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The Oscar Quest: Best Actor & Best Actress – 2002

These two categories annoy me. In one, a completely undeserving person won, and in the other, I can’t see why that person outperformed everyone else. And I’m trying to. It’s really annoying. You can seriously watch all five of the performances back to back, and at best, maybe rank the winning performance third. At best. And the other one, well, we all know about The Nose. Well, actually, they’re both noses. That’s funny.

Best Actor – 2002

And the nominees were…

Adrien Brody, The Pianist

Michael Caine, The Quiet American

Nicolas Cage, Adaptation.

Daniel Day-Lewis, Gangs of New York

Jack Nicholson, About Schmidt

Adrien Brody — I just don’t get why this won the Oscar. Really don’t. He just seemed to be looking sad all the time.

Take a blank expression, and place it opposte the Holocaust — and you have this performance. And then don’t feed him for like, two weeks. That’s all I saw in this. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I thought he did a good job, but did you see the murderer’s row he beat? (Minus Michael Caine. That was a veteran nomination.) I can’t get behind this win. I can get behind the nomination, but not the win. The only way I can explain it is that everyone else had an Oscar (or two. Or three) already or had certain stigmas (unfairly) which cost them votes. I don’t see it. I tried to. Just don’t.

Oh, he’s the pianist in the title, in case that wasn’t obvious.

Michael Caine — There’s not much here. He did a fine job, but it’s not like he won. So, good job, Michael Caine. This was the beginning of the end. Now he’s off doing that same Michael Caine performance in everything. See: Inception. Michael Caine shows up, sounds intelligent because he’s Michael Caine, doesn’t really act so much as just say stuff in the Michael Caine voice, gets good notices, goes away. Which, is fine. But I really didn’t see enough here to vote for him.

He’s a journalist in Vietnam. Addicted to Opium, fucking a Vietnamese girl. Says he’s gonna marry her, but is still married, and just likes fucking her. Brendan Fraser shows up. He’s a dumb American (the title is a joke. No American is quiet.), working for the CIA and causing some shit. He steals the woman away for a while, gets knifed, and Michael Caine is pretty grizzled, so he’s indifferent to the shit that happens. He just wants his opium and his loving long time. That’s basically the movie.

Nicolas Cage — Dual role. Plays the man who wrote the screenplay, and his twin brother who doesn’t really exist. To say anything about this performance is do do injustice to it. I love this movie so much, and this performance is like a double feature with Matchstick Men — the brilliant use of tics and that nervous exhaling delivery of Cage’s work to perfection here. Some people might not like the performance, but I think it’s brilliant, scene by sweaty scene. I don’t want to try to explain it, because, if you’ve seen it, you can’t. And if you haven’t seen it, what the fuck are you watching instead?

Daniel Day-Lewis — Bill “the Butcher” Cutting. Guess what he does. He’s an Irish immigrant who believes he’s better than some other Irish immigrants, they make some Gangs, and fight, and he kills Liam Neeson in the first scene. Sorry to ruin it for you. The movie does a good job of making it a surprise if you don’t know. It’s all business though. Then he becomes a local crime boss of sorts. This is 1864 New York. Hence the title. But I figured that was obvious. (Some people are just that dumb, I guess.) And Leo is Neeson’s kid who grows up and swears revenge. And in order to get revenge, he ends up working for Bill, and Bill’s this crazy ass motherfucker, who it’s best not to explain about him, and just let Daniel Day Lewis eat up the screen like Pac-Man. It’s a great performance. Gloriously over the top. I’d probably vote it to win, but, it might be just a bit too over the top. I think he learned the balance between over the top and perfection for 2007 (which — very similar accent. Very John Huston).

Jack Nicholson — My god, I loved this performance. Loved, loved, loved, loved it. (Gee, you think he liked it?) Loved it. Brilliant performance. This is Nicholson, in the midst of movies where all he does is go Full Nicholson, and doing the complete and utter opposite of that. He is so toned down during this movie it’s like you’re watching someone else. And it’s brilliant. He plays an old man who is basically forcibly retired. And he’s got nothing to do. His whole life was work. And then his wife dies, and he’s all alone, and now his daughter is getting married. So, he’s got nothing to do. And it’s him basically ruminating on his life. And it’s fucking spellbinding. Watch this movie. If you don’t end up crying during the final scene (and you think the performance was even half as good as I do), then you have no soul.

My Thoughts: For me, this is between Day-Lewis, Nicholson and Cage. Day-Lewis might have been just over the top enough for me not to vote him the win, so I guess my vote would be between Nicholson and Cage. I don’t know. I think — and this was my line of thinking Oscar night — I’m gonna vote Cage, just because Nicholson won the Globe and was a nice sized favorite, so I’ll stick with the underdog performance, knowing he’s got enough recognition. I’d have been happy with anyone winning except Brody (since Caine had no shot).

Rankings:

5. Caine

4. Brody

3. Day-Lewis

2. Nicholson

1. Cage

Best Actress – 2002

And the nominees were…

Salma Hayek, Frida

Nicole Kidman, The Hours

Diane Lane, Unfaithful

Julianne Moore, Far From Heaven

Renée Zellweger, Chicago

Has there been such a weak category in Best Actress since this year? Actually, yeah, probably. Best Actress, above all categories, tends to be the one that’s more about the actress than the performance. I must have said this before, but it’s true. This year is one of the more and less obvious ones. I say less obvious because, let’s face it, most people haven’t even seen The Hours. Have you? I hadn’t. All I knew come Oscar time was that everyone said it was a good movie that was boring as fuck, and that the Academy only liked it because it was an “Oscar” film. And I knew Nicole Kidman basically won for wearing a fake nose.

Eight years later — they were totally right. On the surface, you’d think there was a good performance here. But really, no, not really. This is really about them awarding Nicole Kidman with something. They all came down from their hangover of Halle Berry the year before and were like, “Wow, we really like Nicole Kidman a lot more. We probably should have just given it to her last year and gotten it over with.” So, that made this race pretty unspectacular.

Salma Hayek — This is Salma’s golden role. It’s that role that actors and actresses like her — the ones who are not really Oscar-friendly — tend to do a lot of mainstream stuff — sometimes they do really solid work in films they would never be nominated for — sometimes they miss entirely and seem really bad in things — a few of their choices are somewhat to very questionable — and they really don’t ever pop up on the Oscar radar. But then that one role comes around that is perfect for them, and there they get their chance to shine. This was her role.

The problem is, she was so perfect for it, that there was no way she was ever going to win. Think Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler. Remember how it seemed as though he was born to play that role? Well, this is that to a lesser extent. A lot of people aren’t likely to vote for something when it looks like something they were born to play. So, it’s a shame. But, Salma is really good in the role.

She plays Frida Kahlo, the unibrowed surrealist painter. Nicole had the nose, Salma had the eyebrow.  It’s a good performance, and Julie Taymor directed, making is visually interesting as she always does. Good performance, but a bit too perfect-fit to earn a vote, methinks.

Nicole Kidman — It should be obvious what my thoughts on this are by now. She plays Virginia Woolf — you know, Miss Head in the Oven. Except, for some reason, in this movie, she drowns herself in a lake — I guess because it looks better on film if they wade into the water like a fucking baptism instead of waiting for the gas to come. Apparently the filmmakers hadn’t seen Inside Daisy Clover, because that movie had an awesome head-in-the-oven scene. Though that was played for comedy — I think. It’s hard to tell with satire just how it’s supposed to come off. But, she plays Woolf, nose and all. And really, if you look at pictures of Virginia Woolf, tell me she’s not a dead ringer for Céline Dion. Oh your god is right. I think they should have went with Céline. It would have made the movie so much more interesting.

Basically, Nicole is Woolf, and she’s sad all the time, talks to her sister and niece or something, seems to be in love with her husband, is just sad all the time, then kills herself. That’s it. No real reason. No character arc. Just, sad, sad, dead. Not much of a three act structure. Barely on screen too. I mean, she’s a fine actress and all (she’s one of the ones I think I like until I watch her, and then I’m like — “That wasn’t very good.”), but — winning? Really?

Diane Lane — Well, she fucked a lot. A lot a lot. That seems to be what this movie was about. She’s married to Richard Gere, seemingly happy — we really don’t see her life is all that bad — she bumps into a French dude on the street (That guy that played the main bad dude in SWAT — not Jeremy Renner, the French dude who’s all like, “I will give one million dollar to whoever gets me out of here!” — you remember that shit from the trailers, they showed it like a million times when the movie came out), and then starts fucking him. And then she fucks him for like an hour, avoiding husband and friends so they don’t find out, feels guilty, goes to break it off when she finds out he’s married, gets assfucked in a stairwell, breaks up with him, Richard Gere kills him with a snow globe, then she finds out, it’s tense, and then he goes to turn himself in and she says no, and the movie ends without telling us which he chooses. I didn’t really see what garnered a nomination here, but I like Diane Lane, so I’m okay with it. It’s like this year with Secretariat, she was fine in it, and people said she should be nominated for an Oscar, but, I didn’t really see why she would be, but still would have been cool with it if she were (especially instead of Kidman). So, whatever. She’s clearly the weak nominee here.

Julianne Moore — I loved this performance. Liked the movie a lot too. It’s essentially a Douglas Sirk movie made in 2002. I mean, it doesn’t go full Sirk, sadly, because they shot it like a 2002 movie and didn’t go balls out with the Technicolor, but, still, an admirable effort. It’s basically a composite of All That Heaven Allows and a logical extension of a Sirk narrative if it were made in an era where homosexuality and sexual repression could be talked about more candidly. She’s a housewife, very 50s, and Dennis Quaid is her husband (missed out on a Supporting Actor nod too…not sure why…probably because of John C. Reilly), and she discovers he’s having an affair with a man when she brings him his dinner late at the office one night. Her life spirals out of control, she starts having an non-affair with her colored gardener (Dennis Haysbert), and she’s trying to live with her husband, who tries to control his urges, while also not fucking the gardener, because, you know, he’s black, and we don’t do that. It’s Douglas Sirk. It’s basically the same shit he dealt with without all the censorship issues.

Anyway, the performance was really good, because she did actually adapt her style to the melodramatic style. I mean, it’s still Julianne Moore, and if this weren’t such a weak year, I probably wouldn’t vote for her, but, this, along with the next performance, were the best two on this list.

Renée Zellweger — She was the favorite going into this Oscar night. Her and Kidman split the categories in the Globes, and she was the slight favorite to win this. Sort of like 2-1 to 3-2 favorite. Not much, but still, of the two favorites, she was the one that actually looked like she put work into the performance. Halle Berry winning the Oscar set a chain of makeup Oscars in motion that fucked up races for like three years running. They bumped Kidman to this race, then bumped Zellweger to Supporting next year, which — really didn’t bump anyone, actually. But still, the wrong performances won three times, and that’s not cool. They don’t bump Halle and give it to Nicole, then either Renée or Julianne wins here, and then maybe next year — well, we’ll get to next year when we get to it.

Anyway, Renée is a Vaudeville girl who kills a dude she’s fucking to try to get ahead. He has no plans to do so, so she bumps him off. Once in jail, she hires the slickest, greasiest attorney in Chicago — Richard Gere — and he basically makes the trial a circus, and she uses her acting and singing abilities to turn herself into the darling victim of Chicago, and get acquitted and such. It’s a nice performance. I wouldn’t vote for her over Julianne, but, over Nicole, abso-fucking-lutely.

My Thoughts: The only two performances here I can vote for are Renée and Julianne. I think we all know I liked Julianne better, just because she actually adopted the Douglas Sirk style for the performance. I thought it was a really great job. And I haven’t (totally) come to terms with the whole performance that goes into a musical. I understand the work that goes into it, but the performance part I still don’t fully see. (It’s that creepy fake smile thing they do when they dance.) So, my vote is Julianne.

Rankings:

5. Lane

4. Kidman

3. Hayek

2. Zellweger

1. Moore

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One response

  1. Michael

    Wow, did we watch the same movie? I thought Nicole Kidman showed amazing depth in The Hours, more than just a prosthetic nose and looking depressed. I found her accent and her mannerisms to be very convincing as well. I actually thought the whole film was very well made.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:26 am

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