Intermission

Awards season has begun. The Golden Globes are now a distant memory and it’s full steam ahead to the 85th Academy Awards on February 24 with a few pit stops (SAGs, Independent Spirit) along the way.

Oscar

I enjoy awards shows for the spectacle, for the chance to catch a glimpse of some of the creative people I most admire and even some of those I don’t. Gorgeous frocks, sharp suits, froth and frivolity as today’s Hollywood looks back to old style glamour.

While I revel in the spectacle of the stars, I try very hard not to attach too much significance to awards as a meaningful measure of a film’s worth. In the end, I really believe that cinema is an empathy machine we each have a very personal relationship to. I believe that we connect on a primal, emotional level with different stories and are moved and challenged by different images. What the best films and performances and cinematography of the year are for me are going to be very different for you, I’m sure. This is as it should be.

Come February 24 I will of course be delighted to see Daniel Day-Lewis win another Oscar if this happens. I think he’s magnificent – but I’m saying this and I haven’t even seen Lincoln yet (18 days to go). And if I have any opinions on the Best Picture nominees – Amour, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Misérables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook and Zero Dark Thirty – and the Best Director nominees – Michael Haneke, Benh Zeitlin, Ang Lee, David O. Russell and Steven Spielberg – it’s mostly because my best film and director – The Master by Paul Thomas Anderson – were, I guess, snubbed. I feel passionately about this film, not only as a story to which I feel connected, but also as a somewhat ecstatic example of the majesty of the cinematic art form. It’s a cinema of ideas, intimacy and innovation.

Anderson is ‘Oscar-less’, like the other great directors whose careers his work seems most closely to spring from – Orson Welles and Robert Altman. Not bad company to be keeping.

Paul Thomas Anderson - Oscar-worthy in my eyes
Paul Thomas Anderson – Oscar-worthy in my eyes

At the moment, in between films, work, reading and the new season of Girls, I’m enjoying the 15-hour documentary series The Story of Film: An Odyssey, written, directed, edited and narrated by Mark Cousins, a film critic and director from Northern Ireland. It’s pretty incredible stuff, a bit like a full semester survey course of the history of cinema, but much more. What Cousins does brilliantly is to redraw the borders of cinematic innovation to show how from its earliest days, when film flickered into life at the end of the nineteenth century, it was a global art form. Cousins expertly draws connections between ideas, images and movements from Eisenstein to Ozu to Welles to Godard to Scorsese and back again. If you love film, you will love this series.

I’ve got a few posts in various stages of draft, including extended pieces on the movie musical (including my response to Les Misérables), Cary Grant, Bette Davis, Daniel Day-Lewis, Lost in Translation and the space between people in the films of Michelangelo Antonioni. I will get around to finishing one of these soon – I know there are a couple of you out there eager to read more.

Before the end of the month, I also hope to launch a new monthly feature I’m going to call ‘Let Us Now Praise Handsome Men.’ I’ll be writing brief profiles on the actors (and actresses) who stand out in the history of film, not just for their beauty, but also for some inimitable quality and charm and the magic they bestowed on everything they did. Who I choose to write about will be purely subjective and also an excuse for some lovely photos. First installment on Gregory Peck coming soon. Here’s a teaser.

Inaugural handsome man, Gregory Peck, with a rather fetching beard
Inaugural handsome man, Gregory Peck, with a rather fetching beard
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