In Argo, a CIA 'exfiltration' specialist (Ben Affleck) concocts a risky plan to free six Americans who have found shelter at the home of the Canadian ambassador.
While we’re often critical of Indian awards shows and politics in the selection processes, we tend to consider the Oscars holier than thou. Not entirely, if veteran New York-based reporter and BBC show host Tom Brook is to be believed. Ahead of the big night — the Academy Awards take place on February 25 — he talks about how factors beyond quality should see Argo win, and why a Shah Rukh Khan will never be a leading Hollywood actor.
While the buzz is around the nominated films, what are the deserving ones that got left out?
The Master (2012) deserved a nomination. It was one of the best films last year. The more popular exclusion was Skyfall (2012). It’s a popcorn movie, but (director) Sam Mendes comes from a theatre background, and visually, he brought a lot to the film.
With Argo, Zero Dark Thirty and Lincoln leading the race, is adapting a political story the surest shot at Oscar glory?
When Zero Dark Thirty launched, it was seen as a Best Film contender. But then, there were complaints about the depiction of torture. Real-life stories have a lot of currency, but are also risky. With Argo too, the ending has been criticised, as has the role of the Canadians.
What would you bet on to pick up the Best Film Oscar?
Four to five weeks ago, I’d have said Lincoln. Now, everything points towards Argo. It’s a film the Academy seems to want to embrace. Also, Ben Affleck was snubbed by being left out of the Best Director category, so this might be compensatory. And it’s a studio film, and the Academy is made up of a lot of people who work in studios. Plus, it’s entertaining, as opposed to Lincoln, which makes you think, but isn’t instantly enjoyable.
Who are the biggest talents to have emerged this year?
The most obvious one is Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts Of The Southern Wild; 2012), the nine-year-old who’s picked up a Best Actress nomination. Also, Australian actor Jacki Weaver (it’s her second consecutive Best Supporting Actress nomination for Silver Linings Playbook; 2012). Amour (2012) raises the profile of 85-year-old French actress Emmanuelle Riva. It’s a shame Suraj Sharma wasn’t nominated for Life Of Pi; he carried the film, acting with an imaginary tiger.
Why do established Indian actors never get significant roles in Hollywood?
Hollywood runs to make money. And the typical American teenager wouldn’t know who Shah Rukh Khan is. Also, there’s racism in Hollywood, which also makes it difficult for African-American actors. A lot was made of Anil Kapoor’s presence in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011), but his shot lasted all of five seconds. Things like that are just marketing ploys.
Tom’s picks for...
Fresh Guacamole: “At 100 seconds, it’s the shortest film ever nominated. It shows a bowl of guacamole being made using hand grenades, among other things.”
Foreign language film
Amour (Austria): “Michael Haneke’s film has an elderly French couple and deals with illness, dying and love. It’s simple, brilliant cinema.”