Movies

On a political pendulum

That it would be political was a given. It was the articulation of politics at the Oscars that had one curious. And much to our contentment, it largely turned out to be one of its kind, both in the choice of awardees and the presentation. Yes, there was the usual: the cuteness of Sunny Pawar, the gold and silver of the gowns, Halle Berry’s hair, the parachuted food, the tour bus. But not one of those things could take the shine away from a trifle deliberate — some would say overstated — but eventually entirely essential political theme of the ceremony.

Politics seemed to pan out like a film, kicking off with Kimmel’s monologue for prelude, invoking the 225 U.S.-hating countries that would be watching the telecast live. “It has been an amazing year for movies. Black people saved NASA and white people saved jazz. That's what you call progress,” he said, before moving on to taking jibes at President Donald Trump by talking about the “uninspiring and overrated performances” and “lacklustre career” of Meryl Streep. No wonder when he asked everyone to join him in giving Streep “a totally undeserved round of applause” a few of us clapped this side of the television as well. Cherry on the cake? The cheeky question to Streep: “Nice dress by the way, is that an Ivanka [Trump]?” The joke, obviously, would not have been lost on the President.

With the threat to the marginalised — immigrants, blacks, Muslims, gays — perceived to be at an all time high, there couldn’t have been better award to kick off the ceremony this year than the best supporting actor going to Moonlight’s Mahershala Ali. It ticked all the right religious/sex/race boxes at one go. Later, the documentary award for OJ: Made in America only consolidated these gains further, with the win for The White Helmets, about rescue workers in Syria, bringing up the rear. Travel ban turned around, metaphorically?

Quick on the heels, the much-questioned make-up and hairstyling award, given to team Suicide Squad, was dedicated to immigrants, leading on to a bloated middle of the Oscars narrative with one rehearsed dedication — victims of violence, diversity, inclusiveness, tolerance — stacked upon another. But aren’t these the times when even too much dissent isn’t quite enough?

It became all about ‘mirror-mirror on the wall, who is the most political of us all?’. Was it Asghar Farhadi’s speech read out in absentia? Or Gael Garcia Bernal saying, “As a Mexican, as a migrant worker, as a human being, I’m against any form of wall that separates us.” Was it the makers of Zootopia asserting that tolerance is more powerful than the fear of the other? Was the honour for Viola Davis, who had the tears flowing with best supporting actress (Fences) speech, in which she talked of exhuming and exalting stories of ordinary people and gave us two poetic quotes to keep repeating for the rest of our lives: “There’s one place that all the people with the greatest potential are gathered – that’s the graveyard … I became an artiste and thank God I did, because we are the only profession that celebrates what it is to live a life.” Or was it Mark Rylance, handing Davis her award and coming up with the most sublime, understated and graceful call to oppose without hating? Is anyone listening?

All this while Twitter went merry replaying Trump’s Oscar tweets from 2014 and 2015: “I don’t know how much longer I can take this bullshit — so terrible! #Oscars”. On the other hand, Kimmel tweeted to Trump with #MerylSaysHi, straight from the ceremony.

The end of the Academy Award ceremony script tried to balance out the political with the popular, restoring the order with wins for La La Land and a even a politically incorrect one for Casey Affleck (Manchester By The Sea) despite the sexual harassment allegations against him.

The shocker of a twist in the tale, the last-minute snatching away of the best film Oscar from La La Land, took the narrative back a full circle to where it started: politics, the marginalised, triumph of the underdog and Moonlight. Sadly, Isabelle Huppert got forgotten in the melee. But then, she had made her political point in choosing to play a woman who refuses to be a victim of violence and rape in Elle.


Our code of editorial values

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jul 30, 2021 11:56:32 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/on-a-political-pendulum/article17379266.ece

Next Story