Movie Matters

4th March
2014
written by Mad Cow

               Loving the movies as I do, I anticipate the Oscars each year and hope for the best. Lately though, the show itself seems bland. When I was a kid and Bob Hope hosted each year it seemed funnier. But then again, I am more world weary now. Sigh. Some things have changed a bit though. Last night we saw an open (and married) lesbian, Ellen DeGeneres, host the awards. That’s big. Cuarón, a Mexican, won for best director of his film Gravity. And 12 Years a Slave captured Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years… got the award for best actress in a supporting role. Thus we have four people of color walking away with top awards. I predicted that if 12 Years a Slave won that Steve McQueen wouldn’t win as best director and I was right. But Cuarón was hard to beat since the best part of Gravity had to do with the enormous number of calculations and inventions that had to be devised in order to simulate the outer space special effects and set-up. McQueen was clearly ecstatic to get best picture (actually jumping up and down) and it was wonderful too that John Ridley won as well for the 12 Years screenplay.

Matthew McConaughey gets my vote for the most self-centered acceptance speech I’ve heard in a long time. While giving lip-service to praising the other contenders for best actor, co-star Jared Leto and his director (Jean Marc Vallee, who was not nominated for best director), he went on to praise God, himself and his family. No mention of people living with AIDS, gay people, the “cause” of the film. He may as well have been the real wolf of Wall Street thanking his army of brokers. Clearly the role was just a job to benefit himself. The egotistical and corporate nature of McConaughey’s speech was remarkable.

In contrast, Lupita Nyong’o said “It does not escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s.” Jared Leto, McConaughey’s co-star who won for supporting actor, actually mentioned the “36 million people who have lost the battle to AIDS” and spoke of injustice. McConaughey could have said something similar. This is not about his god thing. Many of us think that a higher power has influence in our lives but perhaps don’t phrase this in the same way. Many people worked hard to make McConaughey look good in that movie but he clearly thought the whole thing was about him and “his” god.

               Catt Blanchett was gracious and charming in her speech, mentioning all of the contenders by name, thanking Woody Allen and the cast of Blue Jasmine. I know that some would have preferred her not mentioning Allen, whose daughter is accusing him of having abused her when she was 7. Yet I don’t understand how Blanchett could ignore the fact that he wrote the script, chose her to play the role and directed the movie. Special kudos go to her, though, for mentioning that movies about women aren’t a “niche,” but that people want to pay money to see them. “The world is round, people,” she said. Bravo.

               The red carpet is fun but not for 3 ½ hours. Seriously? There was so much prattle about nothing – and no actual actors in sight – that I had to watch a golf tournament and then an episode of Treme before switching back at 7:00. I do love the clothes but the arrivals should retain some semblance of naturalness. No one was dressed poorly although Sally Hawkins might have chosen something without such long sleeves. I choose Charlize Theron as best dressed. She is gorgeous and knows how to wear clothes. I read somewhere that at the Oscars many women dress like “exploded cupcakes.” There was none of that. As for escorts there seemed to be many “singles.” Many of the men brought their mothers, all of whom looked lovely. Perhaps it’s no longer necessary for “leading men” to have arm candy wherever they go, a good turn of events.

               Noticeable by their absence (at least on screen) were Tom Hanks, George Clooney, Michael Douglas, Judi Dench (although it was explained that she was working), and Robert Redford. Lisa Minelli was there and not looking so good. Don’t know why and don’t want to know. There were fewer all-time-star presenters, although it was nice to see Bette Midler come out to sing “You are the Wings Beneath my Wings.” Sidney Poitier was there looking old as was Bill Murray. I keep recalling Nora Ephron’s essay in her book I Remember Nothing and Other Reflections in which she talks about seeing someone else and thinking how old they look, only then realizing that if they look old you probably look old too if you are the same age. It is thus my goal to encourage all aging movie stars to continue to have work done in order to keep my morale up (only kidding and I know this is an ageist joke).

               Now for the Cleveland International Film Festival and other offerings at our local theatres. Watch this space.

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