Oscars to Filmfare awards — the great divide

Do you think the Oscars are a great, big bore? At four hours (and that`s excluding the initial one hour on the red carpet when the stars try to outdo the interviewers in their frenzied silliness), it`s about two hours too long. It`s made longer for us in India because of the laziness of the telecasting channel, Star Movies. Unable to get any paid ads except one, they repeated the same channel ads over and over again at every single break. So perhaps the Oscars aren`t too long; it`s the Oscars on Star Movies that`s over the boredom threshold.

Apart from the anticipation surrounding each award category, what makes or breaks the show is the MC. Ellen DeGeneres started off brilliantly in spite of her evident nervousness. “Tonight is a night” she began, “of so many different possibilities. Poss­ibility No.1: `Twelve Years a Slave` will win Best Picture. Possibility No. 2 You are all racist.” Or, “We have so much incredible talent here. Between all the nominees, they have done over 1400 films… And a total of 6 years of college.” Then, continuing the tradition of making fun of the previous year`s faux pas, she looked at Jennifer Lawrence who stumbled badly when she went up to the stage to receive her award, “It`s terrible how people keep bringing that up for a cheap laugh, isn’t it ? I am not going to mention it. Nor am I going to talk about how you tripped on the red carpet outside this evening. But if you win tonight, I think we should bring the Oscar to your seat.”

After that it was downhill all the way, as if her script-writers had run out of ideas, so she was reduced to popping up in the auditorium next to one star, then behind another.

Ordering pizza, and distributing it to the audience, was a clear sign that the funny lines machine had gone kaput. There was one inspired moment though, and that was the Moment of the Selfie when she took out her camera and broke President Obama`s record of a retweeted selfie — hers clocked up 2 million `shares` in 2 hours! But, then, who could resist a picture which included Meryl Streep, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Angelina Jolie, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence?

These interludes may have been light-hearted, but Hollywood otherwise doesn`t joke too much about itself. And perhaps the seriousness with which it takes itself results in an amazing variety of incredible films. Just look at the sheer originality, skill and daring of nominated movies such as the eventual winner Twelve Years a Slave, the technical wizardry and scale of Gravity, the over-the-top energy of The Wolf of Wall Street, the eccentric comedy of American Hustle and the guts it must have taken to back films like Dallas Buyers’ Club and Nebraska, two films with no obvious box-office appeal.

Hollywood’s self esteem is evident in the tributes paid to the past at the Oscars. This year it was for The Wizard of Oz for which Judy Garland`s three children were in the audience and Over the Rainbow was sung. In this way, Hollywood builds its own mythology, and makes today`s stars into tomorrow`s legends.

Contrast this with our own awards functions. None of the awards are deemed important enough by either actors or directors or producers, possibly because there are too many of them —– and they don`t make money for either a film or its actors; Indian awards make money only for the awards` organisers. So the stars turn up only to dance in one of the stage acts (for a large fee), and turn up in the audience only if assured in advance that they will win the prize. We could build our own mythology too, and we have many a legend we could honour; instead we pander to stars’ huge egos, and are happy to call our film industry `Bollywood`, at once a derogatory and derivative name, which tells us in what contempt its own denizens hold their industry.

But there it is, and there`s nothing anyone can do about it. zz

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