Saturday, March 8, 2014

From Philadelphia to Dallas

For someone who is a hardcore movie buff, the Oscars is akin to the IPL for a cricket fan: no matter how predictable, no matter how diluted and no matter how ridiculous it is, I WILL wake up at an ungodly hour, I WILL labour through the antiques of an old lady trying too hard (Ellen DeGeneres was the host of this year’s Academy Awards) and I WILL root for Leonardo DiCaprio, as I have done for all his five nominations!

This year I had closely followed the event, watched most of the nominated movies in advance and had my list ready even before the ludicrous selfie of the host along with the stars brought down Twitter. When you had movies like Dallas Buyers Club, August: Osage County, 12 Years a Slave, Her, American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street being pitted against each other, you rightly expect a delectable contest, more delicious than an India-Pakistan face-off on a Sunday evening.

The winners were on expected lines, with Gravity sweeping the most number of awards in the technical categories, while 12 Years a Slave continued the legacy of dark historical movies making a mark in the Oscars and Dallas Buyers Club taking home the coveted awards for Best Actor (Matthew McConaughey) and Best Supporting Actor (Jared Leto), which also meant that DiCaprio missed out yet again. Ever since the schoolgirl in me fell in love with Leonardo, the chocolate boy, in the movie Titanic, I have evolved to falling in love with Leonardo, the actor, through movies like The Aviator, Catch Me if You Can, Gangs of New York, Shutter Island and Blood Diamond and each time he missed out on an Oscar, I told myself, “Never mind, his time would come.” So this year, when I watched The Wolf of Wall Street almost as soon as it released, I was convinced that he would finally make the cut for his portrayal of Jordan Belfort. Until, I saw Dallas Buyers Club and was overcome by a sinking feeling that may be the wait was still not over. The stubborn five-year-old in me wanted him to win, no matter what, while the unbiased movie aficionado knew that McConaughey deserved it for what was possibly his best performance ever.

In a way, Dallas Buyers Club is a tribute to its predecessor Philadelphia, in which Tom Hanks won the Oscar for Best Actor for his role as Andrew Beckett, a homosexual AIDS patient who suffers discrimination at his workplace at a large corporate law firm. While Philadelphia has remained my favourite movie till date and the original soundtrack, “Streets of Philadelphia” by Bruce Springsteen my favourite song, McConaughey’s character, Ron Woodroof was a real-life AIDS patient who battled for seven years to distribute unsubscribed drugs to fellow sufferers while overcoming his prejudice against gay, lesbian, and transgender members. Jared Leto’s role as Rayon, a drug addict, and HIV-positive trans woman, earned him a well-deserved Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, making the movie the first film since Mystic River to win both awards.

It’s no secret that the Academy is a big sucker for biopics (Lincoln, Ali, The Iron Lady, Erin Brockovich, The King’s Speech to name a few), but this one is more than that: it’s a journey of a man given 30 days to live and how he prolongs it over the years, it’s about his transformation from a crass, homophobic rodeo cowboy to a sensitive crusader for a marginalized section of society and most of all, it’s about the spirit of a brave person willing to go the whole hog for a cause he is passionate about.

Even a die-hard DiCaprio fan like me will concede that while Jordan Belfort shocked the audience with his depraved acts of debauchery and profligacy, Ron Woodroof managed to stir even the most impassive of spectators, and therein lies the mastery of McConaughey, who was dismissed as a chick-flick romantic hero for a better part of his career.

If Philadelphia left a legacy to the world of cinema, Dallas Buyers Club only multiplied it several times over…

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