Oscars Postscript Zettel at 02:48 on 28 February 2013
There was a pivotal moment, totally unremarked in this marathon, 3-hour Feast of Narcissus. A geeky little Swedish Director and a chubby American Producer picked up the Swede’s first and the American’s second, Oscar. Malik Bendjelloul’s English did not survive his excitement and the tiny delay that ensued led poor Simon Chinn to suffer the menacing opening bars of the Jaws theme as he tried to thank his wife. In the fashion stakes if there were 1000 people present, Malik and Simon were about 997 and 998; just ahead of Anne Hathaway and Kristen Stewart.
Why pivotal? These two appropriately modest gentlemen were receiving the Oscar for 2012/13’s best Documentary Feature – Searching For Sugarman. Niceties observed, Chinn told the assembled Glitterati that the humble, working class man whose incredible story their extraordinary film documented –Singer Songwriter Rodriguez, now 73 years-old – “isn’t here because he didn’t want to take any of the credit.”
The reason you should do everything you can to see this fascinating, absorbing, inspirational film is that when you’ve seen it you will understand why Chinn’s unlikely, hard to believe remark was in fact almost certainly true.
Amidst 3 hours of mock modesty, cringingly insincere self-deprecation and Olympic Gold Medal sucking-up; this single, throw-away remark was sincere, salutary and true. The calm, quiet, peaceful eye at the heart of a hurricane of adulation, self-love and insincerity.
If you catch up post-hoc with any of the Oscar winners – make sure this is one of them. I saw it again tonight and it was even more moving than the first time I saw it a few months back. If you can’t get to see the film, check out the twenty or so poetically evocative songs at its heart – as powerful and affecting now as when they were first written and recorded 40 years ago: and hardly heard anywhere in the world save Apartheid South Africa, until last year.
It might add to your motivation to know that the first Oscar Simon Chinn won as a Producer was Man On Wire. By your deeds shall you be known.
Of the rest: if the Oscar leads you for the first time to Argo you will see an excellent, well crafted, tense movie whose Best Picture Oscar success depends to some extent on the fact that of the two films about conflict in the Middle East, Argo was the one that made Americans in general and Academy voters in particular – feel better about themselves and their government’s actions abroad.
Don’t allow this popular and comfortable movie to put you off seeing Zero Dark Thirty – it’s not such an easy watch; it poses genuine moral dilemmas and grittily gets much closer I suspect to the reality on the ground. Zero was clearly not going to win anything because it bravely disavowed the instant mythology with which America likes to clothe its darker moments. The People's approval that currently embraces the stoical, courageous non-violent flair that rescued 6 American Diplomats from revolutionary Iran, at the time, and ever since, mocked, pilloried and character-assassinated then President Carter for not invading and rescuing all American hostages from Iran – whatever the cost in human life - American or Iranian. Oh if only they had had a Bush and a Blair instead of that pussy Carter.
Argo and Zero Dark Thirty should be seen together: so we can see how far we have come in the space of years between the events they depict. It is no small challenge to decide in which moral direction that journey has led us.
On a lighter note: even if you don’t really like Musicals still go and see Les Miserables - it has passion and commitment and is better than we dared hope. Apart from Daniel Day Lewis and some other fine performances Lincoln was for me a disappointment thanks to a screenplay that left one of the most eloquent and quotable politicians in history sounding more an LBJ homespun hack than a JFK inspirational leader. My review argues that here again is the triumph of comfortable myth over racial reality.
Thanks for your support these last 12 months. I wonder what 2013/14 will bring?
Z, this review has made me want to see Man on Wire again- genius and terrifying to watch- but in a cinema rather than on tv- and to def see Zero Dark Thirty. Les Miserables made me weep, but partly because I had a fan of the stage show next to me who shuddered with emotion all the way through and voiced all the songs and sobbed endlessly. I'm not sure why this made me sob too, but I almost wanted to watch it again- maybe without Emoting Man next to me, I don't know. Your reviews are always great food for thought. what are your movie tips for 2013?
Re: Oscars Postscript Zettel at 14:48 on 01 March 2013
The first time I saw Sugarman I cried at the end: this time I cried on the way through. It recalled a cold November night at the Roundhouse when this fragile old man with poor sight had to be led on stage but came alive in his music: vitality, life force, has nothing to do with age. Appropriately, went with my daughter; given the dignity and love of Rodriguez’s daughters on screen.
Rodriguez and Philippe Petit have this is common: both have lived their lives true to their own values and resisting the cultural BS they, like we, are surrounded by.
You can still pick up Man On Wire occasionally at the Prince Charles Leicester Square. It might even pop up again at the Rex Berkhamsted (if you’ve never been – go. You won’t be disappointed). Always watch any movie at the cinema if possible – offers the ‘lose-the-frame’ scale and uniqueness of the close-up; both lost or diminished, even on big tvs. (http://www.zettelfilmreviews.co.uk/2008/10/cinema-versus-dvd-essay)
I find the writing is usually a better guide than Direction etc. Also, as much of the best stuff is using the time and space TV series offer - worth keeping an eye out there despite the point above. So look out for:
- Aaron Sorkin’s (West Wing, Social Network etc) biography of Steve Jobs
- David Fincher’s Girl Who Played with Fire; 2nd in the Millenium trilogy. (all 3 are on DVD in the pretty good original Swedish versions)
- Don’t miss The Hunt – already released.
- I Wish – Japanese film (Rex: 2.30 – March 11th)
- Amour – Michael Haneke (Bit near the bone for me after a recent illness but Haneke is superb).
- 2nd series of Sorkin’s The Newsroom on Sky Atlantic
- 3rd series of Borgen BBC4
- 2nd series The Bridge – BBC4
It’s interesting how the Scandinavians are writing all the best women’s parts – Sarah Lund, Lisbeth Salander, Saga Noren, Birgitte Nyborg etc. Unlike Hollywood even some of the men are half-way grown up too.
PS – always watch good movies with an emoting man: we need all the encouragement we can get.
Re: Oscars Postscript AlanH at 10:45 on 02 March 2013
Oscars Postscript is beautifully written, IMO, and I'm not disappointed at all at it not being about Oscar Pretorius as I first thought, through misreading.
Les Miserables made me weep, but partly because I had a fan of the stage show next to me who shuddered with emotion all the way through and voiced all the songs and sobbed endlessly. I'm not sure why this made me sob too, but I almost wanted to watch it again- maybe without Emoting Man next to me,
This made me laugh. My daughter was once in the chorus of a Birmingham performance of Les Mis (fabulous it was, too), and she commented that the men in the audience did the weeping.
It's just a man's musical, I suppose. And we're all so weepy.
Ah- hadn't thought about it being a man's musical- that is interesting- of course, all that manly barricade stuff and protecting delicate women.. although took male friend who snorted with derision often throughout and rolled his eyes whenever I sniffed.
Z- thanks for the 2013 call, I will look out for those. Have indeed been to the gorgeous Rex and also the rather sweet Letchworth art deco cinema, albeit to see a total pile of crap- the Woman in Black, which left me with nightmares for weeks afterwards/ Still, the foyer was nice...mint green..
Re: Oscars Postscript Zettel at 21:50 on 02 March 2013
hmmn - doesn't compute.....
must be another man thing...
Re: Oscars Postscript Catkin at 22:09 on 02 March 2013
Man on Wire is totally wonderful, isn't it? I found it very moving.
Catkin, yes, amazing- did you see it at cinema or TV? I really really wish I'd seen it on big screen as if anything ever cried out to be seen that way...
Mint green is very nice, Z, when seen in an art deco cinema, I promise. Worth a visit. Even to Letchworth Garden City.
Re: Oscars Postscript Jem at 23:04 on 02 March 2013
Man on Wire on big screen amazing!
The Bridge - oh, yes!!!!!!
Les Mis - I don't think so.
Amour - brilliant!
Borgen - ditto
Dragon Tattoos. - meh!
West Wing - yes but... a bit sentimental
Haven't seen Zero - Dark 30
Trouble is with all these Oscar contenders is the cinema hasn't got space to show these plus all the other releases.
Not nominated but best British movie of last year - WEEKEND!!!!
Re: Oscars Postscript Zettel at 10:18 on 03 March 2013
PPS - on sobbing men.
Pick up this morning's Radio 4 Broadcasting House on I-player: the wife/partner of a journalist/photographer killed in Afghanistan reading her poem to him....