Academy Awards buzz is building, and a clear trend is emerging: "Excellent performances in so-so films," says Richard Rushfield at The Daily Beast. From Meryl Streep as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady to Leonardo DiCaprio as FBI legend J. Edgar Hoover in J. Edgar to Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn, many of the "leading contenders in the Best Actor/Best Actress categories are in movies largely considered so-so at best, if not downright awful." Once Best Picture and acting honors went to the same movies. But recently, director-centric films like Slumdog Millionaire and The Hurt Locker have taken home the Best Picture prize, while actors have won trophies with obscure, flawed projects. "How great can these performances be if the film is still bad?" Here, an excerpt:
Ultimately, great performances are not about acting as a self-involved exercise unto itself, but about creating great, rich, unforgettable characters. And if a film has a great, rich, unforgettable character at its heart, audiences will forgive it a galaxy of sins. But if the film is forgettable, how unforgettable can the performance be? In recent years, Oscar has bestowed its favors for various reasons — some political, some artistic — on performances in a collection of films that were almost erased from the public imagination while they were still on the screen: The Reader, La Vie en Rose, Walk the Line, Crazy Heart, and Capote, to name a few. Despite the alleged brilliance at their hearts, the films have managed to be forgotten. Perhaps that is a judgment Oscar should consider the next time it rewards good work in a failed project.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- After Ferguson: Stop deferring to the cops
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Ferguson riots were terrible — but this racist reaction was worse
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- The hilarious hypocrisy of Republicans complaining about the imperial presidency
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- Don't argue about politics this Thanksgiving. Just don't.
- A linguist's guide to HULK SMASH
- In Ferguson, Michael Brown lost his life — and America's police lost the benefit of the doubt
- The slippery slope of Twitter's attempts to stop harassment against women
Subscribe to the Week