Oscars tonight, which you already knew unless you’ve been living in a hole for the past two months. If you’re watching, I’m hoping it’s because (a) you’re a fan of Seth MacFarlane or (b) because you’re on nights, have the Sky Movies package and really nothing better to do, because if you’re watching because you think your favourite films are all going to be suitably rewarded this evening when two dozen lumps of gold-plated pewter are given to those deemed most socially acceptable by their peers.
So you’ve got two options tonight if you are watching: be generally affronted by the inability of thousands of people who spend their entire lives making films to understand what’s good and what’s not in the way that rational people can, or be specifically affronted. If you’re bothered enough for the latter, then may I present my Oscar Scorecard Of Discontent.
It’s simple enough: I’ve taken the ten most discussed awards of the night, and broken each one down into four categories.
Will Win: my tip for what will take the award. Feel free to come back and judge me when I get this horrendously wrong.
Should Really Win: In that terrifying alternate reality where everyone is like me, these films win. But in that reality, I actually win all of the awards anyway. Yay me!
Must Not Win Or I Will Sulk All Day Monday: While none of these are necessarily bad films or performances, they are the ones I’ve arbitrarily deemed least worthy in their respective categories, so my sense of injustice will burn that much brighter. I don’t think it will happen, but if more than a couple of these pick up awards, my deep-seated funk may well last until midweek.
Should Have Been Nominated: Not saying these would have won, although some like The Master and Marion Cotillard clearly would have done in Parallel Universe Where I Govern Supremely.
If you’ve got as many unexplained anger issues as I clearly have, then feel free to have your own blank copy to fuel your own righteous indignation come Monday morning. You’re welcome.
The Review: Much consternation was made about last year’s Foreign Language Oscar. For once, people weren’t able to moan about the main award as it was generally accepted the right decision had been made, so most of the contention occurred around the decision to ignore A Prophet and The White Ribbon, not to mention Ajami and The Milk of Sorrow, and give the award to an unheralded Argentinian film. Seemingly most of that contention arose out of the fact that few people had seen it, but both Jacques Audiard and Michael Haneke’s movies were being touted as modern classics. Surely we couldn’t have been blessed with a third in the same year?
This, as it turns out, is certainly fit to stand in the same company. It’s a story of regret, and being unable to gain closure on the past – a past which has a traumatic series of events at its core. Ricardo Darin plays the legal counsellor who investigates the brutal murder in the Seventies, but more than twenty years later pours his retirement into writing a memoir of the events, and finds himself slowly revisiting the events with his former department chief, played by Soledad Villamil. As the story unfolds, predominantly in flashback to the time after the murder, we are fed the details of the case, but what’s causing Darin’s Benjamin Esposito to still cling to the past so incessantly is initially unclear.
The actors are all required to play a double role here, both past and present, and all acquit themselves admirably, Darin especially not only taking on physical changes, but managing to channel both the ebullience and determination of the younger man, but also the regret, tinged with layers of sadness, of his elder counterpart. The dialogue often crackles as the investigation unfolds, men not afraid to pull their punches but also having to fight for their position. As the events play out, it’s evident that this is not as clear cut as your average American crime drama would be, as the political system puts as many obstacles in the way as the lack of leads, which gives it a refreshing advantage over other crime tales. It’s also clear that it’s not just the events of the crime that Esposito is unable to put behind him, but his unreciprocated feelings towards his superior, obvious to all of his colleagues at the time, and helping to give a deeper emotion to the events of the past.
While the screenplay is excellent, the cinematography is also worthy of mention, giving a different feel to the two eras to aid our transition, and managing one stunning single shot as the counsellors close in on their man. Throughout, there’s an ambiguity to events which allows you to remain sympathetic to the characters but still leaves you guessing about the final outcome – safe to say, when it arrives you may not see it coming. The structured narrative is also more effective, allowing the poignancy of the later events to be emphasised by the time that has passed without the closure that Esposito continues to seek. Overall, this may not quite be the equal of The White Ribbon, but it does deserve mention in the same breath and it would be hard to deny such a complete and satisfying piece of cinema the awards it’s received.
Why see it at the cinema: There’s a strong visual sense throughout the movie, but the single tracking shot at the stadium, starting way up then sweeping into the crowd and through the tunnels in a seemingly unbroken move, demands viewing on the biggest screen you can find.
The Score: 9/10