Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I Was Gonna Say....

I had my Jive planned out. Even though the 81st Academy Awards were held two months ago, I still wanted to voice my disappointment over Mickey Rourke not winning the Best Actor Oscar for his awesome, true-to-life performance in "The Wrestler." I was then going to delve into my personal preferences and what I felt constituted an acting performance being labeled as "Great." I was gonna elaborate by suggesting that a performance was more impressive to me when the actor developed the character out of his/her own imagination...unlike Jamie Foxx in "Ray", which I considered to be a glorified impersonation. I was gonna cite all of my favorite performances such as Robert DeNiro in "Taxi Driver", Bill Murray in "Groundhog Day", Diane Keaton in "Annie Hall", Nic Cage in "Adaptation", Daniel Day-Lewis in "Gangs of New York" etc etc...none of which portrayed a real-life character with a plethora of footage to mimic. And no, Charlie Kaufman doesn't count and Donald Kaufman wasn't real. There was a good chance that somewhere in that Jive I would have more than likely digressed by stating that I was not impressed by an actor receiving an Academy Award nomination based on "physical transformation." I would have cited Tom Hanks in "Cast Away" and defended Mickey Rourke by telling you that he has always been muscular. I was really gonna talk some Jive by stating that Joaquin Phoenix's portrayal of Johnny Cash and Philip Seymour Hoffman's impersonation of Truman Capote couldn't hold a candle to Bill Murray's in "Lost in Translation." It was gonna be quite obvious that I didn't respect these so-called "great performances" where an actor studied a subject and imitated them on screen. What has changed? Well...I recently saw Sean Penn's performance in "Milk." What an inspiring, moving, and splendid performance that was. It was one of the decade's finest. I will say that.

Demand it,


brent said...

Agreed. When i watched Milk, i went in with the preconceived notion that Penn's performance was being over-hyped and that i most likely wouldn't be impressed. I was wrong and I thought he was great.

I also agree with your line of thinking when it comes to biopics. It seems like for the last couple of years the academy as rewarded great imitations and impersonations (Ray, Last King of Scotland, Capote, Milk) rather than great acting.

However, even i thought Rourke's performance was last years was a very easy character for him to produce. He basically played himself. It involved no creation or imagination. So basically last year, the two best performances were two very easy roles.

We should reward difficulty. Maybe Richard Jenkins should have won. You know how I am a sucker for subtlety.

easy come, easy go

The Franker said...

I kind of think that great actors OUGHT to be able to do impersonations/imitations very well...therefore, I am also kind of getting tired of biopics being nominated for so and winning so much this decade.

With that said, I was definitely moved MUCH more by Sean Penn/Harvey Milk than any of the notable biographical performances of recent years.

Historically, how many performances in biopics have stood the test of time and become really iconic? I am typing this in a hurry and don't want to wrack my brain right now, but none just leap out at me. Food for thought.

(This leads me to think that Heath Ledger will be remembered for a long time for Ennis Del Mar/Joker and most of the other acclaimed performances of the decade will not.)

P.S. - One more thing, by all accounts, Daniel Day-Lewis impersonated John Huston when playing Daniel Plainview and Johnny Depp acted like Keith Richards as Capt. Jack Sparrow.

brent said...

I thought this year's to biopic performances, Penn's Milk and Langella's Nixon were both better than any of the prior years' more ballyhooed performances.

Joko said...

I agree that the biopic is being over hyped...just seems odd... but about the wrestler...even if it was easy or not...still the best. When Jordan hit a difficult shot, you don't say "oh that was easy for him." this was just the role for Rourke...should he be punished for that?

Penn was great and when I saw it I thought that it was one of the best of the year...but how is his impersonation better than Rourke's created character (even if it was natural to him)? I just don't get it...

Really if i were to say MY favorite performances of the decade off the cuff would be Cage - Adaptation; Day-Lewis - There Will Be Blood; Rourke - The Wrestler....

just mine...

Lyle said...

I differentiate between bio pics.

Ones based on an individual or character that is well-known and whose mannerisms,story, etc that I am familiar with I generally do not like, nor do I rate as great acting performances. As has been mentioned the acting is merely immitation of the actual person. Great for Saturday Night Live or stand up acts, but doesn't deliver for me as a great acting performance. Also, I don't enjoy the movies themselves because most bios exercise some creative liberty and this I cannnot accept when done with a character whose story I am familiar with.

Examples would be Ray and Aviator.

The other type of bio would be one based on lesser-known stories or individuals who, before the film, I was not that familiar with or had never heard their story. I can relax and enjoy the story and actor's performances without concentrating on the actor's charactictures of the actual person or the historical inaccuracies/exaggerations depicted in the picture. Examples being Schindlers List, Goodfellas, and Raging Bull. All of which are classics in my book.

Christopher said...

It seems as though you all somewhat agree with me on what constitutes a performance being considered "Great." I have found all of your comments rather insightful. Maybe someday others will join in. Anyway, since I didn't do a Top5 list this time, I figured I should do it here; maybe to start an intellectual debate, argument, or hopefully, a unanimous agreement. So, what are my Top5 Nomination-worthy performances that were snubbed by Oscar?
5. Paul Giamatti as Miles in "Sideways"

4. John Cazale as my boy, Fredo in "The Godfather PartII"

3. Gene Hackman as Royal Tenenbaum

2. Dwight Yoakum as "Doyle" in Sling Blade

1. Robert Shaw as Quint in "JAWS"

Shoutout to Robert Downey Jr. as Wayne Gale in "Natural Born Killers and Tommy Lee Jones as Sheriff Ed Tom Bell in "No Country for Old Men."

Give me yours or just discuss.

kyle said...

Off the cuff:

5. Sean Penn in 21 Grams (he was better in this than in Mystic River)

4. Jeff Daniels in The Squid and the Whale

3. Gene Hackman in The Royal Tennenbaums

2. Ethan Hawke (or Delpy) in Before Sunset

1. Paul Giamatti in Sideways

kyle said...

Shout out to Kevin Costner in The Upside of Anger

brent said...

off the cuff:

1. Paul Giamati in Sideways
2. Johanson in Lost in Translation
3. Both child actors in In America
4. Mark Ruffalo in You Can Count On Me
5. Audrey Tautou in Amelie

Christopher said...

Those are some great over looked performances. Brent..i've never seen better performances from child actors as the little girls from "In America." They put Haley Joel Osment to shame. The girl from "Amelie"...I wanna marry. Kyle...very respectable list as well....

Joko said...

The Academy doesn't recognize comedic actors!

5. Ryan Gosling - Lars and the Real Girl
4. Al Pacino - Coach Tony D'Amato (if they only knew how real it actually was)
3. Phil Hoffman - Owning Mahowny
2. Jim Carrey - Eternal Sunshine
1. Gene Hackman as Royal Tennebaum

HM: Ellen Page - Juno.....Tony Clifton - Man on the Moon ....Sean Penn - 21 Grams .... George C. Scott - Dr. Strangelove....Jim Carrey - Truman Show

kyle said...

another honorable mention...for comedic actors:

Greg Kinnear in Little Miss Sunshine. He was the best supporting actor in that movie.

Lyle said...

With "quotable lines" being a determinate factor, just off the cuff for comedic performances I'll say:

5. Matt Dillon - Something About Mary

4. Cleavon Little - Blazin Saddles

3. Vince Vaughn - Wedding Crashers

2. Gene Hackman - Royal Tenenbaums

1. John Goodman - Big Lebowski

HM: Tim Blake Nelson - O Brother Where Art Thou, Bill Murray - Groundhog Day

Lyle said...

"It ain't the way I wanted it! I can handle things! I'm smart! Not like everybody says... like dumb... I'm smart and I want respect!"

Great call on Fredo, Christopher. He was "stepped over"...for the Oscar that is.

And "Doyle" as well. But you know my thinking on Dwight Yoakum in that role. Yes, he was great, but he's not a professional actor and I don't think he has the chops to pull off that role. He's got to be just playing a role of himself. So I conclude that he must be a jerk in real life.

Christopher said...

Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance in "Owning Mahoney" is perhaps the most overlooked in this decade. Great call on that one, Joe. I believe that comedic performances should be considered for Oscar. However, there are only a few in my mind that should have received a nomination. I feel that there is something missing in many of these performances. Sure Tim Blake Nelson was great in "O Brother" as was Vince Vaughn in most of his movies. But where's the sadness? The only two that come to mind would be Bill Murray in "Groundhog Day" and John Candy as Dell Griffith in "Planes,Trains,and Automobiles." Candy's performance was one of the best.

Dana said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dana said...

First of all, I must comment on how male dominated these categories are! I can somewhat understand the bias, given that there are very few women actors who can "open" a movie--according to a film producer that came and lectured one of my college classes. But fine performance should not descriminate, so I will add my top five actors, male and female.

Cate Blanchett-I know that most of her projects have been bio-pics, ala Hepbern in The Aviator and Dylan in I'm Not There, but the woman can act. One thing not mentioned previously is the ability to impersonate without overdoing it. SNL actors are doing it for laughs, so they take the known mannerisms of a character and exaggerate them; I don't think Jamie Fox was trying to be funny. These impersonations are much more complex than the average SNL skit. Blanchett is also willing to take risks, and stays in character while doing it. Plus, I loved her in Elizabeth, the transforation from sweet girl to ruthless monarch was amazing.

Julienne Moore-The Big Lebowski, Magnolia...I've never seen her do a bad job.

My Men:

Jim Carrey, Eternal Sunshine-there is a truth that comedic actors "get no respect." Is a comic actor who's trying to be serious any more different than a "normal" person pretending to be handicapped (i.e. Leo in What's Eating Gilbert Grape. Has he really been good in anything else? I don't think so)?

Jeff Bridges- The Dude in The Big Lebowski. Iconic character with great quotes (The Dude abides). But then I'm biased; I love the Coen bros., and they are good at creating characters (or do they just choose great actors?)

Daniel Day Lewis-Gangs of New York. I was p.o.'d when he was snubbed for this one. But then, he's never been bad, either.

I could expound more on the idea of comedies and their lack of love from the Academy. My favorite movies fall in the category of "Dark Comedy," so I'm used to being disappointed during Oscar season.