Saturday, February 20, 2010
Oscar 2010: My Actor of the Year
With only two weeks to go before the inevitable bestowing of the Academy Awards, it's time to weigh in on the Oscar films of 2009. With a month since the announcement of the nominations to provide the proper perspective, this writer, who for most of his life was obsessed with the Academy Awards, will offer opinions on the expanded field of ten Best Picture nominees, discuss the likely winners and rationale for predictions, and the long-promised personal anecdote of the Oscar night in which I truly hated Oscar, and almost gave up on film altogether. (There....End of Coming Attractions!)
Again, time and perspective, plus the fact that I am essentially a forgiving person, have brought me back to the fold, perhaps not as blindly accepting of the Oscar seal of approval, and certainly more cynical and jaded, but once again interested in Oscar's latest trends, and hoping that my personal favorites are held up for recognition and rightly preserved in the history books.
Much of my cynicism is due to the middling quality of movies in general, and the notion that even mediocre work must be trotted out every year for recognition before it fades again into relative obscurity, the record books notwithstanding.
(Quick Trivia Question: Sing last year's Oscar-Winning Best Song.)
I used to jump on the bandwagon for a front-running movie, even one I could not admit to myself I didn't like, in order to feel like I had a place at the party. It's poignant in a way, how certain films are championed with such urgency, and praised as though the future of the art of filmmaking were held in the balance, only to be somewhat forgotten as we follow the next year's flavor of the day.
Somehow, (and again time will tell), I believe that a lot of the Oscar-winners of the last decade (quick: name the Best Picture Winners since 2000) will never be regarded with the same affection as the classics of 20, 30 or more years before.
Even though I am pretty sure I can tell you this year's winners without watching the show, I still hope for a surprise that will send me out of my chair cheering, as when "Annie Hall" was named Best Picture, or Daniel Day Lewis for Best Actor in "My Left Foot", or Sean Penn for "Milk", or "Il Postino" or "The Red Violin" for Original Score..... Really, the Oscars are like a slot machine....we keep playing, and putting up with lemons, in order to experience those rare moments of triumph.
And so, I will be out of my seat once again this year if Colin Firth, a decidedly dark horse for Best Actor, is called to the stage. I truly lament that the expanded field of Best Picture nominees afforded no space for "A Single Man". And Firth, great as he is, seems to have very little momentum.
However, I just learned that Firth won best Actor from the London Film Critics Circle, so perhaps there is a glimmer of support for his truly emotional and accomplished work. (You can, if you like, read my full appreciation of his performance in my review or "A Single Man".)
So, this is my way to pay tribute to an actor in a film which captured my imagination, spoke the language of my own heart, thrilled me with its writing and visual realization, helped me learn about myself and my life through the characters expertly played on the screen, gave me aesthetic pleasure, and inspired me creatively. These are what I look for in a movie. Enjoy the following clip, and I hope it encourages you to see this great film.
(By the way, if you've finished the last verse of "Jai Ho", try any one of this year's song nominees.)