Monday, February 26, 2007


It's a long time since I watched the Oscars, surely one the most unwatchable three hours of television this side of North Korea, and it's as long since I took them seriously as a barometer of cinematic quality. It was inevitable that Martin Scorsese, a filmmaker who has been in decline for some time and who persists in ploughing the same farrow, would eventually get compensated for his previous losses at the hands of far inferior hacks for Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and GoodFellas. I reviewed The Departed, winner of four Oscars last night, a few months back and I wasn't too complimentary though it is a marked improvement on last year's Best Picture winner, the unspeakably bad Crash. While the film settles down to become a passable crime film its overweening pretentiousness in the opening hour and the ridiculously over-the-top performances prevent it from being a worthy addition to Scorsese's better work. It is a fittingly mediocre Oscar winner. I have seen only two of the other films that were nominated for Best Picture: Babel, which I was pleasantly surprised with though I can see how others thought it was unnecessarily high-minded and overly-serious, and Little Miss Sunshine, a film that I was forgiving enough of as a piece of silly fluff, until people like the Academy, and the French Césars, who awarded it Best Foreign Film on Saturday night, started to treat it like a quality comedy. Woody Allen or Wes Anderson it certainly isn't. Other than that I missed The Queen when it came out in the autumn and I have yet to see Clint Eastwood's Letters from Iwo-Jima. Some of the other films that were rewarded, such as Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth and Kevin MacDonald's The Last King of Scotland, I have also yet to see. I can however congratulate the Academy on rewarding a worthy film in the Best Foreign Film category: Stasi thriller The Lives of Others, one of a number of enthralling German films to have been released in the past year.