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Oscars Postscript – Zettel. Don’t miss Sugarman


Oscars Postscript – Zettel

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 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?

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