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Friday, December 3, 2021


No clean getaways


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No clean getaways No Country for Old Men, Joel and Ethan Coen’s chilling confrontation of a desperate man with a relentless killer, won the Academy Award for Best Picture on Sunday night, providing a more-than-satisfying ending for the makers of a film that many believed lacked one. Accepting it, Ethan Coen thanked the Academy members for “letting us continue to play in our corner of the sandbox.”

No film ran away with the night, however, as the 80th Academy Awards gave a bruised movie industry a chance to refocus its ever-inward gaze on laurels instead of labour strife.

Daniel Day-Lewis won Best Actor for his portrayal of a ruthless oil tycoon’s rise from the sweat and sludge of wildcatting to wealth, power, and madness in There Will Be Blood. And Marion Cotillard won the Oscar for Best Actress for her incarnation of the tormented chanteuse Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose. “Thank you life, thank you love,” an elated Cotillard said. “It is true there are some angels in this city.” Javier Bardem won the fourth Oscar for No Country, capturing the Best Supporting Actor for his role as the cattlegun-wielding, pageboy-coiffed serial killer. He thanked that film’s directors, Joel and Ethan Coen, saying they “put one of the most horrible haircuts in history over my head.”

Tilda Swinton took Best Supporting Actress for playing a nervous wreck of a corporate lawyer who throws morality under the bus of her ambition in Michael Clayton. The indie delight Juno, about a pregnant teenager with a mouth on her, won for Best Original Screenplay, by Diablo Cody, who famously had once worked as a stripper. She tearfully thanked her family for “loving me for who I am.”

In an indication of strength for No Country, a Best-Picture nominee, the Coen brothers also won for Best Adapted Screenplay. “Whatever success we’ve had in this area has been entirely attributable to how selective we are,” Ethan Coen said. “We’ve only adapted Homer and Cormac McCarthy,” a reference to the Odyssey-inspired O Brother, Where Art Thou? and No Country, based on the novel by McCarthy. But No Country was denied in several technical categories, as well as in cinematography: Robert Elswit won that Oscar for There Will Be Blood, whose extended tracking shots in harsh open spaces and dimly lit images of claustrophobic ones made for stunning scenes despite long stretches with little dialogue.

Another example: Falling Slowly, the ballad from Once about the music created in the space between two people, won Best Original Song. It was written by the film’s stars, the Irish Glen Hansard and the Czech Marketa Irglova, who have since become a real-life couple.

Atonement, nominated for seven awards, won for Best Original Score. The awards were otherwise all over the map, with the first nine going to different films, leaving the show’s host, Jon Stewart, to set the tone with a riff on the three-month writers’ strike that had threatened to turn the Oscars itself into a marathon of montages. No clean getaways “You’re here – I can’t believe it, you’re actually here!” he joked as the show opened. “The fight is over, so tonight,” he added, “welcome to the makeup sex.” Mindful of the election season, he took note of the Democratic primary race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. “Normally when you see a black man or a woman president, an asteroid is about to hit the Statue of Liberty,” he said.

Far more seriously, Taxi to the Dark Side, an examination of American torture practices, won Best Documentary Feature.

Ratatouille, a rodent’s-eye view of the accessibility of art, won for best animated feature. Brad Bird, that film’s director, thanked his junior high school guidance counsellor: “He asked me what I wanted to do with my life,” Bird recalled. “I said, ‘Make movies.’ He asked me what else I wanted to do with my life. And I said, ‘Make movies.’” Bird said the doubt he faced was “perfect training” for a life in Hollywood. Also in the early going, La Vie en Rose won for Best Makeup and Elizabeth: The Golden Age won for costume design. The Golden Compass, in which every human character is born with a shape-shifting animal companion known as a ‘daemon,’ scored a big early upset in the visual-effects category, beating two far more successful films: Transformers and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.

Among the lesser-watched categories, The Bourne Ultimatum won Oscars for all three in which it was nominated: film editing, sound mixing and sound editing.

The Counterfeiters, a Nazi-era drama, became the first Austrian film to win an Oscar, for Best Foreign-language Film.

Owen Wilson presented the award for Best Live-action Short Film to Le Mozart des Pickpockets, and played it straight, avoiding any reference to his personal collapse and hospitalisation just as his Darjeeling Limited was being released last fall. Best Animated Short Film went to Peter and the Wolf, and was presented by an animated Jerry Seinfeld, in his Bee Movie character.

The Academy Awards delivered a welcome return to pomp and ritual for a town still recovering from the strike by film and television writers that stripped the glitz from the enterprise. “I think the town is ready to celebrate,” said George Clooney, walking up the red carpet accompanied by his girlfriend, Sarah Larson. “I know I am, but then that’s never been a problem for me.”
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017