Tuesday, January 13, 2009


I've spent the last few days in a whir of preparation for the upcoming 2009 Oscar nominations. (Shame on me! I don't even know when they will be announced. It's a date I always had committed to memory before moving to Buenos Aires.) I watched Frost/Nixon, Changeling, Happy Go Lucky, The Wrestler, The Golden Globes (unfortunately dubbed in Spanish) and a YouTube clip of Anne Hathaway and Viola Davis (for Meryl Streep) accepting Critics Choice Awards. Next up: The Visitor, Revolutionary Road, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button and Doubt (which opens in BA on Thursday). But first, a few questions...

  • Is it now an Oscar policy to regularly nominate one nobody for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role? Keisha Castle-Hughes, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Imelda Staunton, Marion Cotillard and, next, possibly, Sally Hawkins. I've got to admit, I found both Sally's character and her performance in Happy Go Lucky hard not to love, and I'm secretly rooting for her. Her driving lessons scenes were priceless and her mannerisms so natural and realistic that I wouldn't even call it acting. A Sally win wouldn't be the perfect TV moment given the starpower waiting in the wings (Meryl, Angelina, Kate, Anne), but everybody loves a good upset -- although I'm still reeling from my beloved Julie Christie's 2008 loss to Marion Cotillard. Damn the power of a hammy biopic performance to seduce Oscar!
  • Why does Angelina Jolie shoot daggers at the winner every time she loses a precursor? If looks could kill, it would have been all over for Anne Hathaway at least halfway through her acceptance speech at the Critics Choice Awards. Come on, Angie! You were great in Changeling, which I found unexpectedly riveting. But how Susan Hayward circa 1958 was the role! I loved you in A Mighty Heart, but I understand why Oscar snubbed you last year, and it's not just your dour attitude. Like A Mighty Heart's Marianne Pearl, everything happened to Changeling's Christine Collins; the performance was basically you reacting to everything. I miss the days of bad-ass Angie, the days of Gia and Girl, Interrupted, when your characters drove the stories (the way Amy Ryan did in her few Changeling scenes). Bring her back, and I guarantee you multiple trips to the podium because, girl, passive or aggressive, you act your perfect butt off.
  • What will it take for Michael Sheen to finally get some Oscar love? The Queen totally belonged to Helen Mirren, and although I still think Judi Dench should have won for Notes On A Scandal, I understand why Michael Sheen's impersonation of Tony Blair was overlooked. But if you ask me, he holds Frost/Nixon together. I found Frank Langella to be hammy, mannered and way too stagey for my taste. Since he won a Tony for his performance of the role on Broadway, he must have thought, If the clock ain't broke... But unlike film, the stage is not a medium that emphasizes naturalism. Frank's Richard Nixon reminded me of the clips I saw of Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood, a film which I still have no desire to see. No one in the real world actually acts like his version of Richard Nixon. He was 100% persona and 0% person, which, come to think of it, may have been the whole point, considering the shady character of the 37th U.S. President. It was thoroughly entertaining, but I never forgot that I was watching a performance, which was not the case with Michael Sheen.
  • When will some great indie director create a fabulous leading character for Marisa Tomei and save her from her string of thankless second-fiddle roles? I didn't adore The Wrestler as much as a lot of the critics. I wish there had been more of a narrative and less wrestling and more interaction with Marisa Tomei's and Evan Rachel Wood's characters. Mickey is fantastic for sure, and more than deserving of his guaranteed Oscar nomination, but Marisa Tomei took a whatever role and turned it into a true showcase. And that body! My God, not bad for 44 and not an apparent plastic part in sight!
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