Saturday, March 06, 2004

The Predictable Life of a Film Buff

Yesterday I paid my weekly visit to the British Council Library. After spending a few hours in the library (which is being renovated and there is no place to sit) I went to the canteen outside. Even before I could place my order the elderly women on the counter took out a 5 Star chocolate and a Maaza from the fridge and placed it on the counter. I was stunned. OK so I go there very often and I think I always eat the same things, but come on you got to be kidding me. I have become so predictable that this woman could figure out my order before I placed it. My life must be really boring if it so predictable. I think I have fallen into some kind of a vague pattern and must break my way out of it. But for the time being the 5 Star and the Maaza are just fine.

Sean Penn won a well deserved best actor Oscar for Mystic River. Though Bill Murray pulled off an amazing performance in Lost in Translation, the fourth time nominee Penn won the day (If you are wondering then “Yes I have seen both these movies”). I have been reading a lot of criticism of the fact that Lord of the Rings (Return of the King) won 11 Oscars. The Academy awards have always been about popularity and have always been given to audience/media favourites. LOTR was overlooked the last two times because they wanted to make the final instalment a legend. Everyone in the academy wanted to honour the genius of Tolkien and the vision of Peter Jackson and make LOTR-ROTK a legend placing it in the not so august company of Ben-Hur and Titanic (with 11 Oscars each - both technically and cinematically very superior but not really all that great). That the Oscar has always been about popularity can be judged from the fact that Penn did not get an Oscar for his brilliant performances in Dead Man Walking (a performance which will eclipse the rest of his career, he set a very high bench-mark for himself) and I am Sam. That Russell Crowe got an Oscar for Gladiator (a role that any other actor could have pulled off) and not for his superb portrayal of mathematician John Nash in A Beautiful Mind is another proof of the award being easily influenced by media and publicity (the publicity team which had worked really hard to get Julia Roberts an Oscar for Erin Brockovich was also behind Denzel Washington's successful award campaign for Training Day).

The studios which produce these movies are allowed to throw parties for the voting members of the Academy and also send out gifts to them. Academy Awards can be bought like every other thing. But this doesn't mean that the award winners don't deserve their awards. Most winners (not all) would have won their awards even in a perfect world where votes couldn't be bought. No Man's Land would have still won hands down and our Lagaan would still have lost (See No Man's Land and you would realize that a main stream Bollywood movie like Lagaan doesn't even deserve a nomination). Studios do what they can do best (get a good publicity campaign manager) and the actors do what they do best (act). Woody Allen said after winning the best director Oscar for Annie Hall that he did not like awards because then you let yourself get judged by others. You give them the right to say that you were good in a particular film but weren't all that great in the other one. LOTR is an awesome movie and Peter Jackson does not need any Oscars to prove that.

So why am I suddenly writing about movies? Actually why haven't I written about movies for so long? Pick any three people from anywhere in the world and I can bet that I have seen more films than all of them put together. I watch films for a living. It is my bread and butter. Period.

The reason Sean Penn came to my mind was because of his beautiful and talented wife Robin Wright Penn. Very few people remember Robin as the original Kelly from Santa Barbara (the soap which used to come along with Bold and the Beautiful on Star many years back). She is best remembered for her portrayal of Jenny in Forrest Gump. I recently saw a movie of hers called Message in a Bottle (starring Kevin Costner and Paul Newman) and all my childhood memories came screaming back. She was the first serious crush of a twelve year old boy. I had a very large poster of her in my bedroom and never missed an episode of Santa Barbara. Sean Penn doesn’t need an Oscar. He has his own personal angel.

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