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« Today's Pet Peeve: Why Doesn't Oscar Allow Embeddable Videos? | Main | Here He Comes To Save The Day »

Can Oscar Sustain His Unlikeliest New Love Affair?

*Not all films discussed here exist outside my head.

Amir here, to obsess about the Oscars because, you know, March is never too early to start doing that around these parts.  Recently, I’ve started to wonder whether Oscar might have started an unlikely love affair with Iran.

Stop laughing and allow me to explain. Oscar took a long while to take notice of Iranian cinema or any of the Iranians who were working in Hollywood. To be fair to the shiny gold man, he wasn’t really spoiled with choices, but still took his time before deciding that Darius Khondji was a worthy cinematographer (Evita, 1996) and Habib Zargarpour’s did fine fx work (Twister, also 1996). Oscar has taken short trips to Iran a few times since then and last year, after watching A Separation, finally decided to stay awhile... in Asghar Farhadi’s house.

No one expected Oscar to go back so soon, especially with no major Iranian films present on the festival circuit, but AMPAS had other ideas. Oscar went back and took one of Hollywood’s golden boys along with him. Famously, they had such a hard time getting out of Iran they had to fake Canadian passports. Britain aside, Oscar doesn’t really embrace any foreign countries two years back to back, let alone a Middle Eastern one. What is happening?

Could this once politically forbidden passion turn into a stable relationship? I turned to the festival circuit, but to no avail. So I've decided to take the intiative and suggest a few projects that might turn the trick again with Oscar. more...

  • My dream biopic will finally be released this year and since the Academy’s such a big fan of the genre, it’ll surely win a bunch of gold. In this imagined film, Sean Connery, who’s come out of retirement to have one last shot at a second Oscar, plays Ayatollah Khomeini during the days of the Islamic revolution. Sir Sean has done great work in the foreign accents department in the past (remember his lulz Spanish one in Highlander?) so he will have no problem pulling off a Persian accent. I can already hear him “kicking shum ash and shtarting a revolution." He will be going against the Iranian Shah who is, of course, played by none other than Ben Kingsley. He’s been nominated in the past for his portrayal of a powerful Iranian man whose riches to rags downfall ends in his doom. Sir Ben will have no problem repeating the same character arc with new eyebrow makeup.
  • Speaking of House of Sand and Fog – and it's one of those films we don’t speak of often enough - Oscar will finally cave and nominate a voice performance by fluttering his eyelids in the direction of Iranian actress and former nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo, who played Kingsley’s wife in that film. Aghdashloo, with her husky smoky voice, as bitter as Amarone wine and as dark as pure cocoa, will play an evil queen of some sort in an animated film, wherein she’ll outlive the young heroine using her literally killer voice. Oscar usually likes his women young, but her sexy voice can distract him from noticing her age and ethnicity; not that Shohreh isn’t still totally gorgeous.
  • I’ve always been a bit miffed that Hollywood turned to a blue-eyed American to play Prince of Persia. Jake Gyllenhaal reportedly looked very good as the scantily clad hero (I haven't seen the film myself) but there's got to be a reason why it wasn’t a true blockbuster. Maybe no one could buy Gyllenhaal as an Iranian. If producers are serious about getting their sequel made and entered into the Oscar race, I happen to know a real Persian prince who’s in the right age range for the role. He’ll only need about six months of intense training to get in shape, a few sessions with an acting coach and a couple of facial surgeries to get that movie star shine. Look to Toronto, casting directors! Look to Toronto. I’m right here

  • Slightly more realistic than these aforementioned possibilities is a golden statue for master cinematographer Darius Khondji. It’s a travesty that he only has one nomination, which is now almost two decades old. Just this year, his How to Light an Apartment in a Gazillion Different Poignant Ways was left on the outside looking in, even though Oscar showed Amour with quite a lot of amour elsewhere. He could have also been nominated the year before for his postcard-perfect work on the City of Love in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. He’s got James Gray’s Lowlife on the cards this year but quite possibly, he’ll have to wait at least another year for his collaboration with one of the world’s most visually gifted directors to get Oscar’s attention. That would be Lynne Ramsey’s Jane Got a Gun.
  • Putting my serious prognosticator cap on, there’s only one Iranian I can realistically expect to see nominated at the next ceremony and that’s Asghar Farhadi. If The Past is ready in time (I suspect it will be) and if it can live up to the expectations set by A Separation, France might submit it for best foreign language film consideration. Farhadi has consistently produced top-notch work for 15 years in different capacities (writer, director and producer) and in different media (TV and films). He came to international prominence on the festival circuit with About Elly and won an Oscar for his next film, A Separation; and although many cinephiles are wondering whether the challenge of working in an unfamiliar language might be one step too far, I happen to think that no challenge is too big for a filmmaker who can defeat the massive beast of Iranian censorship. Of course, even if France doesn’t submit the film, Farhadi could still be nominated in the main categories again if The Past is a big enough hit, but for now, it’s safe to aim a little lower.

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Reader Comments (5)

I'm rooting so much for Farhadi but I also always feel somewhat sad for countries when their best filmmakers fly the coop. I realize this is is more neccessary in some cases than others and can have a lot more to do with artistic freedom than just chasing the dollar but still...

i want to see all the movies, real and otherwise, you mentioned. Well... maybe not the bio as i'd like a moratorium.

and also: you need no plastic surgery for movie star good looks;)

March 16, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Not that his has anything to do with it, but Beverly Hills is almost completely Iranian; many of the power players in Hollywood are Persian. With such a strong contingent of Persians living in a key location to influence Hollywood, there is bound to be a Persian Renaissance in film.

March 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMark

Thanks for the shoutout to Shohreh Aghdashloo! She would have been my choice for Best Supporting Actress in 2003, such a riveting performance. And a perfect example of a great actress who can't catch another break in Hollywood due to her age and ethnicity. One can only hope that some director will give her another meaty role soon. She was so wasted in "X-Men: Last Stand".

March 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBenji

Nat - Aw thanks for the compliment. But seriously, you KNOW how good Jake looks in person.

As for Iranian filmmakers, you're completely right. It's unfortunate that the number of good directors is dwindling all the time, but when people like Panahi, Partovi, Makhmalbaf, etc. who have been making films for more than 20 years can get arrested or ostracized for nothing, that really leaves no incentive for the others. The saddest part about this is the large number of directors who went to work abroad and produced work that was far below the quality of what they did in Iran. There's really only a handful of directors who've kept their work on par with their career in Iran, like Kiarostami's Certified Copy and Like Someone in Love, Sohrab Shahid Saless' work in Germany and hopefully now Farhadi.

March 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmir

A Separation was the last great film I saw, and I see lots and lots of movies.

March 16, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrandz

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