Oscar winners 2012: in pictures

<em>The Artist</em> won five awards at the 84th Academy Awards last night.

artist

The Artist won five gongs in all. Here is the film's director Michel Hazanaviciu, winner of the Best Director Award, actress Berenice Bejo, and actor Jean Dujardin, who won in the Best Actor category.

dujardin

Jean Dujardin kisses his Oscar for Best Actor.

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Meryl Streep holds her award for Best Actress, which she won for her depiction of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. She last won the award more than 30 years ago, for Sophie's Choice.

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Octavia Spencer gets emotional as she accepts the Best Supporting Actress award for her role in The Help.

meryl streep, octavia spencer

Spencer and Streep celebrate, holding their awards.

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Christopher Plummer, 82, became the oldest ever Oscar winner when he was voted Best Supporting Actor for his part in Beginners. He addressed his Oscar statuette, saying: "You're only two years older than me darling, where have you been all of my life?"

The full list of winners

Best Cinematography: Robert Richardson, Hugo
Best Art Direction: Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schavo, Hugo
Best Costume Design: Mark Bridges, The Artist
Best Makeup: Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland, The Iron Lady
Best Foreign Language Film: A Separation
Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, The Help
Best Editing: Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Best Sound Editing: Phillip Stockton and Eugene Gearty, Hugo
Best Sound Mixing: Tom Fleischman and John Midgley, Hugo
Best Documentary: Undefeated
Best Animated Feature: Rango
Best Visual Effects: Hugo
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Best Original Score: Ludovic Bource, The Artist
Best Original Song: Bret McKenzie, Man or Muppet
Best Adapted Screenplay: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, The Descendants
Best Original Screenplay: Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Best Live Action Short: The Shore
Best Documentary Short: Saving Face
Best Animated Short: The Fantastic Flying Books Of Mr. Morris Lessmore
Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Best Actor: Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Best Actress: Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Best Picture: The Artist

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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In Snowden, Joseph Gordon-Levitt seems to absorb the spirit of the whistleblower

Gordon-Levitt makes Snowden’s mot­ives transparent without ever fully dropping his guard. It is reassuring that a film in which people are spied can still have a protagonist who remains essentially unknowable.

Laura Poitras’s Oscar-winning 2014 documentary Citizenfour captured the precise moment at which Edward Snowden turned whistleblower after quitting his job at the NSA. Is there room for another film on the same subject? Oliver Stone’s fictionalised account, Snowden, would suggest not. In effect, it admits defeat from the get-go by using the making of Citizenfour as a framing device, incorporating flashbacks to show what led Snowden to commit the security breach that exposed the extent of US government surveillance. Cooped up in a Hong Kong hotel room with him as he spills the beans are Poitras (Melissa Leo) and the Guardian journalists Glenn Greenwald (Zachary Quinto) and Ewen MacAskill (Tom Wilkinson), who put on their best ­listening faces and try to forget that all of the most interesting scenes are happening in other parts of the film.

What Snowden has in its favour is an economical performance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt which is mysterious without being aloof, cool but never cold. The actor gets the voice right (it’s a benign rumble) and though he is physically dissimilar to the real Snowden, that need be no barrier to success: look at Anthony Hopkins in Stone’s Nixon. Gordon-Levitt is absorbed by the role like water vanishing into a sponge. When the real Snowden pops up to stare wistfully off into the distance (there’s a lot of that here), it can’t help but be a let-down. People are so bad at playing themselves, don’t you find?

Gordon-Levitt makes Snowden’s mot­ives transparent without ever fully dropping his guard, and it is reassuring that a film in which people are spied on through the webcams of dormant laptops can still have a protagonist who remains essentially unknowable. The script, written by Stone and Kieran Fitzgerald, pulls in the opposite direction, allowing every character to deliver a remark of nudging innuendo. When Snowden is discharged from the army after injuring himself, a doctor tells him: “There are plenty of other ways to serve your country.” When he is approved for a job at the CIA, Snowden tells his employer: “You won’t regret this.” What we have here, give or take the strip club scene in which a pole dancer is filmed from an ungallantly low angle, is a more sober Stone than the one who made JFK and Natural Born Killers but he still can’t resist giving us a few deafening blasts of the old irony klaxon.

Though we know by now not to expect subtlety, Stone’s storytelling techniques are still surprisingly crude. When Snowden’s girlfriend, Lindsay (Shailene Woodley), complains that he has become distant, that he doesn’t touch her any more, the viewer is likely to wonder why that point had to be expressed in soap-opera dialogue rather than, say, action or camera angles. After all, the film was more than happy to throw in a superfluous sex scene when their love life was hunky-dory.

But when Stone does make his points visually, the cringe factor is even higher. He used carnivorous imagery in Nixon – a bloody steak stood in for murder – and the new film doesn’t take the vegetarian option either. Snowden is already starting to be alarmed by surveillance tactics when he goes hunting with his boss, Corbin O’Brian (Rhys Ifans). The pheasants they kill are barbecued in sizzling close-up, providing a buffet of symbolism. Snowden is going to be grilled. His goose is cooked. He’s dead meat.

An early scene showing him establishing contact with Poitras and Greenwald by an exchange of coded phrases (“What time does the restaurant open?” “Noon. But the food is a little spicy”) suggests that Stone intends to have fun with the story’s espionage trappings. The movie falls between two stools, however, lacking either the irreverence of satire or the tautness of a well-tooled thriller. At its most effective moments, it floats free of irony and captures a quaint, tactile innocence. We see Snowden communicating in sign language with an NSA colleague to avoid being eavesdropped on, or sitting in bed with a blanket over him as he taps away at his laptop. He is only hiding his passwords but he looks for all the world like a kid reading comics by torchlight after his mother has said: “Lights out.”

Ryan Gilbey is the New Statesman's film critic. He is also the author of It Don't Worry Me (Faber), about 1970s US cinema, and a study of Groundhog Day in the "Modern Classics" series (BFI Publishing). He was named reviewer of the year in the 2007 Press Gazette awards.

This article first appeared in the 08 December 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brexit to Trump