With each passing year since I became a film buff in the 1990s, I become less and less interested in the Oscars. To be sure, there are always artistic achievements which merit our attention, acknowledgment and accolades.
This year is no different. But, it is seems that increasingly, the Academy strives to please the cultural critics rather than appealing to the public at large. It should recognize excellence, rather than politically correct social concerns as it now seems to be doing.
I’ll be rooting for Slumdog Millionaire for Best Picture because it provided a novel twist on a traditional Hollywood tale–and it is not a Hollywood production. It is a perfect example of how a film can affirm our basic humanity, the power and meaning of human relationships.
In a previous post, I noted how I’m torn between Mickey Rourke and Frank Langella for Best Actor. Both men clearly earned the Oscar for their performances in The Wrestler and Frost/Nixon respectively.
For Best Actress, both Kate Winslet and Angelina Jolie merit the honor for The Reader and The Changeling respectively. I do hope Jolie’s film wins for Art Direction and Cinematography for which it is also nominated. Art Director James J. Murakami, Set Director Gary Fettis and Cinematographer Tom Stern did a great job of capturing the feel of Los Angeles in the 1930s (at least how I imagined it). At times, it even felt as if it were a film from the 1930s.
All of the four performances nominated for Best Supporting Actress that I’ve seen (Taraji P. Henson in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Amy Adams and Viola Davis in Doubt and Marisa Tomei in The Wrestler) are truly outstanding, I believe one stands head and shoulders above the rest, that of Viola Davis.
To be sure, Davis probably had less time on screen than any of her competitors, but she so steals her scenes that you think she’d had a larger role in the film. Like Beatrice Straight who won for three minutes of screen time in Network, Davis takes a small role and uses it to help sustain the entire film. Take it away and the film falls apart.
She becomes the archetypal mother whose concerns for her child’s welfare overrides almost all other concerns. You can hear it in her words, see it in her face, even watch it the way she moves. It is simply an amazing performance.
And while I hope the Academy singles out that brilliant performance, I regret that one of the the truly great movies which addresses important social concerns has been slighted by the academy this year. Perhaps, that’s because Gran Torino is far from politically correct.