|Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu|
While many are still trying to predict who is going to even be nominated at next year's ceremony, The Academy has already given out one award. No, it isn't a mistake on par with the infamous La La Land Best Picture win. It's for real. Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki will be receiving a Special Oscar win at the upcoming Governors Ball for their work on the virtual reality project CARNE y ARENA. How much of a big deal is this award? Well, Inarritu and Lubezki are the first Special Oscar winners in 22 years. It's a pretty big deal for the team behind Birdman and The Revenant, and their latest venture into virtual reality has paid off nicely.
There's plenty to suggest that Inarritu is an ambitious director. Birdman was famously a film meant to convey one long take. Likewise, The Revenant's au natural approach produced a gruesome nature movie that won Leonardo DiCaprio a Best Actor statue. He seems destined to test the limits of cinema every time out, and this time he has taken it to the Los Angeles County Museum of Arts (LACMA) with CARNE y ARENA, which is a virtual reality exhibit meant to show the journey of migrants crossing the desert early in the morning. It's a journey that has been called emotional, and has given an early boost to the ongoing trend of new virtual reality projects.
In a statement released by The Academy, they wrote that:
“CARNE y ARENA, Iñárritu’s multimedia art and cinema experience, is a deeply emotional and physically immersive venture... More than even a creative breakthrough in the still emerging form of virtual reality, it viscerally connects us to the hot-button political and social realities of the U.S.-Mexico border.”
It's yet to be seen how much virtual reality will impact cinema in the future. From the sound of it, Inarritu has found a way to make it work in a limited capacity. It's especially noticeable considering another rarity. Inarritu and Lubezki are the first recipients of a Special Oscar in 22 years. This is different from the Honorary Oscars, which are handed out every year to three or four people representative of the community. Special Oscars reflect an important advancement in technology or arts that have left an indelible impression. It makes sense then that the last winner was John Lasseter for Toy Story's ability to tell a full story in CG animation. The only wonder is how much of an impact CARNE y ARENA will have on culture in the years to come. If it's anything like Toy Story, it's going to be temporarily undermined before revealing its true power.
Even if the Oscar season is still heating up and producing its contenders, it's nice to know that there's already one detail that's different this year. Even if most people probably won't get to experience CARNE y ARENA in person, there's a good chance that this award will serve as a positive promotion towards virtual reality, which is still a fledgling technology. Maybe in time there will be a valuable use for virtual reality. For now, it's something that has produced its first Oscar winning work. That's a bit feat, and one that may make it easier to accept any future advancements in the years to come, whether from Inarritu and Lubezki, or someone that isn't even being talked about now.