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For whom the Oscars toll

 | February 22, 2012

Here I am, a film critic, daring to guess who could be reading out the victory speeches.

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Often, I have seen that the choices fellow film critics make are at complete variance with what juries decide. This has been very common in international movie festivals like Cannes and Venice.

Now with the Oscars all set to pop out of envelopes, it is quite possible that the 5,765 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from a variety of disciplines will choose winners who are not the favourites of either the critics’ community or the public.

So, here I am, a film critic, daring to guess who could be reading out the victory speeches.

Of all the nine movies in the Best Picture category, I loved Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist. It is in beautiful black and white.

The Artist is a charming, old world story of love and disappointment, not just among people, but also between cinema and those who create it. Marvellously weaving into its narrative the silent era in Hollywood, The Artist conveys the angst and exhilaration that come with sound – shown especially in one brilliant scene. A glass is placed on a table with a thud, which tells us that sound has arrived. Can anything be more powerful than this?

When cinema begins to talk, many stars go on the blink. Men really handsome and women extraordinarily beautiful are found unsuitable for the talkie, because their voices are either too screechy or rough. Or, their diction and style of delivering lines are just not up to the mark.

One of the celebrated stars of the silent movies is George Valentine, portrayed elegantly by Jean Dujardin, who goes through the whole gamut of emotions – from elation, which he experiences as a big-time actor in the silent days, to disillusionment when the Hollywood studio bosses reject him as sound comes on.

Clooney to win big?

Although, Dujardin is wonderful, the Oscar for the Best Actor may well seek out George Clooney in The Descendants.

As Matt King, a lawyer and land baron in Honolulu, Clooney is dramatically different from many of the characters he has essayed till now. Trying to reconnect with his two wayward daughters after his adulterous wife slips into a coma following a skiing accident, Clooney’s King is thrilling to watch.

Clooney was nominated earlier for his Up in the Air (2010) and Michael Clayton (2008), but, well, he is miles ahead in The Descendants. He is just superb – as the helpless father tortured by the thought of a cheating wife and unloving daughters.

I hope Clooney strikes the Oscar this time.

As far as the Best Actress goes, few have attracted the kind of attention Meryl Streep has. She has been nominated 17 times and has won twice — Best Supporting Actress for Kramer vs. Kramer in 1980 and Best Actress for Sophie’s Choice in 1983.

In The Iron Lady that Streep has got the nod this time, she plays former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. And critics have not stopped raving. Me as well.

The biopic, directed by Phyllida Lloyd, follows the divisive Thatcher through the highs and lows in her life and career, including her tenure as Britain’s first lady.

Fairfax film critic Tom Ryan termed Streep’s performance as The Iron Lady “truly extraordinary”. He added: “There’ll be no need for the other contenders for best actress at the forthcoming Oscars to do anything more than applaud”.

Still, the question is will the huge Academy clap with the critics.

Gautaman Bhaskaran is a Chennai-India based author, columnist and film critic, who has been watching the Oscars for years. He is an FMT columnist and can be contacted at [email protected].


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