Friday, October 15, 2010

True Hooks For Oscar Grit. About Supporting Actor...

I'm updating the Oscar categories as you read [index] but today I'd like to talk specifically about the supporting category. Can the Coen Bros western True Grit figure in?

Supporting Actor
The excitement-boosting second trailer for True Grit gives us a good look at both Matt Damon and Josh Brolin. I had hoped that we'd get a good look at the always under-appreciated and under-used Barry Pepper [sigh] but if the trailer is any indication, you may blink and miss him in the finished movie.

Lately Oscar voters have been on a villainous bender in the Supporting Actor category. There are many reasons for this the first being who the hell would deny Ledger in '07, Bardem in '08 and Waltz in '09? But aside from a great quality performance -- nut usually the deciding factor -- Oscar has always enjoyed a good stock role, particularly in the Supporting categories. Are they in the mood for The Sidekick, The Villain, The Wisened Old Man/Mentor, The Sad Sack, or The Eccentric Weirdo?

Maybe I should chart out the last decade?

 You're welcome!

Obviously Geoffrey Rush is good to go this year for The King's Speech. Even if he weren't a beloved awards-magnetized actor, he's all these things they love (mentor, weirdo, arguable co-lead).

When they're not rewarding those stock roles and tropes, they're rewarding lead players they've fraudulently shoehorned to the 'lesser' category or certain types of performers that might crossover into any of these categories but might not: The Ham, The Overdue Giant or The Guy Who Happens To Be Having a Great Year (And This is The Film We Decided To Honor Him For).

But before anyone says "these are basic fictional tropes, of course they're rewarded" remember that not every "type" is rewarded. Oscar generally has no time for The Cocksure Young Upstart or The Longsuffering Boyfriend [Tangent: They love Longsuffering Girlfriends but no patient if exasperated men. Imagine if the sexes in Erin Brockovich were reversed. Wouldn't Erin Eckhardt -- ha! -- have been looking at a Supporting Actress nomination for co-starring in Aaron Brockovich]. They're not even all that crazy about The Loving/Proud Father or The Beautiful Loser or the Sexy "Interloper"/Seducer... this is probably why Michael Fassbender couldn't get any attention for Fish Tank despite great reviews and this is why I worry about Mark Ruffalo though everyone else seems assured of his nomination for The Kids Are All Right. He doesn't fit it any vague category that they regularly flock to and what's more he doesn't have an accent, a disease, a drinking problem or anything else to sell, showmanship wise. His character is just this fully articulated human and that type of brilliance is sometimes a tough sell.

In other words: Where's the hook?  He'll need help from his 'trouper who is overdue for attention' status. But then, Sam Rockwell (Conviction) wants those votes himself and he's got the showier character.

So I was thinking of True Grit and the way it fits into the mouthy sidekick and the charismatic villain categories (Damon and Brolin respectively) and how The Social Network doesn't really even though it also has two star hopefuls in play. You can definitely call Justin Timberlake a charismatic villain (Oscar's favorite type) but can you really call Garfield a "sidekick?"...  he's not mouthy or wisecracking, and part of the conflict is that he's really not interest in being a sidekick. He wants the co-leading role that he keeps getting turned down for. He's just kind of this guy who is losing control of the monster he helped create. And yet he's not really a pitiable sadsack either. This is all a long way of saying that Oscar likes characters to fall a little more to the extreme side of the personality spectrum. Garfield, like Ruffalo, is just beautifully examining a somewhat normal guy in an extraordinary situation. No hooks.

So, good luck to both. Or maybe you think they won't need luck. Do tell...

Updated: Picture, Director, Supporting Actor, Actor, Foreign Films

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