acted the role of a lifetime in “Amour.” It also was unfortunate for Ms. Riva not to get that award, as she’s in the twilight of her career, whereas Ms. Lawrence obviously has many star turns to come.
Finally, there was host Seth MacFarlane, very much out there with his John Wilkes Booth/Lincoln joke (on Booth being the only actor who truly got into Lincoln’s head) and his song & dance number on seeing actresses’ “boobs.” One can laugh while wincing, or just cringe and question his taste; I laughed a bit, but mostly cringed. The least tasteful moment for me was the “Ted” skit playing on the notion that Jews dominate Hollywood. The wisecracking teddy bear character — from the recent film of that name that MacFarlane has made — insisted that it’s a good career move in Hollywood to claim Jewish lineage. Considering that antisemitism feeds on the insinuation that Jews have undue power, reinforcing the stereotyped idea that Jews dominate Hollywood is not welcome. But none of this means that MacFarlane should be accused of the A word or regarded as other than a comedian; if you don’t like his humor, don’t watch his work.

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