Why do I cheer this year’s winners at the Oscars?
After watching the three award-winning films (Nomadland, The Father and Minari), I realized it was the actors who made a big difference.
And they are all senior citizens.
Isn’t this reason enough for big celebration?
For years, old age in showbiz has been synonymous with retirement. The limelight goes to the young but inexperienced actors.
True, the fans cheer the young actors, but it is the sensitive and perceptive moviegoers who reserve the best accolade for mature performers.
So much is going for the Korean grandma in Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari.
It took just a few frames to find out she’s not your stereotypical Asian grandma and her grandchild David (played by Alan Kim) knows it.
To be sure, the two make for interesting character contrast. But it is the family’s cultural makeup that makes the film doubly interesting.
On many points, the film is Korean versus American mores, Asian spirituality versus American organized religion. (I wonder if the role of the Jesus freak played by Will Patton is a comment on the Trump cult in the pre-Biden era.)
Grandma brings a lot of Korean items that will remind family of good old homeland. She brings seeds of minari (Korean water celery) and plants them near a creek. It saves the day for the Korean farmer who thought growing Korean vegetables would bring in family fortune.
It is possible Youn Yuh-jung played herself in the role of grandma. But she invested the part with such spunk and character to make the part unforgettable.
(That’s on one hand. On the other hand, it was quite a sight to see a grandma swooning over Brad Pitt during the awards night.)
Florian Zeller’s film adaptation of his play The Father has Anthony Hopkins playing an aging father struggling to cope with his failing memory. I related instantly because in the first few frames, he is shown listening to operatic arias all day long, to Maria Callas‘ signature Casta Diva (from Norma) and reprising his favorite arias from Bizet’s Pearl Fishers.
As he interacts with his daughter (Olivia Coleman as Ann), you gradually realize he has memory lapses that lead to a lot of argument. To be sure, doting daughter understands. But poor Ann has a lot of coping to do. She wants to join her boyfriend in Paris but who would take care of her father?
The scenes—leading to the inevitable reality of the father ending up in a nursing home—are the most riveting part of the film.
To Hopkins’ credit, he made the role his own. There is a kind of natural spontaneity to his acting that makes you pay attention and savor even the most depressing moment of separation from his daughter. What Hopkins did was to relive what ailing senior citizens go through in coping with dementia. And he did it with highly defining moments of devastating truth.
Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland bagged Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress, and rightly so.
McDormand gave it everything she had and it showed all the way to the last frames.
Her ensemble of senior actors did equally well indeed. McDormand was a shining jewel in a dazzling masterpiece of a film.
The film is all empathy and kindness, and you realize in the end that it had no villains or shady characters. There was only one woman interacting with other humans, sharing their fate, and happy to find goodness in each other’s company.
The film is indeed timely as the country copes with a pandemic made worst by bad governance.
After you watch it, you end up wondering if you can still afford a genuine dose of goodness and kindness in this present-day scenario.
Sadly, the film is a stark contrast to the America we see today. With hate Asian hate crimes making international headlines, Nomadland provides a good emotional catharsis.
Good to know that the senior women and a man made a lot of difference in the acting and directorial derby in this year’s Oscars.
THE 93RD ACADEMY AWARDS WINNERS
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Judas and the Black Messiah
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
Pete Docter and Dana Murray
MY OCTOPUS TEACHER
Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed and Craig Foster
DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT)
Anthony Giacchino and Alice Doyard
SOUND OF METAL
Mikkel E. G. Nielsen
INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM
MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)
Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste