2009: Best Actor

5 03 2010

I’m wrapping up the in-depth analysis of this year’s Academy Awards with the Best Actor category. In a perfect world, I would have done the screenplays, director, and picture categories as well. But life happens, and things don’t always work out as planned.

Nevertheless, please enjoy this deeper look at the performances that got these actors here.

Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart”

IN MY OWN WORDS: “The little things that help to turn Bridges into this character aren’t very obvious, yet I never felt like I was watching Jeff Bridges.”

He’s here because … he is an industry veteran with a lot of respect, and his four winless trips to the Oscars simply aren’t enough to honor such a great actor.

George Clooney in “Up in the Air”

IN MY OWN WORDS: “George Clooney remains the best in the business at playing visibly collected while emotionally perturbed beneath the surface.”

He’s here because … he’s an Academy favorite who is as good as he’s ever been in a beautifully nuanced performance.

Colin Firth in “A Single Man”

IN MY OWN WORDS: “Firth keeps the grief bubbling under the surface for most of the movie, and he makes George’s journey even more heart-rending with his subdued misery.”

He’s here because … he is immensely likable, and he finally gives a performance that can turn good feelings into awards attention.

Morgan Freeman in “Invictus”

IN MY OWN WORDS: “Morgan Freeman is remarkable as Mandela, and it is a performance that reminds us why he has such a revered status among actors.”

He’s here because … it’s Morgan Freeman playing Nelson Mandela – a legend playing a legend.

Jeremy Renner in “The Hurt Locker”

IN MY OWN WORDS: “Renner gives an absolute tour de force performance as James; he strips James down until he is emotionally raw.”

He’s here because … he’s finally found his breakout role at 39 in the little movie that could; who can resist that?

Marshall’s “Oscars”

I’ve seen all five of the nominees in this category, and I think they did a great job selecting here.  The only change I would make is replacing Morgan Freeman for Peter Sarsgaard in “An Education.”  Freeman did a great job in “Invictus,” but I felt like it was just him going through the motions.  He didn’t wow me.

Sarsgaard, on the other hand, dazzled me.  He was campaigned for Best Supporting Actor, but category fraud doesn’t happen at my awards.  He brings such grace and debonair to his character, the wooer of teenage Jenny, that I didn’t doubt why she fell for his charms.

So, the lineup at my awards would be …

Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart”
George Clooney, “Up in the Air”
Colin Firth, “A Single Man”
Jeremy Renner, “The Hurt Locker”
Peter Sarsgaard, “An Education”

Predictions

Should win: George Clooney, “Up in the Air”
Could win: Jeremy Renner, “The Hurt Locker”
Will win: Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart”

Bridges has it in the bag, no question about it.  If his wide array of trophies for this performance wasn’t enough, the massive standing ovations he has received collecting them leave no doubt in my mind.





REVIEW: A Single Man

8 02 2010

The protagonist of “A Single Man,” George Falconer (Colin Firth), often references moments of clarity, in which he is able to forget the pain of his past and live in the present.  Director Tom Ford does an excellent job of highlighting these moments, and it is here where his first film absolutely glitters.  He has made a movie that stands as one of the most thoroughly beautiful aesthetic achievements in years.  And it isn’t beautiful just to be beautiful – Ford uses all these elements to subtly alert us to the true mood of the scene, but it’s never so subtle that the message is unattainable.

Set against the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, the film’s events take place on what very well could be the last day of George Falconer’s life.  He has had to mourn the death of his longtime lover Jim (Matthew Goode) in private, thus making him a ticking time bomb of grief, ready to self-destruct at any instant.  George passes through life as little more than a specter, a mere shadow of the charismatic man that once walked in the same loafers.  On this day, no one even seems to suspect anything out of the ordinary.

We follow George as he meticulously attempts to finish his business.  He teaches his english class to a largely insipid and bored college class – with the exception of Kenny (Nicholas Hoult), who seems to take an interest not only in the thematic relevance of the class to the real world, but also in George himself.  He has dinner with his old friend Charley (Julianne Moore), a woman with a high capacity for alcohol and heartbreak.  Yet in the midst of all this, life (or some might call it fate) keeps giving him reminders of why we live.  These fleeting instances of rapture are brilliantly captured by Ford’s lens, and they especially stand out against the bleak canvas of George’s life.

Read the rest of this entry »





Shameless Advertisement #5 – December

1 12 2009

Well, December is finally here!  Bring on the Oscar movies … and plenty of other fun movies!

There was another pretty good turnout for this poll.  In a tie for second place were “The Princess and the Frog,” “Avatar,” “It’s Complicated,” and “Invictus.”  Unfortunately, the runners-up get nothing except a link to their trailers.

There was also a tie for first place.  Rather than prominently feature “Up in the Air” for the third time, I decided to spread the wealth. So the winner, and the readers’ of “Marshall and the Movies” most anticipated movie of December 2009 is…

Read the rest of this entry »





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)