Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Oscars and performances

While I usually post on Mondays, I wasn't happy with my post-Oscar blog, mainly because I would be giving a pretentious film fan some ink, as they say. There is a big difference between those who talk and write about films and those who actually make films.

The day-after articles tended to be not great, even though the ratings were higher than last year's awards where the Academy hoped to draw in the young people with Anne Hathaway and James Franco who weren't very good.

Someone wrote that this year's award show was for white men in their 50's and older. Well, I guess that's me, and I did like the show. Billy Crystal was funny and I thought the show was okay.

But one of the problems for the Academy Awards is that there are so many award shows before the Oscars so by the time they come on people are tired of seeing the same actors grab other statuettes and/or awards.

When I was a kid, it was magic, but we didn't have 200 plus channels then. And dozens of awards shows for film and music and everything else.

A lot of people resented the fact that a French movie won most of the awards even if they filmed the entire movie in L.A. and it was handled by veteran Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. And Oscar-caliber movies are often not audience favorites, rather they are performer favorites.

And then there was the best actress award which surprised everyone and started dozens of whispers and tweets as to why Meryl got it instead of Viola, you know the kind.

So what do I think?

Well, if you consider that playing real characters seems to win more than playing made-up characters, then it's the norm. Meryl played Thatcher brilliantly, as she does with every role.  Here's a few others who won:

Colin Firth played King Edward, Helen Mirren played Queen Elizabeth, Reese Witherspoon played June Carter, Sandra Bullock played a real person in The Blind Side, Forrest Whitaker for Idi Amin, Julia Roberts won for Erin Brockovich.

And then there's Sean Penn for Harvey Milk, Jamie Fox for Ray Charles, Charlize Theron played that crazy woman killer. And there's a lot more.

What do you think?

And speaking of performances, a lot of people think that big long speeches in a movie where the star shouts and yells, is good acting. The model for this was Al Pacino in Scent of A Woman where he "ate the scenery" in his big speech at the end of the movie.

For those unfamiliar with that phrase, it simply means an actor takes over the stage and drowns everyone else around him/her to make his big speech.

But shouting is easy, it's harder playing softer. My best example was Ordinary People, directed by Robert Redford, where Mary Tyler Moore plays a controlling wife to Donald Sutherland and Timothy Hutton plays her messed-up son.

Moore and Hutton got nominations, Hutton won but the best part was played by Sutherland as a quiet, long-suffering husband. Much harder to play that convincingly, no shouting, no grand speeches, just looks and quiet thoughts.

But the award shows are finished for another year and I don't have to see big ads shouting vote for me in the LA Times every single day since January.

And I can remember 1976 when a little short film called Cooperage was a finalist in the Short Film category at the Academy Awards that year and lost out to five other films but for a moment, my partner in Rocky Mountain Films, Phil Borsos  and I came as close as anybody could.

1 comment:

  1. Spot on about the acting Jim; It really is easier to shout or cry or play somebody mad (Rain Man) or someone disabled (My Left Foot) and the Academy fall for it every time time - even thinking back to 'Charlie' and others.
    The easiest performance to win this year was Meryl Streep as Thatcher and they fell for it again even though it was an impersonation; there were many over here who made a living out of doing her when she was in power and breathed a sigh of relief when she went away - we wouldn't have to hear that voice again.
    But back to acting - people like Cary Grant, Tony Curtis and Gary Cooper were really underrated just as George Clooney is today. One of Marlon Brando's favourite actors was Tony Curtis - he knew how to smile. One only has to remember Sean Penn in The Interpreter for an example - he just couldn't do it even though he was good in other movies.