The Oscars Again!

They jumped for joy and I nearly did too. Godzilla Minus One had just won an Oscar for best visual effects and the creative team almost danced to the stage. This contrasted big time to my other fave of the year, The Zone of Interest.

Award speeches are a mixed bag. In the old days the recipient thanked the Academy, costars, maybe crew, took the statuette and exited. Now you might get an issue driven three hours or a political comment tossed in.

But Jonathan Glazer took the cake. I’d been rooting for The Zone of Interest. An indictment of indifference to the Holocaust next door and of humanity itself, set design and sound made the loss even more jaw-dropping. Did they really just say that, in the minimalist script? The movie was scary. It deserved to win.

I should have been prepared. I’d watched producer James Wilson’s acceptance speech at the BAFTAs, Britain’s awards. He told us we build walls to block the suffering of innocents. A list of victims was given, Gaza first (big applause), Israel thrown in at the end. I’d hoped the team if it won at the Oscars had gotten that out of their system.

But apparently Auschwitz is not a big enough deal to carry a film. Israel got dragged out again and its “occupation” blamed for a current absence of humanity. The director ruined his perfectly good film.

Luckily Godzilla Minus One came to the rescue. Thrilled the film got the prize and the Japanese ecstatic, my mood improved.

They didn’t win for a shallow production. The monster, scales and all, is still the result of atomic bombs dropped on Japan but depressed Koichoi is the focus. He’s a failed kamikaze pilot who loses nerve again when Godzilla shows up at the repair station where he’d claimed his plane had engine problems. Now the poor guy, cowering, can’t even shoot at the beast. He and the postwar Japan around him are at rock bottom, minus one.

He somehow survives, meets a woman in the rubble toting an orphaned baby and the pair set up housekeeping although not romantically. He feels unfit to be loved. Seeking self-worth he joins a minesweeping crew, the characters good comic relief, and in the hunt to destroy Godzilla who’s already made a wreck of Tokyo, war and blindly following orders condemned along the way, Koichoi at last flies to the rescue and destroys the creature. Godzilla gone, Japan can emerge from the ruins. He can too.

Obviously the effects are amazing: it’s an edge-of-the-seat movie. But the response to winning was what the Academy Awards should be. The team accepted the award from Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger, always a trip to see together. On the podium one artist could barely stop bouncing. Director Takashi Yamazaki was so excited he could hardly unfold the paper with his message of thanks and longtime dream realized. They were over the moon, hard work and creativity recognized.

In the end Jonathan Glazer should have taken a cue from two great directors who gave the shortest speeches in Oscar history. Billy Wilder, a refugee from Nazi Germany, had ten words of appreciation when winning for 1960’s The Apartment and Alfred Hitchcock only had five as he accepted his award for lifetime achievement: Thank you very much indeed.

About the Author
Donna Schatz is an Israeli-American photographer, documentary producer and former TV camerawoman who worked in Israel, Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon as well as Bosnia and the US.
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