The American Academy Awards ceremony for the Motion picture arts, which took place on a few weels ago, is the highlight of the year for American and now International actors, producers and movie goers. It is a unique moment in the year which is like a litmus test for American and western society. By watching the 3 hour show, viewers can discover what issues and events are occupying the American psyche and also how standards for the dramatic arts are evolving. It’s really the Best Picture, Best Actor or actress in a leading role, Best Actor and actress in a supporting role that capture most people’s hearts. So who were the nominees this year and what can we conclude?
The Artist (Thomas Langmann Producer): The setting is in Hollywood in the year 1927 the Golden Age of Silent Movies. George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is a silent movie superstar probably inspired by the career of Douglas Fairbanks known as ‘The King of Hollywood’ in the 20’s. When the movie studios invented movies with sound called the “talkies” George Valentin’s career comes to an end (just like Douglas Fairbank’s did). He will meet though a young actress, an “extra” called Peppy Miller (played by Berenice Bejo), whose career takes off with the advent of the talkies but who nevertheless will befriend George in him in his darkest hours. == a yearning for essential values (loyal friendship despite money and stardom) and a simpler lifestyle?
The Help (Brunson Green, Chris Columbus and Michael Barnathan Producers): The Help stars Emma Stone as Skeeter, Viola Davis as Aibileen and Octavia Spencer as Minny-three very different, extraordinary women in Mississippi during the 1960s, who build an unlikely and uncommon friendship around a secret writing project that Skeeter finds in order to become a full-fledged writer. This project will eventually pierce the wall of silence between the races, breaking all of the well entrenched society rules of the time putting all of the participants in grave danger (Jim Crow laws was still being enforced at the time). From their improbable alliance a remarkable sisterhood emerges, instilling all of them with the courage to break across the racial lines which define them and join in their own way the civil rights movement (the backdrop of the movie) which was in full swing during the time of the movie proving that everyone in their small way can help bring about important changes in society == a reminder that America’s segregationist past is not so long ago and that racism is still not a thing of the past and that we all need to continue to bring about changes?
The Descendants (Jim Burke, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, Producers): set in Hawaii, The Descendants is a tragicomedy involving a man called for Matt King (George Clooney) a somewhat apathetic husband and father of two girls, who is forced to re-examine his past and face an uncertain future when his wife suffers a boating accident off of Waikiki. He unwittingly becomes closer to his young daughters while trying to decide if he should sell the land which he inherited from Hawaiian royalty and missionaries. == a return to family values and private virtues?
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (Scott Rudin, Producer): Oskar (Thomas Horn) is convinced that his father (Tom Hanks), who died in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, has left a final message for him hidden somewhere in the city. Feeling disconnected from his grieving mother (Sandra Bullock) and driven by a relentlessly active mind that refuses to believe in things that can’t be observed, Oskar begins searching New York City for the lock that fits a mysterious key he found in his father’s closet. His journey through the five boroughs takes him beyond his own loss to a greater understanding of the observable world around him. == filial love that can conquer all and the fact that America has still not gotten over the trauma of the 9/11 events on its soil?
Hugo (Graham King and Martin Scorsese, Producers): based on Brian Selznick’s award-winning, imaginative New York Times best-seller, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.” Hugo is the astonishing adventure of a wily and resourceful boy whose quest to unlock a secret left to him by his father will transform Hugo and all those around him, and reveal a safe and loving place he can call home. ==a young boy who is clever can conquer all?
Midnight in Paris (Letty Aronson and Stephen Tenenbaum, Producers): This is a romantic comedy set in Paris involving an American family from California (the parents, their daughter and her fiancé) who go to the French capital because of business and to get inspiration to write (the fiancé). The daughter is torn between her parents conservative values and her husband’s more liberal views on the world and his critical view of her and her parents’ materialism and conventional ways. The young man who is in love with Paris and its artistic past escapes into other time zones meeting literary giants such as Hemmingway and Gertrude Stein with whom he feels a great kinship. == the grass is not always greener on the other end of the timeline and it’s an illusion to think that a life a lot different from ours would be much better?
Moneyball (Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz and Brad Pitt, Producers): Based on a true story, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), the general manager of the Oakland A’s baseball team and the guy who assembles the team suddenly realizes that all of baseball’s conventional wisdom is wrong. Forced to reinvent his team on a tight budget, Beane will have to outsmart the richer clubs. The onetime jock teams with Ivy League grad Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) in an unlikely partnership, recruiting bargain players that the scouts call flawed, but all of whom have an ability to get on base, score runs, and win games. ==a David and Goliath theme which proves that it’s never impossible to take on the system and that changing old school traditions can be a winning formula?
The Tree of Life (Sarah Green, Bill Pohlad, Dede Gardner and Grant Hill, Producers): From Terrence Malick, the acclaimed director of such classic films as Badlands, Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line, The Tree of Life is the impressionistic story of a Midwestern family in the 1950’s. The film follows the life journey of the eldest son, Jack, through the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he tries to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father (Brad Pitt). Jack (played as an adult by Sean Penn) finds himself a lost soul in the modern world, seeking answers to the origins and meaning of life while questioning the existence of faith. ==raw nature can bring us spiritual peace and shape our lives as individuals in our families and in society?
War Horse (Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, Producers): Set against a sweeping canvas of rural England and Europe during the First World War, War Horse begins with the remarkable friendship between a horse named Joey and a young man called Albert, who tames and trains him. When they are forcefully parted, the film follows the extraordinary journey of the horse as he moves through the war, changing and inspiring the lives of all those he meets-British cavalry, German soldiers, and a French farmer and his granddaughter-before the story reaches its emotional climax in the heart of No Man’s Land. ==a horse takes us through the First World War and teaches us what real friendship really is by experiencing joy and sorrow ?
Actor In a Leading Role
Demian Bichir in “A Better Life”: From the director of About a Boy comes A Better Life – a touching, poignant, multi-generational story about a father’s love and the lengths a parent will go to give his child the opportunities he never had.==illegal immigration is more about individual human stories than about breaking the law (from Mexico into California)?
George Clooney in “The Descendants”: see above
Jean Dujardin in “The Artist”: see above
Gary Oldman in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”: Based on the classic novel of the same name, the international thriller is set at the height of the Cold War years of the mid-20th Century. George Smiley (Gary Oldman), a disgraced British spy, is rehired in secret by his government – which fears that the British Secret Intelligence Service, a.k.a. MI-6, has been compromised by a double agent working for the Soviets. ==the West is still at odds with Russia?
Brad Pitt in “Moneyball”: see above
Here’s a clip from the Oscars with Natalie Portman presenting the award
Actress In A Leading Role:
Glenn Close in “Albert Nobbs”: Five-time Academy Award nominee Glenn Close stars in this emotional and thought-provoking tale of a woman forced to live as a man in 19th Century Ireland. After thirty years of keeping up the charade, a new love threatens to destroy everything she’s worked so hard to build.. ==women still haven’t broken through the glass ceiling?
Viola Davis in “The Help”: see above
Rooney Mara in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first film in Columbia Pictures’ three-picture adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s literary blockbuster The Millennium Trilogy. Directed by David Fincher and starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, the film is based on the first novel in the trilogy, which altogether have sold 50 million copies in 46 countries and become a worldwide phenomenon. ==a woman who defies all odds and beats men at their game?
Meryl Streep in “The Iron Lady”: The Iron Lady is a surprising and intimate portrait of Margaret Thatcher (Meryl Streep), the first and only female Prime Minister of The United Kingdom. One of the 20th century’s most famous and influential women, Thatcher came from nowhere to smash through barriers of gender and class to be heard in a male dominated world. ==a woman who beat men and politics?
Michelle Williams in “My Week with Marilyn”: In the early summer of 1956, 23 year-old Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), just down from Oxford and determined to make his way in the film business, works as a lowly assistant on the set of ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’. The film that famously united Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) and Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams), who is also on honeymoon with her new husband, the playwright Aurthur Miller (Dougray Scott). Nearly 40 years on, his diary account The Prince, the Showgirl and Me was published, but one week was missing and this was published some years later as “My Week with Marilyn” – The movie is the fictionalized story of that week. When Arthur Miller leaves England, the coast is clear for Colin to introduce Marilyn to some of the pleasures of British life; an idyllic week in which he escorted a Monroe desperate to get away from her cast of Hollywood groupies and the pressures of work == an American icon (Marilyn Monroe ) still holds a lot of mystery?
This year the best picture went to a silent movie “The Artist” which was shot in Los Angeles by a French crew. So what conclusions can you come to?
- Best Cinematography: Robert Richardson, “Hugo”
- Best Art Direction: Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schavo, “Hugo”
- Best Costume Design: Mark Bridges, “The Artist”
- Best Makeup: Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland, “The Iron Lady”
- Best Foreign Language Film: “A Separation”
- Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, “The Help”
- Best Editing: Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
- Best Sound Editing: Phillip Stockton and Eugene Gearty, “Hugo”
- Best Sound Mixing: Tom Fleischman and John Midgley, “Hugo”
- Best Documentary: “Undefeated”
- Best Animated Feature: “Rango”
- Best Visual Effects: “Hugo”
- Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”
- Best Original Score: Ludovic Bource, “The Artist”
- Best Original Song: Bret McKenzie, “Man or Muppet”
- Best Adapted Screenplay: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, “The Descendants”
- Best Original Screenplay: Woody Allen, “Midnight in Paris”
- Best Live Action Short: “The Shore”
- Best Documentary Short: “Saving Face”
- Best Animated Short: “The Fantastic Flying Books Of Mr. Morris Lessmore”
- Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”
- Best Actor: Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”
- Best Actress: Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady”
- Best Picture: “The Artist”
Well…now you know. These are the movies you have to see during the year to understand American and Anglosaxon culture better or at least to keep up with its evolution. So get your hankerchiefs out, buy your ticket at the ticket booth, get yourself a box of popcorn and a drink and see you at the movie theater!