Asian artistes walk away with coveted Oscars - GulfToday

Asian artistes walk away with coveted Oscars

The proud Asian recipients of the Oscars.

The proud Asian recipients of the Oscars.

It was an Oscar awards night like no other. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards, representing the American film industry in Hollywood, recognised and celebrated mostly American movies and actors and actresses, and sometimes the British productions as well as the Australian ones. Then amidst criticism that it was an all-white affair, the door was opened to black actors and actresses and to black filmmakers.

This time round, the Hollywood fraternity went all out to honour an Asian movie with an American link. “Everything Everywhere All At Once” walked away with seven Oscars, for the best film, the best director and the best original screenplay, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, best actress for the heroine of the movie, Malaysian Michelle Yeoh, the best supporting actress for Jamie Lee Curtis, the best supporting actor for Ke Huy Quan, and for film editing. The only American film that won an award was that of the Best Actor for Brendon Fraser in “The Whale”. And there was another big surprise when the Telugu language film from India got the award for the best original song for “Naatu Naatu” in “RRR” from India.

When Dan Boyles’ “Slumdog Millionaire” won eight Oscars in 2009, A.R.Rahman won for the best original song ‘Jai Ho’ penned by Gulzar, and for the best original musical score, and Resul Pookutty won it for sound mixing with Ian Tapp and Richard Pryke, it was a film based on an Indian story set in India and with an Indian cast but made in English. This is the first time that an Indian language film won the music award. There is excitement and debate that Hollywood has become more inclusive, and that it was an Asian movie, “Everything Everywhere All At Once”, that walked away with seven Oscars. But it has an American locale, with a Chinese family running a laundromat, facing tax problems with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) official. And like a good sentimental American film, it ends in happiness and tears.

So, what is one to make of the Oscar choices made by the 10,000-member Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science comprising film artistes and technicians? It has to be conceded straightaway that the American film fraternity is not like the film festival juries in Europe like Cannes in France, Venice in Italy and Berlin in Germany. There is no highbrow stuff here. The Academy reflects something of American democracy, where popularity is indeed the criterion, and the awards rarely go to sophisticated art cinema. But America being America and Hollywood being Hollywood, an Oscar is seen as a popular recognition more than anything else, and Hollywood like America remains the glamour centre of the world. It would also be unfair to dismiss the Oscars as merely glamour trophies. It is in many ways a peer recognition because the Academy is that of those who engaged in making films. Their judgment may not be impeccable but it is genuine appreciation, and it is not decided by whim and judgment of select jury members but by a larger electorate.

And there is the commercial side to it. The Oscar winners will likely get a chance in the mega film industry in Hollywood. There is money and there is glamour. And many film artistes would not spurn it. The good actors and actresses, the good film directors, have a love-hate relationship with Hollywood and the Oscars even as the world loves and hates America. They want to be part of Hollywood and they want the Oscars too but they are repelled by the crassness of the system. And when they get to win an Oscar like the actors and actresses of “Everything Everywhere All At Once” there is genuine joy as shown by Michelle Yeoh.

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