•  Columns
  • Posted: Fri, Feb 24 2012. 9:19 PM IST
  • Meryl Streep is going to win, of course, for The Iron Lady. Then again, giving Streep an Oscar is like awarding Albert Einstein a Nobel; or calling Sachin Tendulkar the greatest Indian cricket player. It’s a safe choice; a win-win situation that makes both the recipient and the jury look good. I didn’t think much of her high-pitched voice by the way. It was too similar to her Julia Child portrayal in Julie & Julia. But the Academy loves English accents, witness last year’s Oscars for The King’s Speech. I think we all like English accents because it makes us feel cultured, somehow more civilized. Isn’t it funny that all the recent Hollywood movies about England have been about women? Helen Mirren’s Queen Elizabeth, Princess Diana’s multiple biopics, and now Maggie Thatcher.

In the running: Streep has been nominated in the Best Actor (Female) category. Gero Breloer/AP

In the running: Streep has been nominated in the Best Actor (Female) category. Gero Breloer/AP

On Sunday night, the Hollywood elite will assemble once again for the Oscars. They will put aside petty rivalries and come together for the sake of history, pomp and Nielsen ratings. Trumpets will hit the high note as presenters walk in through the laser lights to deliver their scripted announcements and awards. Those in the audience will control the rise of bile when their names aren’t read out and smile prettily like the actors they are. “Please god, let it be me.” “Not me?” “Oh no, not him. Not HIM.”

Strapless gowns will glitter as pretty women sashay down the red carpet. We will all gawk at Angelina Jolie and Scarlett Johansson; George Clooney and Ryan Gosling. And this is the thing about the Oscars. You can call yourself literary and engage in high-octane debates about whether Indians are indeed among the happiest people on earth as poll results show; or about the meaning of long-term love as depicted in a recent essay (Discovering the Secrets of Long-Term Love) in the Scientific American magazine. But in the end, what draws viewers to the Oscars are the pretty people. Eye-candy with a fluff of buttery popcorn: That’s one recipe for time well spent.

At least, Billy Crystal is hosting the awards this year. Last year, James Franco tried to imitate Crystal’s dour persona and ended up looking stoned. I had high hopes from co-host Anne Hathaway, but she too sounded quite scripted and bubbly. Just goes to show that even if you memorize your lines, it is all in the delivery. It takes a Shah Rukh Khan to riff wittily and poke fun without being too insulting. Clooney used to do this when he accepted an award, but nowadays he runs the danger of commenting on a topic that is as appropriate to an Oscar ceremony as a stripper in our Parliament: Darfur.

Clooney is ageing these days. His grey-specked hair is beginning to look like Amitabh Bachchan’s toupee. My teenage friends tell me that Gosling is “where it’s at”, these days. He was great in Crazy Stupid Love, which I watched, not for Gosling’s chiselled chin and dreamy blue eyes—really—but for the historical allusions and its premise about the state of wedlock in the current world.

As Vanity Fair magazine’s recent Hollywood issue cover suggests, Hollywood is harking back to the 1920s and 1930s this year, what with two nominated films, Hugo, and The Artist, set in that period. Martin Scorsese’s Hugo is not as brilliant as his early films but the Academy may continue its apology for not awarding Scorsese an Oscar for his early films—Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, for instance—by bending backwards and awarding him this year as well. The film that got Scorsese an Oscar, The Departed, was good but nowhere close toGoodfellas.

Nostalgia is taking over the world. Fashion designers and movie directors all over the world are harking back to a more classical definition of beauty and style. Photographer Mario Testino who shot the cover for Vanity Fair’s Hollywood issue talks about his longing for a “1920s’ pure beauty”, which he attempted to capture with the young stars who grace the cover. At Chanel’s recent Paris-Bombay show, displaying Karl Lagerfeld’s pre-autumn/winter 2012-13 collection, models wore his exquisite take on Indian outfits and the classic tikkawhich Indian brides wear on their forehead. Japan is perhaps the one culture that has somehow managed to modernize its art, architecture, design and films without leaving its heritage behind. Not so in the US, where technology and animation have overtaken moviemaking, ergo the longing for the past. Kurt Andersen, in an essay for Vanity Fair, calls it “devolution” of popular culture. In it, he says that movies, books and music haven’t evolved in the last 20 years and are, therefore, caught in this nostalgic wheel as witnessed by a few of this year’s Oscar nominees: My Week With Marilyn (about Marilyn Monroe), Hugo (about 1930s’ Paris), The Artist (about silent movies),Midnight in Paris (set in the 1920s), and The Iron Lady (about Margaret Thatcher). See a pattern?

So go ahead and settle down with your bag of chips. Watch Crystal deliver his lines in that practised conversational tone of his. Bet on or against Streep, depending on how much of a risk-taker you are. Root for The Artist if you are a contrarian. Lose yourself in the irony of watching 1930s’ Paris with the latest 3D technology in Scorsese’sHugo. But for god’s sake, don’t go all nostalgic and maudlin on me. As Scarlett O’ Hara said, “Tomorrow is another day”, so let’s not get caught in “Groundhog Day”.

Shoba Narayan is happy that Bollywood is racing to the future instead of being stuck in the past.Write to her at [email protected]

Also Read Shoba’s previous Lounge columns

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