January 27, 2004

Ah, a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Shohreh Aghdashloo! Go Shohreh!

Actually, I haven't seen the movies the other nominees in that category were in. I haven't seen too many movies at all this year. But Aghdashloo was terrific in "House of Sand and Fog," which I talked about here. I think the only other fiction film I saw in the theater of the films in the running for Oscars is "Kill Bill," which got no nominations. (Wait 'til next year.)

I did see "Capturing the Friedmans," which got a documentary nomination. I saw "Spellbound," which didn't get a nomination, even though lots of people loved it, even though it was not as good as the annual ESPN live and lengthy coverage of the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee.

I haven't seen "Osama," which did not get an Oscar nomination, even though it just won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film. When I watched the Globes live I found the acceptance speech by the director Siddiq Barmak incredibly strange: if you want people to be interested in seeing your film called "Osama," you might want to say something clear about what it's about!

"I would like to dedicate this prize to the people who lost their trust in too much promises, to the people who lost the meaning of 'luck' and to the people who gave me a wonderful film, 'Osama'..."
Andrea Boyle reports for RFE/RL:
"Osama" is the story of an Afghan family of nearly all females who are left to fend for themselves during the Taliban era after the death of the father and an uncle. The mother and grandmother of the clan force the main character, a 12-year-old girl, to dress as a boy in order to get a job and make money for the family.

The title comes from the name the girl uses in her double life as a boy. The child is the only person addressed in the film by name. Barmak says this loss of identity is symbolic of Afghans losing their personal identities as well as their cultural and national ones under the repressive rule of the Taliban. ...

"Osama" is Barmak's first feature-length film. He gained experience directing short films and from 1992-96 headed the government agency in charge of cinema. With the arrival of the Taliban, Barmak lost his job and fled the country in 1998, seeking asylum in Pakistan. He returned home in 2002, assuming his old job and beginning work on "Osama."

For the film, Barmak cast non-professional actors from orphanages and refugee camps. Such people, he says, are better able to portray the feelings of the average Afghan. "They were very natural," he says. "They left me with a lot of impressions during the shooting and they made a lot of improvisation because they were real people that could feel this situation. Especially the little girl who played the main character -- she saw a lot of suffering, and she was a witness to a lot of tragedies."

For crying out loud! You make a film called "Osama" and it's not about Osama bin Laden, and you win a big award in front of an audience of millions, but you don't give us a clue what it's about, and, in fact, you say things that make it sound like it might be a sympathetic portrait of the guy? What a colossal missed opportunity!

I rewatched that segment of the awards show. The shots of the actors in the audience reacting to Barmak were hilarious (though I feel really sorry for him now that I know what his film is!). The camera shows one close-up after another of movie stars looking confused and trying to figure out whether to be upset. The extreme closeup of open-mouthed, gaping Nicole Kidman was especially funny. But it's not really funny. What a shame!

Anyway, Rotten Tomatoes shows a 91% "Fresh" rating for "Osama."

UPDATE: My colleague, Nina Camic--whose blog is excellent by the way!--tells me "Spellbound" was nominated last year, when "Bowling for Columbine" won for Best Documentary. "Spellbound" played in Madison last summer though, I believe. It takes small movies a long time to get to Madison in most cases. Sorry for the misinformation.

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