Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Oscar worth weight in gold

With the Academy Awards airing last night, I cannot ignore
my growing disenchantment with the Academy. Perhaps the show has always been
disappointing, but only in recent years have I begun to notice how much that
disappointment also intrigues me. This week, my intention was to review two of
the films with the highest nomination count but zero wins, ?The Remains of the
Day? and ?The Color Purple,? as a comment of the award ceremony?s dying
credibility. Tragically, however, the latter DVD was cracked while en route
from Netflix. But let us persist.


?The Remains of the Day?

4 stars out of 5


A 1993 release, adapted from the novel of the same title by
Kazuo Ishiguro, ?The Remains of the Day? is a quiet, contemplative film,
peculiarly centered around the butler (Anthony Hopkins, ?Beowulf?) of an
esteemed British politician (James Fox, ?Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?)
who corresponds with the former housekeeper of the estate, Ms. Kenton (Emma
Thompson, ?Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix?). Their letters evoke
nostalgia in both, prompting lengthy flashbacks to when Ms. Kenton first came
to the manor and the complicated relationship that ensued between them. The
film largely attempts to portray the enigmatic and extremely emotionally
stifled butler, Mr. Stevens, and to examine his odd, almost nonhuman thought


Like Ishiguro?s other works, the story moves sluggishly,
progressively building a sense of uneasiness that ?something?s not right.? Some
may find this style boring, but with commanding leads it becomes hard to lose
interest. Even if the plot itself is mundane, it is the very human nuances
fleshed out in the characters that are so captivating. Furthermore, director
James Ivory (?The White Countess?) creates a beautiful, yet detached universe
in the manor grounds, in which he explores the dangers of acknowledging, and
not acknowledging, one?s emotions. A story such as this, that is entirely
dependent on the abilities of the players, could not have been better cast ?
Hopkins becomes an inward and stoic man, with only the subtlest twinge of inner
conflict, while Thompson shines as an all-too-human woman, tormented by her
inability to ignore her heart.

Although it made only a quiet splash at the box office, ?The
Remains of the Day? was nominated for an impressive eight Academy Awards,
including best picture, best director, best score, best adapted screenplay and
Hopkins and Thompson for best leads. The film also got nods for costume and art
design. Sadly enough, despite being the film with the second-most nominations,
it lost out to the strong competition of ?Schindler?s List? and ?The Piano? in
nearly all its categories.

I?m not claiming that ?Remains? is better than either of
those, and in fact, I haven?t seen ?The Piano? in many years, but it is a shame
to not win a single category, isn?t it? One can?t help wonder if box office
popularity played a role, or if there is an aversion to awarding the same
person the same award nearly consecutively (Thompson won best actress the year
before, and Hopkins won best actor two years before). Even glummer, ?The Color
Purple? received an impressive 11 nominations but not a single golden statue
back in 1985.

Contrarily, and more recently, the Academy also tends to not
even nominate wonderful films and actors. For example, the widely praised
performance of Angelina Jolie in ?A Mighty Heart? was completely overlooked. I
don’t doubt it had to do with her stigma as an action-movie actress and the
relative low hype of the film compared to, let?s say, ?Juno.? Similarly, widely
praised Japanese anime film ?Paprika? was snubbed in the category of animated
feature in favor of more senseless talking animals in ?Happy Feet.?

Not only does the best film not always win, but also it?s
not always even nominated. The Academy is furthering disappointment in its
relative negligence to the comedy and horror genres. Though I?d probably die if
I ever saw Jack Black or Rob Zombie nominated, it?s sad to think how few films
of those genres have been praised ? I can only think of ?Annie Hall? and ?The Silence
of the Lambs.?

Are the Academy Awards really anything more than a
popularity contest wrapped in an elegant gown? Are the members, primarily
actors, really objective critics, or does bias tarnish their vote? I joke about
how the Golden Globes ?mean nothing,? but I?m starting to think an Oscar means
little more than tradition. Honestly, this year, I?m watching the event just to
see John Stewart.

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