Sunday, April 14, 2024

The Travesty of the Oscars’ Leading Actor Awards

The 2011 Oscar nominations will be announced Tuesday, and while there may be some surprises and snubs amid the nominees, the winners are a foregone conclusion. The Oscars has become a slave to its own months-in-advance buzz. The winning filmmakers and celebrities will perform their choreographed routines of surprise and humility, pretending that the announcements of their predestined victories was unexpected and that, of course, everyone in this category deserves the statuette as much as they do.

Though I didn’t love “The Social Network” as much as everyone else, I have no problem with the timely dramedy scoring wins for Picture, Director and Adapted Screenplay, which it certainly will. It’s the leading actor awards I take issue with. The dawning realization of the Academy’s erroneous anointing of Colin Firth and Natalie Portman for the

industry’s Best Actor and Actress hit me this weekend, when I got around to seeing “Blue Valentine,” the emotionally shattering drama about a relationship’s bitter dissolution.

Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, in the best performances of their lives, play the couple in good times and bad. The screenplay, cowritten by director Derek Cianfrance, flashes between the budding romance of their past and the loveless shell of their relationship’s present, letting us fill in the corrosive gaps. From the claustrophobic close-ups to the seemingly improvised dialogue to the squirming discomfort of their characters’ physical and mental quarrels, Cianfrance directs the film like a fly-on-the-wall documentary, removing the artifice of filmmaking.

I love it when movies manipulate me physically when watching them – it’s proof that they effectively have gotten under my skin and implanted themselves, for better or worse. Watching this couple disintegrate was like watching the most terrifying of horror movies: I had a pit in my stomach for most of the running time, and in the climactic conflict, I could barely breathe. These results could not have been accomplished with better lead actors. Gosling and Williams bear the souls for the camera and travel to profoundly deep places within themselves – inhabiting, with equal conviction, two polarized states in their characters’ duality. The words “brave” and “fearless” do not begin to describe them.

And what have Colin Firth and Natalie Portman done? By awarding them Best Actor and Actress, the Academy might as well rename the award Best Preparation for a Role. The Academy loves it when actors spend months or more disguising themselves in a part, whether it’s Robert De Niro fattening up for “Raging Bull” or Jamie Foxx mastering his Ray Charles impersonation for “Ray.” This year, they love the fact that Natalie Portman spent a year learning to dance, shed 20 points and sustained multiple injuries during principal photography. In Firth’s case, they love that he did his own, less physically strenuous homework of developing a speech impediment with Method-like immersion — calibrating the affect so that it can increase or decrease at various points in the film’s narrative.

Both performances are very good, but the brunt of their mastery happened before the first time the directors called “Action!” Gosling and Williams, on the other hands, create their characters right there on the screen, small revelation by small revelation. The Academy has always preferred the grandiose and bloated to the incremental and intimate, so look for “Blue Valentine” to earn some polite nominations and win nothing. See the movie and try to tell me this is not a travesty.

Related Articles

Latest Articles