by Tara Sharma on Friday, March 8th, 2013
Last Sunday evening, we took a break from our homework to watch talking heads criticize flamboyant gowns, overwhelmed actors receive glossy gold trophies, and Hollywood’s rich and famous walk the red carpet. This event was the much-anticipated Academy Awards: a time when we applaud the best innovations of filmmaking today. And not only do the Oscars give us the latest updates on the developments of budding film stars and talented directors, but they also offer us valuable insights on the current standards of society—and how those values have changed over time.
Life of Pi, the breathtaking story of a young boy stranded at sea in the company of a tiger, never failed to blow viewers away due to its stunning, complex, natural imagery and striking cinematography. This film — a personal favorite — was nominated for countless awards, including several in the editing field and best picture, and took home the trophies for best original music, best cinematography, best visual effects, and best director. And there is no question as to why the film dominated in editing. The entire movie’s visual component was crafted through intricate computer editing and brilliant artificial creations of nature’s scenes to create the most vivid, uplifting rendition of the world’s natural beauty to be seen in a theatre. The film depicts the charismatic streets of whitewashed Indian villages, quickly transforming to an infinite, multi-dimensional panorama of luminescent Pacific waters and supernatural, whimsical clouds woven into a multi-hued horizon of nature’s true beauty. Amid the film’s cosmic depictions of nature, we see the intricate ruffles and folds of a Bengal Tiger’s rust-colored fur enveloping the viewer in a pillow of optical creation. Life of Pi truly indulges our visual senses. It obliges us to see the honest magnificence of our world within the confines of a two dimensional screen. This movie forces humans to understand their incredibly miniscule significance in the immeasurable capacity of nature, as we see a tiny lifeboat within the infinite confines of the ocean. Ang Lee is a well-established filmmaker of the modern day, not only for the successful Life of Pi. but also for the 2006 Brokeback Mountain. We value his more independent, creative take to filmmaking, straying away from the mainstream plotlines we find so much in theatres.
The majority of the winners and nominees this year recounted significant historical events that never fail to figure in our consciousness. Best picture winner Argo deals with the eye-opening story of one CIA mission during the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979. Daniel Day Lewis, who played the title-character in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, took the award for best actor. This historical film recounts a little-known but highly significant historical events of time: the debate about the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which abolished slavery. Nominee Zero Dark Thirty captures the gripping story of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden after the September 11 attacks. These momentous historical narratives dominated the Oscar nominations this year, reflecting our compulsion to reinterpret and remake history through for our own times. The past is ever-present in our current cinematic inclinations, as it is in our political struggles. These directors used film as a more creative outlet for this crucial expression, as politicians debate parallel issues.
Beasts of the Southern Wild, a striking independent film loosely inspired by the after effects of Hurricane Katrina on a small community in Louisiana, was nominated for several awards including best picture. That a low-budget, indie film, created by a first time director, was nominated for some of the largest awards in the world of filmmaking, underscores our society’s growing respect and open-mindedness towards small scale, imaginative productions, often not embraced in mainstream cinema. Similarly, The Artist, a black and white, silent independent film, was a unique best picture winner last year, further displaying our increased interest and fascination with the cinematically unexpected. We are willing to challenge ourselves with unique content, unconventional film-making styles, and emerging directors. At their best, the Oscars serve to illuminate these values of modern filmmaking.
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