As Hollywood prepares to congratulate itself next weekend on another year filled with admirable cinematic efforts I wish to present you with my thoughts on a few of the fine actors and actresses who have delivered performances
recognized by AMPAS.
Daniel Day-Lewis appears to be the favorite to win the Oscar for Best Actor. No one would doubt Day-Lewis is an exceedingly talented thespian, and there is nothing the Academy appreciates more than a respected veteran of the screen engaging the public with a theatrical interpretation of a colossal historical figure. The worthy Day-Lewis is certainly not known for understatement, and never fails to impress.
Joaquin Phoenix’s reasonably more subtle performance as a World War II veteran disillusioned by the broken promises of the dubious cult of Scientology in Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master is also worthy of note.
Other nominees include Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook, Hugh Jackman for Les Miserables, and Denzel Washington for Flight. While my enthusiasm for the Academy Awards has perhaps waned over the years, I inevitably remain intrigued and curious to know which films receive attention from year to year in anticipation of the grand pageant known as the Oscars.
This year has seen some historical developments within the category of Best Actress.The eighty-five-year-old Emmanuelle Riva, who will be turning eighty-six on February 24, became the oldest actress nominated in history when
her heart-wrenching performance in Michael Haneke’s Amour all but exceeded expectations. She plays an octogenarian suffering from successive strokes as her helpless husband looks on in despair. Riva, an icon of French cinema, is known to many for her role as ‘Elle’ in Alain Resnais’s seminal modernist classic from 1959, Hiroshima, Mon Amour. The other star of Haneke’s Amour, Jean-LouisTrintignant (The Conformist, My Night at Maud’s), was unfortunately overlooked for his subdued performance as the husband. The nine-year old Quvenzhané Wallis captured the national spotlight when she became the youngest ever female nominee upon delivering an endearing performance in the gritty realist drama Beasts of the Southern Wild from novice filmmaker and Wesleyan graduate Benh Zeitlin. Set in the Louisiana bayous following a devastating meteorological disaster, the film was an unexpected but sensational
success over the summer. Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lawrence, and Naomi Watts are also nominated, for Zero Dark Thirty, Silver Linings Playbook, and The Impossible respectively.
The Best Picture race appears to be wide open at this point. Due to its victories at both the Golden Globes and the Producers Guild Awards, Ben Affleck’s Argo has been reliably predicted to win despite its lack of a Best Director
nomination. As many probably know, Driving Miss Daisy (1989) was the last film to pull off the feat of winning Best Picture without its director receiving requisite recognition. As always, however, a competently executed historical epic helmed by Steven Spielberg can never be counted out, regardless of the circumstances.Leading with twelve nominations certainly does not hurt Lincoln’s chances either. Other films up for the top prize include Amour, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty, Life of Pi, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Les Miserables, and Django Unchained.
Nevertheless, the grand spectacle set to take place next weekend should not detract attention from some of the other films released this past year that may not have been on the radar of most Academy voters. One such film is Abbas Kiarostami’s Like Someone in Love, which is currently running at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. This satirical study of a father-daughter relationship that develops between a young Tokyo prostitute and one of her aged clients as she struggles to escape the abuse of her overly possessive boyfriend is not to be missed.