It was only May (New York Times, 5/17/13), and Manohla Dargis, arguably our finest film critic, is talking Academy Awards? and doing it seriously?
In reporting on the Cannes Film Festival (“Ducking Rain and Competition at Cannes”) she first offers two nauseous quotes — Let’s go Evelyn Waugh: not nauseous, vomit-making — two vomit-making quotes from producer Scott Rudin, putting Cannes (and France?) and its voters in their place. He remarks that putting yourself in competition at Cannes shows that you have confidence in your film. This is what you tell “the community” (community? Is it the festival? Cannes? the show business world ?), that you think your picture is so good “it can stand the long march to the Academy Awards.”
Wait. There’s more. Dargis also quotes him as saying, about “No Country for Old Men” at Cannes in 2007: “We came out winning nothing, but it didn’t matter.” The movie “ended up going the whole way…” (“by taking the Oscar for best picture,” Dargis explains).
Dargis also writes: “The long- haul strategy that Mr. Rudin raised worked well for Michael Haneke’s ‘Amour,’ which won the Palme last year and went on to receive a surprising five Academy Award nominations. It won just one Oscar, for best foreign-language film, but it’s clear that its Cannes laurels and the bedrock of strong reviews at the festival helped establish its bona fides with Academy members.”
Trintignant and Riva and Haneke needed to prove themselves to the Academy? Well, outrageous as it seems Dargis might be right about that (though Trintignant had once before been nominated).
Dargis appears to write all this without irony or criticism or any observation whatever. Perhaps she thought the naked, mechanistic quotes from Rudin would cover all that. At least she has not yet joined the great Owen Gleiberman in calling, in print, for Academy voters to nominate and finally choose contenders that would make the Oscar show (!) more interesting.
The 25 Greatest Performances of All Time
The Third Man
I have another actor to add to my list-in-progress of the 25 greatest film performances by male actors. I have in a past blog chosen two performances:
Haley Joel Osment in A.I. Artificial Intelligence.
N!xau in The Gods Must Be Crazy.
I would be the last to deny that lists are subjective. But like others, I try for objectivity; and I am at pains to point out here that while N!xau was a great human being, an unforgettable spirit, his name appears on my list because his PERFORMANCE is a great one. The extent to which the performance of this non-professional is a result of editing is minimal. He is believable, consistent — don’t forget funny — and always wondrously alive.
I am adding to this admittedly slowly-growing list a third name, Denis Lavant in Holy Motors, in a multiple-role performance, a tour-de-force which never feels that way, never comes across as showing off.
NEXT POST Friday July 19
See you at the movies,