With '12 Years a Slave' and 'American Hustle,' awards season a sequel, too

  • Article by: John Rash , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 17, 2014 - 6:19 PM

Like last year, dramas about slavery and a ’70s scheme compete for best picture.

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orpheus90Jan. 17, 14 8:29 PM

Nice bit of thematic sleuthing. I wouldn't necessarily have connected Argo and American Hustle at first glance, but it is interesting to note the paradigm of the big con as morphing into a quintessential representation of the 70's. The subtext here points to "The Sting," a notable 70's film, as somehow emblematic. (Then again, "The Sting," taking place during the 30's Depression, was a period film itself.) Period films are typically seen as indirect referendums on the actual period in which they themselves were made, though this brings up an irony: Why can't we simply make a film about the issues of the present, a standing criticism, for example, of the The Wolf of Wall Street, another period film which deals with the gaudy excesses of con artist stock traders in the 90's, but has nothing to do with the economic meltdown - if not the enormous con perpetrated by the investment banking industry - of 2007? In fact, if any current film really gives representation to the illusory economics of our time, it's Nebraska, a story of a delusional old man who thinks he's won a million bucks from a junk mail sweepstakes campaign.

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orpheus90Jan. 17, 14 8:29 PM

(Cont) Also, for the sake of context, I'll point out the 70's, for all its discontents, comes nowhere near the gilded age economic disparities that we see in the present day. For all the problems and difficulties during the era of the Ford/ Carter years, we probably came closest to an idea of economic fair play across the classes than ever before, all of which which radically changed with the advent of Reaganomics, a massive political/economic con if ever there was, its legacy of wealth disparity a disaster for the country which lives with us to this day. We have yet to see a film on that topic. As for movies, the true legacy of 70's films was a greater sense of political and social candor in content than any previous era. Movies from the seventies dealt with the issues and discontents of its own era in a manner we don't see in the present. Or put it this way - good luck getting a Norma Rae or a Five Easy pieces made these days. I enjoyed Argo and American Hustle immensely, but they really don't speak directly to the present state of affairs in the US. Last year, Zero Dark Thirty was nominated, a terrific film that did attempt to directly address the contemporary issue of the Bush era policy enfranchisement of torture. The film was shamelessly blackballed with a misinformation campaign out of DC and the Academy voters bought it hook, line and sinker. Sad to say, we seem to have become a country culturally, politically and socially incapable of reflecting and coping with the actual era we live in. Movies have passed on that task; the burden seems to have fallen to the province of cable television. Shows like The Wire and Breaking Bad tell us far more than movies, at least in their current state, ever will.

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jarlmnJan. 18, 1411:22 AM

Oh please. In today's p-c political climate, they coulda made a B movie filmed with jerky-cam and dubbed in bad Chinese, about African-american slavery and it woulda been a shoo-in for an Oscar. Meanwhile, a fine movie about U.S. military heroism gets predictably slammed as "glorifying war" and such, by the Hollyweird liberal intelligentsia. Yet *another* reason the Oscars are a joke.

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tituspulloJan. 18, 14 7:40 PM

jarlmnJan. 18, 1411:22 AM Oh please. In today's p-c political climate, they coulda made a B movie filmed with jerky-cam and dubbed in bad Chinese, about African-american slavery and it woulda been a shoo-in for an Oscar. Meanwhile, a fine movie about U.S. military heroism gets predictably slammed as "glorifying war" and such, by the Hollyweird liberal intelligentsia. Yet *another* reason the Oscars are a joke._________Yeah...they should have given Rambo an Oscar too. Thanks for the laugh.

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