Now that it’s fairly clear that the Academy awards are purely a business deal, let’s talk about some real year-end recognitions now. Instead of churning out a generic should-would-wish-dark horse list for the Oscars, I would like to present my own token of appreciation to films of (strictly) 2009 that impressed me with some or all of their facets. Of course, I haven’t seen as many films from last year as I would have liked to, but I would like to think that I have missed only about a dozen should-have-seen films (Visage, Around A Small Mountain, In Comparison, Enter the Void, My Son My Son, What Have Ye Done, Ruhr, Wild Grass, Kinatay, White Material and About Elly being some of them). Furthermore, I’d like to propose a handful of changes to the usual (read: Academy’s) categories of awards:

  • No Supporting Actor categories: A category that’s very dubious. It’s been long since popular films have eschewed the one male protagonist-one female protagonist template. And then, who’s to decide who is supporting whom?
  • No separate category for Male Actors and Female Actors: What’s the argument here? That a woman brings a separate sensibility to the character and that they can’t be compared head to head? In that case, we should have such classification in every other category too. Since that’s absurd, we’ll just have one all-encompassing category: Best Actor.
  • No separate category for Original Screenplay and Adapted Screenplay: Is adapting a screenplay from a book or a play easier than writing a original one? Or are we looking at how the film captures the spirit of the book? What are we honoring anyway? Ditch that. Only one: Best Screenplay.
  • No separate categories for Make-Up, Costume Design and Art Direction: I fail to understand how these three can have independent existence. And it seems to me that the first two are a hangover from the star-studded studio era. Again, we’ll be having only one: Best Production Design.
  • No categories for Special Effects and Original Song: Superfluous.
  • No separate category for Animation films: The medium is a mere directorial choice. Why condescend?
  • No separate category for Documentary films: Having watched a few Herzog films, I realize that there is no boundary between fiction and documentary and that, in cinema, every fiction is a documentary and every documentary is a work of fiction, in a way,
  • No category for Foreign Language films: “Foreign” to whom?
  • A separate category for Casting: A largely ignored facet of production and an integral part of the filmmaker’s vision, Actor casting is yet to get its due recognition.
  • A special “For the Love of Cinema” category: A film buff’s desire and invention, these are for films that just love what they are doing and where they come from.
  • Three tiers for each award – denoted by the shorthand Gold, Silver and Bronze – for the Winner, Runner-up ad Second Runner-up. There may be ties within each tier which means that I just wasn’t able to select one over the other.

Without further ado, I present The Seventh Art Awards (!) for 2009:

Best Film

Gold: Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino)
Silver: The Maid (Sebastián Silva)
Bronze: Eccentricities of a Blonde-haired Girl (Manoel de Oliveira)

Best Director

Gold: Manoel de Oliveira (Eccentricities of a Blonde-haired Girl)
Silver: Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds)
Bronze: Claudia Llosa (The Milk of Sorrow)

Best Actor

Gold: Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)
Silver: Hye-ja Kim (Mother)
Bronze: Steve Evets (Looking for Eric)

Best Casting

Gold: Lars von Trier & co. (Antichrist)
Silver: Quentin Tarantino & co. (Inglourious Basterds)
Bronze: Jim Jarmusch & co. (The Limits of Control)

Best Screenplay

Gold: Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds)
Silver: Juan José Campanella, Eduardo Sacheri (The Secret in Their Eyes)
Bronze: Marco Bellocchio, Daniela Ceselli (Vincere) (tied with) Francis Ford Coppola (Tetro)

Best Cinematography

Gold: Mihai Malaimare Jr. (Tetro)
Silver: Christian Berger (The White Ribbon)
Bronze: Binod Pradhan (Delhi 6) (tied with) Robert Richardson (Inglourious Basterds)

Best Editing

Gold: Jay Rabinowitz (The Limits of Control)
Silver: Sally Menke (Inglourious Basterds)
Bronze: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen (A Serious Man)

Best Production Design

Gold: Eugenio Caballero (The Limits of Control)
Silver: Christian Marti  (Eccentricities of a Blonde-haired Girl)
Bronze: David Gropman (Taking Woodstock)

Best Sound Design and Mixing

Gold: Liam Egan (Samson and Delilah)
Silver: Sin Cohen, Colin Guthrie, Walter Murch, Pete Horner (Tetro)
Bronze: Paul N.J. Ottosson, Ray Beckett, Jeffrey J. Haboush (The Hurt Locker)

Best Sound Editing

Gold: Federico Esquerro, Francisco Pedemonte, Leandro de Loredo, Juan Ferro (Tetro)
Silver: Stephane Rabeau, Francis Wargnier, Caroline Reynaud, Cyrille Richard (A Prophet)
Bronze: Guray Gursel, Mustafa Durma, Danton Tanimura, Sacha Walker, Burak Topalakci (The Breath)

Best Musical Score

Gold: Osvaldo Golijov (Tetro)
Silver: Various (Inglourious Basterds)
Bronze: Alexandre Desplat (Fantastic Mr. Fox)

“For the Love of Cinema” Award

Gold: Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino)
Silver: Vengeance (Johnnie To)
Bronze: Tetro (Francis Ford Coppola)

2009 Posters

So what are your picks of 2009?

Q: How many TV Today Network employees does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Nineteen. 2 guys to announce the problem and postpone it to a special show. 2 to host the special show. 3 experts to talk about problems without light bulbs. 3 experts to talk about problems with screwing in a light bulb. 1 guy to announce an SMS poll about morality of screwing in light bulbs. 4 other reporters to bring in public opinions in various cities. 2 guys to host a special segment called “Bollywood and light bulbs”. 1 guy to extend it to another segment titled “Khabardar, ye apka aakhri bulb ho sakta hai” (Beware, This might be your last bulb). 1 techician to actually do it.

Just tune into Headlines Today nowadays and you are sure to find a program that talks about Aamir Khan’s blog and the supposed cold war that is growing in Bollywood. For the uninitiated, here are a few points the channel managed to drag up.

Incident 1: Shahrukh teases Aamir about his habit of not attending award ceremonies in India (The reason we find is that Aamir is skeptical about their authenticity. Well, who’s not).

Incident 2: Aamir slams Bhansali’s ‘Black’ calling it “manipulative and cold”. He pointed out that the performances were over the top. Apparently, he did not expect a child to be treated roughly in a film.

Incident 3: Amitabh takes incident 2 very personal and says that the performances were indeed over the top- of Aamir head (ooh…hot). Aamir later clarifies his respect for Amitabh.

Incident 4: Aamir writes a blog about a dog named Shahrukh that resides in his house.

Incident 5: Amitabh points out that Shahrukh’s TV show “Panchvi Pass…” has mustered a very small audience compared to KBC and suggests Shahrukh to change the format of the game.

Incident 6: Aamir writes a song “Pappu can’t dance” in his nephew’s debut film “Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na” and gives an offhand comment related to Salman Khan (Yes, a new character!) and the song.

Nobody can judge the moral correctness of these incidents, especially the media. A news medium is judged by its objective reporting of issues despite clashes with their policies. Knowing that, it is but frustrating to see a news network pin the blame on Aamir Khan for the whole “cold war” that has sprout up in this “war of the words”. It’s none other that Headlines Today/Aj Tak (India’s best news channels, hmmm…) that has crafted these otherwise independent events into one hell of a battle.

I read Aamir’s post and found it quite funny and well written and whoa, below it were 4000 responses (How I wish I was Aamir!). Aamir has managed to keep the post as lucid as possible and clear of all possible controversies. Hey, not so fast. Our secret weapon, TV Today can spin gold out of hay. And thus we have frequent (read 24 hours a day) shows that point out the “Unbearable Blasphemy” about King Khan and Big-B again and again to instigate the already temperamental Indian audience. New interpretations started coming for the “Pappu can’t dance” song (even before its official release) and the channel tried to somehow fit in Salman into each and every word of the song (Yes, you are right. a special 1 hour show for that too, repeated a dozen times). They even stooped down to the level that they made a song mocking Aamir and his personal life. No offense intended (not really), the song was sickeningly cheap and hard on ears, not to mention the childishly made video made from footage.

This is a free country, they say which means that every one has not only the freedom to express their opinions freely but also the right to (authentic) information. News channels such as HT not only misinterpret and mispresent casual and harmless commens (which would otherwise be solved over a simple phone call), but also provide twisted and biased information to polarise the public. Sharp news for sharp people indeed.

P.S.: Don’t be surprised if HT manages to put this blog on air and hosts a special show (yes, repeated half-a-dozen times) called “Harmful influence of Aamir’s blog on youth of India”!