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Oscars 2021,Why Anthony Hopkins Beat Chadwick Boseman

Standing ovation  for  the  93rd Academy awards. Giving the best actor award to the redoubtable Anthony Hopkins  in place of   the late(and no doubt great) Chadwick Boseman is an act of great courage  and  integrity specially since Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is exceptionally cogent, a tour de force of a  farewell performance. To not honour the  dead(specially one so deserving) and to see more merit in the living is a feat  beyond  the jury members  of our awards to understand.

I am happy  to  say I   have seen Anthony Hopkins in The Father. Some  actors  are so above  the  material that is  provided for their  talent that  you end up looking only at the actor and  not the rest of the film. Anthony Hopkins  is  one  such  exceptional actor, so  persuasive in his  performances he seems  to tower above  everything else.Not so  in The Father which  to  our delight, and I am sure Sir Anthony’s delight too, is a  sharply-drawn deeply introspective film. It comes  from a  very successful French  stage  play with just two main characters.  The father who is now entering the life-shattering zone of dementia, and his daughter who is  trying hard to cope with her father’s growing sneering demands on her time  and attention. While Olivia Coleman as  the daughter  looks , as usual, a little too baffled by  life   to make sense of  it , Anthony  Hopkins’s fatherly  act is  so  authentic in its confusions it will leave  you  deeply disturbed. His  final breakdown in the nursing home in the arms  of a kind nurse(Olivia Williams)  where  he  compares himself to a  tree with falling leaves is  so poetic  and Shakespearean . And yet that’s  this  rapidly-fading  patriarch’s  reality.  Imagine King Lear sobbing for  Cordelia who is not dead.Only  gone to another country. But he  might soon be gone too.And not to another country.

Yes, Sir Anthony,  you have earned this Oscar. As  for  Frances  McDormand’s  best actress for Nomadland,  Chloe Zhao’s  best  director and the best picture Oscar  to   the same  film, again richly deserved. It is not easy to  watch this  film about a bleak barren desolate aging woman travelling down that road of life which has no end . It is  very difficult to not fall in love with this austerely beautiful drama  of desolation disrepair and  despair.  Writer-director Chloe Zao’s  earlier films Songs My Brothers Taught Me  and The Rider are masterly studies of  loneliness.

Nothing prepares  us  for Nomadland. Its masterly melancholic meditation on desolation is strangely uplifting. Most of  the  film’s running time  goes into celebrating  mortality, as  Fern, lately widowed, leaves  everything behind in her sparse  life to travel  across the western  deserts  of America  in  a van that has seen better days.So  we hope has  Fern.

But this is   not your conventional  road  movie. And to consider it  as one would  be doing this great work of art a  disservice. The film’s visual and emotional  resplendence is hard to pin down, let alone describe . This is a film meant  for the  big screen. Tiny  specks of emotion, scarcely  visible to the naked eye ,light up frame after frame . Joshua James Richards’ cinematography is  like  fleeting glances of Nature  from a rapidly moving train.Ephemeral yet  solidly tangible.

There is  an aura of imminent  tragedy  surrounding  the  protagonist. Thanks  to Frances McDormand’s  exceptional  performance , her  character Fern is not just a  ‘Character’. She is  real. She is pained. She laughs, sulks  and  excretes without  camera consciousness. She  is  with me even as I write this. She is someone  who would probably not like it if I knocked on her rickety van to say hello. She  doesn’t invite  proximity. She  is a true nomad.Fern’s conversations with fellow-nomads,men and women who are travelling aimlessly  because  they have  little time left and there is  a long road to  travel, are so direct, so blunt and so mordant  , they  are  like  expositions on existentialism  simplified for the common man and woman.

No quibbles  with any  of  the  major Oscars this year  except  the  Best International  Film  going to  Thomas Vinterberg’s Dutch Another Round. Much as  I admire the film’s   electric aura  and kinetic intoxicated  and  intoxicating  performance  by  Mads Mikkelsen its  central  plot premise—that one is likely to be at the acme  of one’s capabilities  when under the influence—is  not what I’d call a  great message  to carry home specially when most people are at home and prone to surrendering to  the bottle. My friend Hansal Mehta who is isolated with  the virus saw the  film a few nights ago and immediately  whisked out a  bottle of whiskey.

Being from Nitish Kumar’s dryland  I  reject Another Round as  a  worthy cinema of our times. My favourite by far in the International  category was  the  Bosnian Quo Vadis , Aida?  A  searing haunting  anti-war drama directed  by  Jasmila Žbanić. To not honour this film as  as  big a transgression as the war crimes the film so  vividly chronicles.

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