Oscar Moment: “A Single Man”

13 11 2009

Today’s “Oscar Moment” is brought to you by the movie “A Single Man,” adapted from a decades-old novel by Christopher Isherwood (if that sounds like the closing of “Sesame Street,” excuse my tardiness of honoring the show’s 40th anniversary).  The movie could follow a similar awards season road to “Slumdog Millionaire.”  Both were discovered at film festivals, got a distributor, and began attracting much Oscar talk.  “A Single Man” burst onto the scene at the Venice Film Festival, where Colin Firth took home the prize for Best Actor.  He has since become a frontrunner in the Best Actor race at the Oscars.  But Firth is not the only part of the movie getting attention.  Julianne Moore has gained some traction in a tight Best Supporting Actress race, and Tom Ford, former fashion designer (something I know only from a quick Google search), has won raves for his first film.

From watching the trailer, after the shock of watching a montage filled with Ford’s distinct, visually arresting style, you probably are asking, “This looks good, but what is this movie about?”  The movie centers around middle-aged homosexual British professor George Falconer (Firth) and him reeling from the death of his partner, Jim (Matthew Goode, “Watchmen”).  It follows him over the course of a day, consoled by close friend Charley (Moore), as he tries to discover if life is worth living without Jim.

It is a tight Best Actor field this year, with heavyweights such as Morgan Freeman, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Jeff Bridges in contention.  Yet most people seem to think that Firth is safe for at least a nomination.  He is a likable actor, never demanding much attention, and making missteps in only the quietest of fashions.  Although many people seem to have postulated that the Academy is very homophobic from its snub of “Brokeback Mountain,” the Best Actor prize went to Sean Penn for playing homosexual San Francisco mayor Harvey Milk last year.

Moore perhaps faces even stiffer competition in Best Supporting Actress.  Mo’Nique is a lock (which I can now testify to from seeing the movie).  Barring a complete flop of “Nine,” at least one actress will get in, if not two.  “Up in the Air” has two strong candidates in the category, Anna Kendrick and Vera Farmiga.  “The Lovely Bones” could also has two potential nominees with past winners Rachel Weisz and Susan Sarandon.  I don’t think Moore is a certainty by any means, but I must keep in mind that I have not seen her performance in the movie.  But she is a four-time nominee, and maybe it is her time.  We all know how desperate the Academy was to award Kate Winslet last year after five times coming up empty on Oscar night, even willing to commit category fraud to give it to her.

As for the Best Picture/Director duo, it seems to be less likely than the two actors.  The film’s subject matter could likely hurt it – I say this not because of my own personal beliefs but because there exists a large faction of old white men in the Academy opposed to homosexuality.  I think the triumph of “Milk” last year shows significant progress, but nonetheless, this homophobia still exists, even if in vestiges.  Without the expansion of the field of Best Picture nominees, I don’t think this would have a chance.  But I think “A Single Man” lurks at the bottom of the ten or just outside of it.  If one of the heavyweights like “Invictus” or “The Lovely Bones” underwhelms, I think “A Single Man” could sneak in and steal a spot.  As for director Tom Ford, I am quite skeptical about his chances.  While the trailer shows an appealing stylistic approach, this cannot cover the fact that this is Ford’s first film.  It is fairly rare for a director to earn a nomination for their first project, and in such a strong year for directors, I think Ford will get lost in a crowd of big names like Clint Eastwood, Peter Jackson, and James Cameron.

I feel like I close every “Oscar Moment” on the same note: “I don’t care if it gets nominated, this looks good enough to get me to a theater!”  The same goes for “A Single Man,” which opens in limited release on December 11 and will gradually expand across the country as awards season progresses.

BEST BETS FOR NOMINATIONS: Best Actor (Colin Firth), Best Supporting Actress (Moore), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction

OTHER POTENTIAL NOMINATIONS: Best Picture, Best Director (Tom Ford)

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