Of Birdmen and Budapest Hotels

Rahul da CunhaI love the concept of the Academy Awards. Especially the films that make their way through the Odyssey-like journey to the Oscars. Yeah, yeah, I know what movie critics and MAMI disciples will say, in response, “You should really watch what emerges from Iran and Turkey, that’s true world cinema. Hollywood is just hype and hoopla.” Fair enough. But here’s my thing — I’m not an intense movie buff. I don’t watch Iranian angst. I just head to Inox.

A still from the film, Birdman
A still from the film, Birdman

But even the most hardened Hollywood critic will admit — this was a spectacular year. Like a Grand Slam tournament, where all the top seeds make it to the final rounds. So many unique celluloid visions congregated. And while Neil Patrick Harris joked his way through the evening, I thought with much respect, in this system, if you have a screenplay however quaint, quixotic, or questionably commercial, the motion picture will get made and multi-plexed.

Provided, of course, you have the chutzpah and the craft.

I have a simple yardstick for ‘digging a flick’. Does the movie experience stay with you long after you’ve left the popcorn-ridden carpets of the cinema house? In that respect, this was a game changing year — Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Boyhood, kept rotating top honours at all the various ‘awards’.

But there was a moment that absolutely stunned me this Academy year. As Ben Affleck announced Alejandro Innarritu had won Best Director, first to start the spontaneous applause was Grand Budapest Hotel’s helmsman, Wes Anderson. And the first to his feet to embrace the Mexican maestro was Richard Linklater, maker of Boyhood. And then the winner, in his Hispanic, Hollywood accent, lifted his ‘black lady’ and spoke not ‘cheesily’ about how the other four directors could all have equally won. But about how the job of the director was to make movies that would withstand Mother Time. And all great movies did that.

Alejandro and Anderson and Linklater rewrote visual storytelling for me. The fact that films such as The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything and Whiplash would have won any other year but 2014 was just too tough.

Look at the subjects covered and coveted at this year’s competition. Birdman, a magic realistic gem about a man’s battle with creative relevance. The Grand Budapest Hotel, a noir comedy but filmed impishly through the lens of Hollywood’s most unique mind. Boyhood, shot over 12 years with the same cast. There were of course the ‘disadvantaged’ quota with The Theory of Everything and Still Alice. And to describe Whiplash as being a music film and Foxcatcher being a sports drama would just be banal.

The bottom line seemed to be ‘have the idea, and if it’s strong enough, the studios and the audience will back and reward you’. Alzheimers, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Alan Turing, art and its survival in the aging process, all found the ‘paisa’, the performers, the paying public and the prizes.

And my final thought as always, like Interstellar, is Bollywood just light years behind?

Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at rahuldacunha62 @gmail.com

The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.

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