Sunday, January 29, 2012

Demian Bichir

Tonight, they are presenting the Filmfare award, and someone will take home the “black lady”. Who cares? I don’t know; things are changing. Personally, there was a time when I would be excited about awards, especially film awards. Any awards. Now, awards mean nothing to me. The other day, I was watching the recordings of the Golden Globe awards. I did not find the proceedings interesting to the least.

One of my friends, a Maryl Streep junkie, wants her to win the Oscar this year for the work in ‘The Iron Lady’. It’s unfair on her, he argues, she has been nominated for the prestigious award for 17 times, and has won just twice. Very unfair. I can understand the ruse. But an actor of Streep’s calibre does not need awards anymore. And also, the film itself is not up to the mark, despite Streep’s uncanny mimicry of the former British prime minister.

Talking about Oscars, however, I am happy with three nominations, and especially one in particular. I’m happy that ‘The Tree of Life’ has been recognised and got both Best Film and Best Director nods. It’s an important film of our time, despite it being pretentious, personal, audacious and whatnot. You may say whatever you like, the film remains what it is, a masterpiece. I’d like to see Terrence Malick win the best director Oscar. This is unlikely. He faces stiff competition from French Michel Hazanavicius, who has made a black & white silent film for our time, and to put it simply, ‘The Artist’ is extraordinary. The film has swept the awards this season, and is expected to shine at the Oscars too, including Best Film, Best Director and Best actor categories. The great Martin Scorsese and his ‘Hugo’ will have to be content with just the nominations. That’s okay. A brilliant crowd-pleasure like ‘Hugo’ does not need awards. At least, the film was not snubbed at the Oscars like ‘Shutter Island’ last year. And, poor Leonardo DiCaprio! Like ‘Shutter Island’ last year, his film ‘J Edgar’ was not nominated at all this year. This is a surprise, considering the academy’s love for Clint Eastwood.

Then you can nominate only this number of names!

Hence, I am very happy to see Wim Wenders’ ‘Pina’ in the documentary category. It’s not your typical documentary. But, what a wonderful experience it is. The best visual representation of dance ever!

Most of all, I am happy to see Mexican actor Demian Bichir nominated for ‘A Better Life’, a wonderful movie that needs to be seen, not only in American but elsewhere too. It’s the story of an undocumented gardener in LA, and how he struggles to build a life for himself and his son, who happens to be an American, however, because he was born there. So, the son becomes an American, veering towards the gang culture in LA, whereas the father remains a Mexican, still holding onto that ‘American Dream’ which is all but shattered. He wants to make it big, and there’s a constant fear; if authorities find him, he’d be deported. But, Carlos Galindo takes the risk anyway, borrows money and buys a truck. Now, the truck is stolen. This is ‘The Bicycle Thief’ in LA. Soon, authorities find him and he’s deported. But, how do you kill hope? With his son left behind, Galindo must return, somehow, and he would. Issues of immigrant labourer and their troubles in films is not new. Recently, I saw the German film ‘The Albanian’ at the Piff. Another film is Stephen Frears’ ‘Pretty, Dirty Things’. In this case, the Chris Weitz film is more of a human drama than an issue-based film. The issue is wide in the open, but the film focuses on Galindo and his persistent hopes for his son, and how Bichir plays the character makes all the different. As someone said, Bichir makes the film play like a Greek tragedy!

He is a well known name in Mexico, but outside he was relatively unknown till Steven Soderbergh cast him to play Fidel Castro in ‘Che’. And now, ‘A Better Life’ puts him in the top league. If nothing else, it should make more people see the film.

For that matter, this is also the first time Gary Oldman has been nominated for an Oscar for best actor for ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’. This is surprising indeed, for he’s been in mainstream Hollywood for years, and has played everything from Count Dracula to Lee Oswald to Sid Vicius. He is one of the greatest actors of our time.

More on The Devil and Demian Bichir at The NY Times.
More on A Better Life here.
More on Bichir Here.
The Roger Ebert Review Here.


About the Filmfare awards, I am happy to see my choices being recognised by popular tastes. The ‘Darling’ song from ‘7 Khoon Maaf’ got Rekha Bharadwaj and Usha Uthup an award and the ‘Jo bho mein kehna chahoon’ song from ‘Rockstar’ got Mohit Chauhan the black lady. Both are my favourite songs of the year.

Jo bhi mein kehna chahoon
barbad kare alfaaz meri...

Whatever I want to say
Betray my words...

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