I recently saw “The Master” in 70 mm and, like most, cannot stop thinking about it. Every moment of it was glorious – the recurring deep blue color palette and shots of the boat’s wake, Johnny Greenwood’s discordant score, that enigmatic final scene, and, especially, Joaquin Phoenix’s haunting performance as Freddie Quell.
However, the film also reminded me that Phoenix’s role is guaranteed an Oscar nod not merely due to its merits but also to two distinct advantages on the road to Oscar: one, the emotional showiness of the part and two, the fact that he has Harvey Weinstein backing his awards campaign. But what about this year’s understated or underrepresented performances? Not everyone’s characters can scuttle around with bowlike shoulders and perform impetuous acts of violence. Not every studio has the resources to perpetuate aggressive advertising campaigns the entire Oscar season.
Here’s a list dedicated to those roles that will most likely be ignored this winter (and not just by the Oscars, but by the whole slew of acting accolades). Sometimes, it is due to their cinematic context (“Magic Mike” (2012) is a little too racy for Oscar, shall we say) or their fairly obscure indie roots (“On the Road” (2012)). But the roles have completed these wonderful films and they will not be forgotten.
1) Garrett Hedlund, “On the Road”
Despite a freaking awesome soundtrack, “Tron: Legacy” (2010) — the first major starring vehicle for actor Garrett Hedlund — was pretty much another Disney failed attempt at a franchise for young adults. Considering the original film was no good, many of us correctly pegged it doomed from the start. But as Dean Moriarty in Walter Salles’ fine adaptation of “On the Road,” the lanky thespian ran away with the film, simultaneously exuding charisma, careless cruelty, and pathetic childishness. Just tell me those last few minutes didn’t persuade every fiber of your being to pity the morally ambiguous Moriarty.
2) Michael Fassbender, “Prometheus” (2012)
While, for the most part, devoted “Alien” (1979) fans (myself included) were somewhat disappointed by “Prometheus,” there was one major redeeming factor: Michael Fassbender playing an android. Fassbender elevating blockbuster films with striking supporting roles is nothing new—and I’ve discussed it extensively on this blog — but that sequence at the beginning exhibiting his imitation of Peter O’Toole in “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962) was mesmerizing. If only the rest of the film had captivated as much as watching David operate the ship as crewmembers slept.
3) Rachel Weisz, “The Deep Blue Sea” (2011)
Check out this gem of a film, which had its American release earlier this year, on Netflix Instant Watch. Rachel Weisz gives yet another startling performance as Hester, an Anna Karenina-like tragic heroine who falls in love outside her marriage. Here’s to betting Weisz won’t get nearly as much attention as Keira Knightly in the upcoming Joe Wright adaptation of that novel. Also: this trailer practically makes me swoon, it’s so gorgeously rendered.
4) Alex Pettyfer, “Magic Mike”
Like Hedlund, Pettyfer has also been unfairly relegated to lame Hollywood heartthrob roles after being picked from modeling stints at Burberry to star in teenybopper films “I Am Number Four” (2011), “Beastly” (2011), and “In Time” (2011). But this year, in addition to the many, many pleasant surprises that Steven Soderbergh’s “Magic Mike” offered viewers (that cheesy trailer misleadingly portrayed the film as a Channing Tatum rom-com instead of a tale of American greed), Pettyfer’s rather thankless and subtle performance as a male stripper newbie who takes the wrong path was a notable highlight.
5) Mary Elizabeth Winstead, “Smashed”
I’ll admit, I haven’t seen “Smashed” yet, but the attention it’s providing little-known actress Mary Elizabeth Windstead is phenomenal. Known primarily as Lucy McClane in “Live Free or Die Hard” (2007), Winstead is now being lauded for her performance as a recovering alcoholic in “Smashed.” It just goes to show how indie film can reveal the talents of actors who would otherwise be assigned shallow parts. Oh, and she’s playing opposite Aaron Paul of “Breaking Bad” fame. Did I mention that this film sounds awesome?
Tags: cinephile, film, Katie Kilkenny, oscars