86°
UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Oscars, schmoscars: who needs ’em?

I am a cool person, but during Oscar season I feel extra cool; maybe it’s because I can say, without complacency, but with conviction, “I haven’t seen any of these films,” or the other neologism, coined by me: “Who still watches the Oscars?”
            But there are times when I descend into the unmasked masses and enter einen Kino; this time around it was due to the magnetic aura of Paul Thomas Anderson and his beautiful film “Licorice Pizza.” A little digression about Anderson here: I think the generation of filmmakers, auteurs or dunderheads that Anderson belongs to are really unimportant and uninteresting entities when compared to him. There is a marvelous presence of irreverence in all his films; watching a film directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, I feel equally in love with the world of the film and the characters and the lovely, often deeply-flawed and horrible characters. My love for PTA began when my mother took me, at four years old, to the theater to watch an Adam Sandler film called “Punch-Drunk Love.” Let me say that not knowing English is a boon sometimes; my mother’s willingness might have been hindered had she known that this film was no “Billy Madison,” or had she not heard the voice of Shelley Duvall singing “He Needs Me,” which is played over-and-over in “Punch-Drunk Love,” and is one of the great aural miracles that exist in this world. The film, for me, has been and continues to be a starting-post for realizations which reveal the wonderful and irreverent wit and humor of daily life, something which Anderson has been devoted to throughout his career.
            Now, “Licorice Pizza: the film plot, like all of Anderson’s “plots,” begins and ends with the characters. As André Gide has said, “Personality generates consequences, consequences do not generate personality.” In a sentence: The film is about a high-schooler who falls for a girl much older than him, countless ups-and-downs separate and unite them, all set up against the vibrant world of 1970s California. The film is particularly indulgent for Anderson who has, through his casting choices, squared a few circles. Alana Haim, who plays Alana Kane, has collaborated with Anderson before on several music videos for her band, Haim; the connection between the Haim family and Paul Thomas Anderson is, however, older than Alana Haim. Haim’s mother was Anderson’s kindergarten teacher! The other connection is through Cooper Hoffman, who plays Gary Valentine; Hoffman is the son of Phillip Seymour Hoffman who was a frequent collaborator of Anderson’s.
            Everyone knows, it is a platitude, that awards don’t matter. In a sense, films nominated for Oscars present good warning for which films to avoid. But sometimes, the idiocy of the Academy cuts to the center, like the fate of “Hoop Dreams.” The nominations for the 94th(!) Oscars were announced this week and “Licorice Pizza” earned three nominations for Best Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture. This is completely in-line with the operating of the Oscars: avoid the actual great parts of the film and nominate for what seem to be the best parts. Well, it’s time to stop—this being directed only at myself, dear reader! The performances given by Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim are stellar in their perception, gorgeous in their acting, melancholic in the perfect sense, and deeply moving as people whose existence seems to have achieved a higher plain. The contagious jollity of Hoffman’s Gary, the incredulous caprice of Haim’s Alana, make this film a film not to be seen and forgotten, but a film to be devoured and kept in the heart. The preciousness, the delicacy through which the countless children are portrayed in the film is heartwarming; the nature of childhood, the nature of sibling relationships, all gloriously ramify from the two central figures of Gary and Alana.
            With the threat of seeming like a frondeur long abandoned, let me end by saying this about the venerable institution of the Oscars: They do not recognize skill or talent or joy or toil, they recognize success. A film like “Licorice Pizza” is not meant for success because success only thrives by nonsensical and recycled clichés. “Licorice Pizza,” like all of Anderson’s films, is meant for the imagination of the viewer; they penetrate into the heart of our perceptions and allow us to imagine the characters beyond the film, allow us to dream like the characters, dream of lives that they may lead after the credits roll. So forget about the Oscars. The day they recognize a film for its imagination, I’ll eat my head.