Film

Cinemadope: Gold Standard

The Oscars return.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2014
courtesy of Sony Classics
The Lunchbox

Oscar season has come and gone once again, and film geeks may be feeling a familiar emptiness with its passing. Gone is the bingo-card thrill of picking the winners, gone is the once-a-year cocktail recipe your party-throwing friends decide to try out on the night of the awards. In their place is that slight feeling of shame one feels when, instead of catching up on watching all the high-minded winners that you still haven’t seen, you find yourself sneaking off to Netflix to catch just one more episode of Scandal.

If you find yourself missing the pomp of the ceremony, Cinemark theaters might have just the thing this week. On Sunday at 2 p.m., the theater chain will be screening And The Oscar Goes To…, a 2014 documentary that traces the history of the Academy Awards. Produced and directed by filmmaking team Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (The Celluloid Closet, Lovelace), the film begins in the 1920s, when MGM head Louis B. Mayer spearheaded an effort to form an industry organization to honor (and, it must be said, promote) work in film. Two years later, they began handing out the statuettes that we know so well today.

Nobody is really sure why the award—which weighs in at about eight and a half pounds—was nicknamed Oscar, but that might be the only bit of trivia we don’t know. One interesting tidbit is that during World War II there was a three-year stretch when, due to metal shortages, awards were made of painted plaster. (Winners were later invited to trade those in for the gold-plated versions.)

Helping to tell the tale are a panoply of previous winners and cinematic luminaries: Steven Spielberg, Ben Kingsley, and at least a dozen other Hollywood heavyweights chip in on what it all means to the people who are lucky enough to be nominated each year. To quote Whoopi Goldberg (who was nominated for The Color Purple in 1986 and won for Ghost in 1991): “Some people act like it’s not a big deal. It’s a huge deal!”

Of course, for most of us the award is nothing without the ceremony, and Epstein and Friedman deliver on that front. Frequent host Billy Crystal is interviewed about the production, and the filmmakers look back at some legendary Oscar moments, like Jane Fonda’s Vietnam-era win for Klute (“Thank all of you who applauded”) and Marlon Brando’s non-acceptance acceptance when he won for The Godfather (famously, he sent Native American civil rights activist Sacheen Littlefeather to refuse the award in his stead). For Valley film buffs who need an Oscar fix, this may be your best bet until next winter.

Also this week: The Lunchbox, director Ritesh Batra’s poignant new comedy, opens in area theaters. Irrfan Khan (Life of Pi) stars as Saajan Fernandes, a lonely office worker on the cusp of retirement. His path crosses unexpectedly with that of Ila, a middle-class housewife who is trying to light a fire under her neglectful husband by having a specially prepared lunch delivered to his workplace. (Mumbai has a famously efficient lunch delivery system that delivers upward of a quarter million meals a day.) Ila’s special delivery goes awry, however, and the meal meant for her husband lands in front of Saajan. Soon the pair are corresponding via notes left in the lunchbox, and discovering a closeness missing from the rest of their lives.

And last but not least this week, Hitchcock’s classic spy thriller Notorious comes to the big screen in Shelburne Falls when Pothole Pictures does its music and a movie pairing on Friday and Saturday nights. Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman star as an American agent and the woman he recruits to help expose a bed of Nazis in hiding out in Brazil after the war. A Capellagos will provide a cappella songs for Friday’s show, while Daniel hales and the frost heaves bring a mix of styles (but few capital letters) to the Saturday screening.•

 

Jack Brown can be reached at cinemadope@gmail.com.

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