Wednesday, March 2, 2016


THE BLACK AND WHITE OF THE OSCARS

UMA DA CUNHA
Wednesday, March 02,2016
Compere Chris Rock’s opening remark set the tone for the entire evening: “I’m here at the Academy Awards, otherwise known as the White People’s Choice Awards.” And with that, the 2016 Oscars, the entertainment world’s biggest show, nudged the conscience of its over 36.5 million viewers. 

The 88th Oscars scored many firsts, the key one being that the 20 nominees were all white which led to a national outcry. The Academy of Motion Pictures went into a reverse gear rescue strategy. For one, they ensured that their award presenters were mostly black, brown or Asian. Chris Rock turned the complacent, back-slapping occasion into a heady mock trial with Hollywood being in the dock for its covert black-listing (the pun itself is shameful) of coloured minorities. The presenters reflected Hollywood’s diversity. The Oscars turned into a thinking, issue-based event. 

India made its presence felt in many ways, despite not being officially there by way of a film. Most notable was Priyanka Chopra who was called upon by the August Academy to present an Oscar (she did so for Best Film Editing),.the first Indian to be so honoured. She did us proud with her deportment and confidence. Unlike some other celebrities parading on international red carpets, she looked completely at ease in an evening gown by Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad, its simplicity offset by her one ornament – shimmering diamond earrings the price of which is being strenuously debated. 

It felt good to see a lean, bearded Dev Patel step lightly on stage to announce the Best Documentary Feature. Appropriately enough it went to fellow-Londoner, the acclaimed filmmaker Asif Kapadia (his ancestry lies in Gujarat) for his film ‘Amy’ based on the tragic life of gifted singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse The latest is that Asif is joining Martin Scorsese on a film based on the origins of the Rolls Royce company. 

Indian-origin Sanjay Patel's short animated film 'Sanjay's Super Team' was named on stage as a nominee – no mean honour. The 7- minute film follows the daydream of a young Indian boy, who is bored with his father's religious meditation and imagines Hindu gods as super-heroes. 

The irrepressible Chris Rock was joined by fellow blacks nonchalantly lampooning the prized Oscar contenders. Whoopi Goldberg appeared in a skit as a housemaid mopping the floor alongside her white employer, Jennifer Lawrence, which copied a scene from David O’Russell’s ‘Joy.’ In a take-off on ‘The Martian’, its lead actor Jeff Daniels refused to spend $2,500 to save a black astronaut (played by Rock) left stranded on Mars. Another presenter donned a white glove on one hand and a black one on another to make a telling visual point. These pointed interludes served as constant reminders of the main issue, in case Oscar grandeur took over. For once, the victims were calling the tune. 

Rock’s engaging humour to an extent helped to lessen the sting of his no-holds-barred comments. Examples: “It’s the 88th Academy Awards, which means this ‘no black nominees’ thing happened at least 71 other times. … Black people did not protest. Why? Because we had real things to protest about at the time. We were too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won best cinematography.” Here’s another chilling line. “This year, things are going to be a little different. This year, in the ‘In Memoriam’ package, it’s just going to be black people on their way to the movies who were shot by the cops … yes I said it!” 

Fortunately, the rest of the Awards ceremony was more relaxed. The sequence of the Awards was the order of a film being made. It was good that big awards came first and merged with the smaller ones. 

A very welcome feature this year was that almost all the award winners spontaneously spoke out in support of concerns that the world shares. 

Six Oscars, the maximum for any one film this year, went to George Miller’s “Mad Max: Fury Road”, lauded for its all-round cinematic excellence. The film has many underlying messages on autonomy, sexism, climate change and greed. 

The very first award was for the Best Original Screenplay, which went to Tom McCarthy for his ‘Spotlight’ (the film also won the mighty Best Picture Oscar). The film is on the Boston Globe’s exposure of former Father John J Geoghan, alleged to have molested dozens of children. For once, media was given a pat on the back, with McCarthy commending the efforts and courage needed for investigative reporting and how it can change the world. 

In his sixth nomination, Leonardo DiCaprio collected the Best Actor award for his role as a fur trapper in "The Revenant". Noting that it was "about man's relationship to the natural world in 2015, the hottest year in history", he made a fervent appeal for people to help leaders and governments in their efforts on behalf of climate change. 

Writings on the Wall from the film ‘Spectre’ won the Best Original Song Oscar composed by Sam Smith and Jimmy Napes. Smith, while dedicating the award to the L.G.B.T. communities around the world. said that they could be the first openly gay couple to win an Oscar. India, are you listening? 

Very moving was the song, Till It Happens To You in the award winning feature Kirby Dick’s ‘The Hunting Ground’ rendered by an emotional Lady Gaga, on sexually abused victims. What followed on stage was a vehement plea to fight the increasing sexual abuse of students on American campuses. 

An unusual thank-you came from László Nemes, winner of Best Foreign Language film, ‘Son of Saul’. He first thanked the support his film got at various film festivals which paved the way to its success. The film follows a Hungarian-Jewish prisoner who stays alive so as to give a formal Jewish burial to a body he thinks is his son. This year, many nominated films focused on internecine war and the loss of lives and identity in their wake. 

Among film luminaries we lost in the past year that 2016 Oscars noted in their in Memoriam was India’s gifted actor, Saeed Jaffrey 

From Pakistan, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy won her second Oscar for her 40 minute documentary, ‘A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness.’ The film follows 18-year-old Saba, who falls in love and elopes She survives an attempt by her father and uncle to make her the victim of honour killing. More than a 1000 girls fall victim to this fate in Pakistan every year. 

The Oscars décor and design this year was startlingly unusual and changed scene to scene, with a metallic, circular or linear geometric style to it. The Oscar statuette appeared in multiple images. The floor in contrast often had delicate flourishes of lace motifs, rangoli style. 

To come back to the colour question: the majority of haute couture gowns worn by the stars were in white - including our ravishing Priyanka and the mesmerising Lady Gaga.
Courtesy: http://thecitizen.in/  - India's first independent on-line daily which was launched on January 27, 2014. Reproducing Uma da Cunha's column from the first edition