Local Lights Weigh In On Oscar Picks — And Traditions
From first-time nominee to mayoral chief of staff, Boston’s luminaries have an array of plans for Sunday night’s Academy Award Ceremony. Some can’t say no to a party and others watch in hushed silence with a vintage cocktail in hand. The ARTery tracked down a handful of interesting cultural leaders to get the pulse on what films they’re rooting for and why.
First up is nominee Daniel Sousa. His gorgeously hand-rendered film “Feral” is in competition in this year’s Short Film–-Animated category. Though Sousa is now Providence-based, he has spent many years teaching in Boston and Boston students helped craft his story of a wild child’s refusal to be housebroken.
Will Sousa attend? “Of course! I'll be in LA for the whole week and my tux is ready to go,” he says. And of course, he’d like to take home a statue. As for other nominated films? “'Gravity’ was fun, but I liked Alfonso Cuarón's companion short film ‘Aningaak’ even more. Too bad it isn't in the running as well.”
“Feral” stands out as the only film in Sousa’s category that’s currently available online. Big screen devotees who haven’t seen it as part of the touring Oscar Nominated Short Films series can see “Feral” at the ICA May 10-26 as part of the New England Animation Festival.
Academy Award winner and Cambridge resident Margaret Lazarus watches the ceremony in anticipation of “those same awestruck feelings” on winners’ faces that she and directing partner Renner Wunderlich had in 1994 for the documentary short, “Defending Our Lives.” “We were so excited, grateful, and thrilled,” she says.
Now, as members of the Academy, Lazarus and Wunderlich can be part of a lottery for ceremony tickets but either luck or life has not allowed them to return. While members cannot disclose their selections, Lazarus says she appreciates a change in voting practice that opened documentary, animated short, live action short, and foreign film categories to all members. “There were so many brilliant films,” she says.
Who knew that chef Ana Sortun, of Oleana and the to-die-for sesame cashew bites (and pretty much everything else) at Sofra Bakery is also a prodigious Oscar fan? “I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Oscars,” she says. She’s planning to watch at home with her family because she’s “such a fanatic that I can’t be distracted by large groups of people.” Matthew McConaughey knocked her over in “Dallas Buyers Club” and “Captain Phillips” kept her on the edge of her seat. But “12 Years A Slave” tops her list. “I hope it wins for some sort of art direction,” she says.
Daniel Arrigg Koh, Mayor Walsh’s chief of staff, is also rooting for “12 Years a Slave,” which he calls “an incredibly powerful and emotional depiction of our history.” Koh, who tweets at @dank, will be watching with his laptop open to TweetDeck. “People are hilarious on Twitter — makes it that much more entertaining!” He’ll tune in for the “vastly underrated category” of cinematography and expects great things from Ellen DeGeneres as host. “People tend to forget her truly heroic work on LGBTQ issues,” he says.
Poet and Mass Cultural Council program officer Charles Coe is keen on hosts as well, but admits to a longing for the Bob Hope years, all 18 of them. With recent pressure to attract viewers, Coe jokes that producers might as well feature nominees in “a steel cage wrestling match. Survivor wins.”
Coe considers it an extremely strong year for films. He points to "Fruitvale Station" and "All is Lost”—neither a nominee—as better than past winners. His favorite? “Nebraska,” for Bruce Dern’s “performance of a lifetime.” Coe will watch as he has for the last five years, at a friend’s party. “If I didn't go she'd probably take me off her speed dial,” he says, confessing that he conveniently arrives after all the red carpet “dishing on the fashion felonies.”
Meanwhile, it makes sense that Michelle Finamore, historian and curator of fashion arts at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston relishes the Oscars as an “unabashed fashion spectacle!” She’s especially attuned to the increasing creativity in men's attire, both on and off screen. The pink suit worn by Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Great Gatsby” caught her eye because there’s a copy of the Oscar-winning Ralph Lauren pink suit made for the 1974 version in her current exhibition, Think Pink, at the MFA. She’d like to see Catherine Martin take home a win for “Gatsby’s” Costume Design.
Finamore, whose book “Hollywood Before Glamour: Fashion in American Silent Film” was released last year, often looks to classic cinema to inspire her exhibitions. She’s in the midst of compiling an exhibition on 1930s and 1940s Hollywood fashion and jewelry. She says it will include “a 1931 Asian-inspired black satin bias-cut dress that was worn by starlet Anna May Wong—one of the first successful Chinese-American film stars in the early days of film.”
For the 14th year Oscar fans will watch the live telecast under the Brattle Theatre’s roof to celebrate offbeat or unexpected wins by the indie set. (Open to the public, it’s also an annual fundraiser for the nonprofit Brattle Film Foundation.) Executive director Ivy Moylan recalls the wins for “Spirited Away” and “Bowling for Columbine” as uproarious. “People were on their feet applauding and cheering,” she says.
Moylan will do that again if the raw, hotly-debated Documentary Feature nominee “The Act of Killing” wins. “I am so proud of Drafthouse Films for having the guts to promote it for consideration,” she says. She expects the In Memoriam segment will be especially hard with the passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman. (Who makes this list is hot debate.) “There was also Karen Black, Dennis Farina, Eileen Brennan, Joan Fontaine... and so many more. It is a really special part of the show to me, and is made more special at the Brattle with so many other classic film fans.”
Boston true-crime author Casey Sherman will also watch the telecast live, at a party, as part of the Ellie Fund’s 18th Annual Red Carpet Gala. “If you can't be in Hollywood on Oscar night, this is the next best thing,” he says.
“I'm rooting for ‘American Hustle’ to win Best Picture as it was locally shot with some great local talent.” He also has his fingers crossed for Terence Winter to win Best Adapted Screenplay for “The Wolf of Wall Street.” “Terry is a friend of mine and his script is like a three-hour shot of adrenaline.”
But perhaps more than any other luminary, Sherman says what nearly all of us imagine as we watch one celeb after another make that coveted approach to the podium: “I hope that one day, I'll be attending the Oscars in person to cheer on Disney's upcoming adaptation of my best selling book ‘The Finest Hours!’”
Book deal or not, when it comes to the Oscars, the rest of us always have next year.
Erin Trahan edits "The Independent," an online magazine about independent film, and is moderating the Winter 2014 season of The DocYard.