Only five days to go until my Super Bowl of Award Shows airs. Since I’ve seen so many of the nominated films and performances this year, I’m especially excited. Will it be “The King’s Speech” or “The Social Network” for Best Picture? Natalie Portman or Annette Bening for Best Actress? Melissa Leo or Amy Adams for Best Supporting Actress and Christian Bale or Geoffrey Rush for Best Supporting Actor? And those are just my latest thoughts; I could change my mind and toss in a few other names by tomorrow.
An interesting perspective on the Oscar races ran in The Daily Beast today. The post’s author, Tricia Romano, is not a fan of the performances of either Portman or Bale and feels that neither should win. On Portman:
“However decent and focused her performance is—and yes, she did really starve herself to get that emaciated ballerina figure, and trained for six months to do pointe etc, etc.—it’s lacking in any range. From the first shot to the last ninth-tenths of the movie, Portman wears one expression only. Eyebrows permanently arched in a way previously only achieved by the Botox in Nicole Kidman’s brows, Portman spends the entire movie quivering in a hyper-attuned state of fear. If the narrative arc of Black Swan (spoiler alert!) is that we are dealing with a person who has a tentative grip on reality and unravels into a state of total insanity, then the actor needs to show more than one level of freaked out. Portman does not. In fact, the only time Portman’s performance works is at the very end, when she becomes the black swan, but even then, she is helped quite a bit by the creepy black makeup and blood red eyes.”
Believe me when I tell you that I said exactly the same thing to Michael as we were walking out of the screening back in December. I appreciated the zeal with which Portman threw herself into the role, but I remember how keenly I missed any sort of an arc for her character; she was a mental case in the beginning of the film and she was a mental case at the end. If I were an Academy voter, I wouldn’t put a check mark next to Portman’s name. Instead, I would give the prize to Bening who, in one scene alone, showed what good acting is all about. (If you haven’t seen “The Kids Are All Right,” there’s a spoiler ahead so avert your eyes.) It’s the scene at the dinner table when she’s just come back from the bathroom and realized Julianne Moore has been sleeping with Mark Rufalo. Her reaction is devastating in its restraint. I found myself gasping and placing my hand over my mouth, feeling the hurt her character was feeling. She wins the Oscar in my book, hands down.
On to Christian Bale. Here’s what Tricia Romano says about his performance:
“Bale’s performance in The Fighter is the acting equivalent of a Kanye West ALL CAPS LOCK blog entry. An assault of acting with a Capital A, it is histrionic by definition, and even if it is faithful to its real life subject, Dickie, Bale’s performance is too distracting to be infused with emotional truth. The uneven tone of the whole movie can also be blamed for the overwhelming nature of Bale’s performance. And no, I was not impressed by the fake bald spot, because I know that in real life Christian Bale is a handsome man with lustrous long locks that he tosses when he’s making acceptance speeches that make one cringe as one gets glimpses of his huge, unvarnished ego.
‘You can only give a loud performance, like the one I gave, when you have a quiet anchor, a stoic character,’ he said at the Golden Globes, with a devious and knowing look, and a twinkle in his eye. ‘I’ve played that one many times,’—to which we ask: When?
What he’s really saying is, I knowingly and purposely stole the show from Mark Walhberg by twitching up a storm, and after this, I’m going to twitch my way down the red carpet with a big gleaming naked bald dude in my hands.”
I agree and disagree. I agree that a showy, scene-stealing performance like Bale’s wouldn’t have been possible without Mark Wahlberg’s quiet one at the center of the movie, but, unlike Portman, Bale electrified the screen in a way that was so compelling you couldn’t look away. That’s good acting too – the ability to hold the camera and force us to care what happens next.
Can’t wait to find out who will stand at the podium and give an acceptance speech.