Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Rank File

So the Academy Award nominations were rolled out a few days back and really, I don’t much care about them anymore. Now that the whole rigmarole has become so politicized, I mean who really gives a shit? The best value comes about now, just after the shortlists are announced and before the glitz and glamour smothers everything, when the real bitching and moaning kicks in.

To begin with there are always the glaring omissions that everyone barks about. This year, for some extraordinary reason, most everyone is yapping their trap off about The Dark Knight not getting a Best Picture nomination. Obviously there’s a very simple reason for that: it’s not a great film. It may have aspired to blend Heat with the superhero movie but it went on too long, going two or three moral dilemmas too far. By that time I had already got the point they were trying to make, thrice over, and simply wanted to go home.

As for what made the shortlist, I suppose they’re as good as any. I’ve heard great things said about them and bad and already seen the two of the five that I wanted to see. Oddly enough, while Frost/Nixon had its moments, I actually preferred reading Peter Morgan’s script beforehand to eventually watching Ron Howard’s film. In the case of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, I liked the script by Eric Roth and loved what Fincher did with it. Even if it misses out on all three of those awards, which I doubt, it has to pick up the statuette for Best Visual Effects.

For once the Best Picture and Best Director nominations match up. I think it was Sir Ridley Scott who, either in a some interview or on one of his DVD commentaries, expressed a sense of confused disbelief that a film could be nominated without the director getting the nod also or the director being up without his film getting a look in, because the two should surely go hand in hand. Then again, much like the American elections, this is a process that doesn’t always seem to make much sense.

At least when it comes to the acting categories they aren’t always allied to the bigger pictures, rightly pointing out performances in films that weren’t rolled out with the same amount of hoopla. That said, the first name that really leapt out of the lists was Robert Downey Jr., getting a Best Supporting Actor nod for playing the Method-obsessed Kirk Lazarus in Tropic Thunder. Obviously he won’t be expected to win because “you people” will no doubt bestow the award posthumously in a one of the ceremony’s requisite lachrymose-soaked moments. Still, just seeing his name there was enough to have me doubled over with laughter.

Having eventually regained my composure it was time to see who else made the cut. This is where it always gets interesting because there’s the mix of already well-known faces amongst actors who have worked for a long time in the trenches finally getting the high profile visibility they so richly deserve. Of course their sudden ascension proves somewhat tricky in terms of reportage. The hacks can’t just simply blurt out names like Brad and Angelina, Meryl and Kate, and expect a skim through the old clippings files the picture desk to do the rest, or feast on some newly discovered starlet, spewing hyperbole while all the time hoping that in a flash the paparazzi can snatch some snatch.

Instead they have to go about introducing these people to a wider audience. Hopefully most of them went about it in a far more respectful way than the cheese scribbling about the “unknowns invited to [the] Oscar party” on the BBC news website. Now I hate to be ragging on them twice in less than a week. I keep this up and folk will think I write for The Daily Mail. But you can’t let them get away with:

The vast majority of people, though, would have trouble picking Melissa Leo out of a line-up.

Yet somehow this 48-year-old New Yorker now stands beside them on the Oscar shortlist, having been nominated for best actress for her role in the independent film Frozen River.

The eagle-eyed spotted her promise a year ago when this atmospheric tale of a cash-strapped single mother turned reluctant human trafficker premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.

Even so, some will be surprised to see such a relatively unsung talent shortlisted for such a high-profile award.

To begin with I thought that maybe I was misinterpreting the tone of the piece until I hit this sweet spot. Whereas the “Yet somehow...” simply rankled, that last sentence made me want to find this dumb turdsmith and smash their unless face into a pile of glass shards until their brain is gelatine confetti. I doubt it would be a great loss. Obviously this is someone with absolutely no fucking inclination to watch quality drama, who doesn’t know that Melissa Leo played Det. Sgt. Kay Howard in the first five seasons of Homicide: Life on the Streets. Jesus-fucking-Christ! They probably have it in their head that good TV is Merlin.

At least it’s pointed out that Richard Jenkins played Nathaniel Fisher in Six Feet Under, checking out in the pilot episode when the company hearse is centrepunched by a Metro Bus. Still I remember him more from David O. Russell’s Flirting With Disaster, partnered with Josh Brolin’s armpit-licking cop and accidentally drugged up, running around the desert in just his underpants long before Bryan Cranston appeared on the scene in Breaking Bad.

Hopefully, come the night, one of the other, or any of the other “rank and file” will get to step up onto the stage. Oh, and Wall-E better win Best Animated Feature and the Best Sound categories.


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