Moonlit reality

An hour into the Oscar ceremony, there was a whiff of uncertainty in the air. La La Land was supposed to mop up every award in sight, but the first sign that the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had other ideas came when the winner for Best Costume Design was announced. Everyone expected Mary Zophres to win for her retro-revival Technicolor clothes in La La Land — the eventual winner, Colleen Atwood for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, seemed surprised too. But as other awards began to slip away from the well-reviewed musical, a theme could be teased out. What is Fantastic Beasts if not a plea for equal treatment of people, magical or otherwise? Then, Arrival, a film about the inherent benignity of aliens (read immigrants) won for Best Sound Editing. Hacksaw Ridge, which is, in a way, an anti-guns movie, won in two categories. Fences, about an African-American father who fears racial discrimination, took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Earlier, Moonlight, featuring two minority communities (black and gay), won for Best Supporting Actor. This turned out to be one of those years the Oscar voter was underestimated. As a majority of voters are actors, there was the tendency to think they’d reward La La Land, a celebration of creation: the heroine wants to make movies, the hero wants to make jazz. It looked like the year of The Artist all over again.

If that 2011 Best Picture winner recreated the silent film era, La La Land  looks back at the Hollywood musical. More importantly, both films were a cocoon of comfort in the worst of times. After the tsunami that devastated Japan, after the assassination of Osama bin Laden, after Arab Spring, after riots in London, and after an event that proved far more tragic to disciples of design, the demise of Steve Jobs, The Artist was less film than balm. It was a world in which the biggest catastrophe was the arrival of talking pictures. It stood to reason that Hollywood, this year, needed to retreat into a similarly reassuring bubble, similarly distanced from reality, after Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential elections. The confusion over Best Picture summed it up perfectly. First, it was La La Land. Fantasy, it appeared, had won. Then, it was announced that a mistake had been made. The winner was actually Moonlight. Reality, it turned out, could not be kept at bay, not in a year an Iranian director boycotted the ceremony in protest. Asghar Farhadi, whose The Salesman won in the Best Foreign Film category, sent a note where he said his absence was “out of respect for the people of my country and those of six other nations who have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the U.S.” It was indeed a grim reminder that the world under Mr. Trump is no La La Land.

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Printable version | Jul 28, 2021 11:03:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/moonlit-reality/article17378488.ece

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