The Envelope, Please: An Oscar Primer


Raise a glass to the Oscars 2012, celebrating not a year but a century of film this time out with films like Hugo and The Artist competing for top honors. What follows are some Oscar-related discoveries from the Fandor collection that we hope will wind up on your own list of favorites.

1. Hugo’s journey and A Trip to the Moon

Nominated in 11 categories including Best Picture and Best Director, Martin Scorsese’s family-friendly feature was a glorious homage to movie magician and special (in-camera) effects pioneer Georges Méliès. Scorsese sampled and saluted Méliès’s (1902) moon journey. But there’s much more Méliès left to be discovered.

2. The Artist’s rom-com roots

Up for Best Picture, Best Director (Michel Hazanavicius), Actor in a Leading Role (Jean Dujardin), Actress in a Leading Role (Bérénice Bejo), Cinematography, Art Direction, Costume Design, Film Editing, Original Score and Writing (Original Screenplay), Michel Hazanavivius’ charming, tongue-in-cheek tip of the chapeau to breezy silent-era romances may launch you on a dreamy expedition. Suggested destinations: the Leo McCarey two-reeler Long Fliv the King (1926) starring Charley Chase, and the Cecil B. DeMille production The Coming of Amos (1925). In a match made, well, in a bar, perhaps, W.C. Fields stars in D.W. Griffith’s Sally of the Sawdust (1925). For a stellar blend of romance, action and laughs, it’s hard to top the feisty comedy Conductor 1492 (1924).

3. Albert Nobbs‘ crossdressing companion

Nobbs, nominated for Actress in a Leading Role (Glenn Close), Actress in a Supporting Role (Janet McTeer) and Makeup, looks at how the lack of economic opportunities for Irish women in the 19th century impelled some to dress and pass as men. A few decades later, on the Continent during World War I, the ever-intrepid Sylvie Testud adopts a similar strategy to find her boyfriend in arms in Serge Bozon’s singular, song-filled La France (2007).

4. His and hirsute: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Nominated for Visual Effects, Andy Serkis’ motion-capture performances are so skillful and evocative that there was talk he’d get a nod this year for Actor in a Leading Role. Once upon a time, as Alice Guy’s marvelous The Truth Behind the Ape-Man (1906) illustrates, makeup was the “special effect” that transformed humans into (hirsute) primates for the camera.

5. Poetic dance precursors to Pina

Pina’s nomination for Documentary (Feature) reminds us that motion pictures were made to capture people in motion, though it took a few years for cameras and directors to catch up to the possibilities. Avant-garde pioneer Maya Deren’s dance tour de force, The Very Eye of Night (1958), stands as a landmark of entrancing poetry, while Hilary Harris’ 9 Variations (1966) is a graceful masterwork of collaboration between dancer and cinematographer. These wonderful shorts will whet your appetite for Fados (2007), Spanish maestro Carlos Saura’s brilliantly composed and gorgeously choreographed record of Portuguese performance amid Lisbon scenery.

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