a theatre, film & pop culture review
This is the one category in which the votes have been sign, sealed and delivered since Tom Hooper invented live singing in film musicals (#notreally). Nothing — and I mean nothing (ok, besides a write-in win for snubbed director Kathryn Bigelow) would make me happier than if ANYONE BUT HATHAWAY won this award. It’s not that Anne Hathaway doesn’t have some chops — she does, and she was excellent in Rachel Getting Married (for which she was nominated in 2009), and she can hold her own wonderfully well with Shakespeare. She’s certainly the most dedicated of the Les Misérables cast: As the single-mom-prostitute Fantine, she emotes the shit out of her 20 minutes on screen, all tear-streaked cheeks and vein-popping vocal strains in her big my-life-is-an-epic-disappointment number, “I Dreamed a Dream.” She’s not the best singer in the world, but she gets the job done, and apparently that’s enough to earn you an Oscar.
But wouldn’t it be utterly delightful if the woman who you can’t believe was even nominated, won? Jacki Weaver has been nominated once before — and that recognition for the Australian crime drama Animal Kingdom was also a surprise. It’s not that Weaver’s apprehensive and adorably concerned mom in Silver Linings Playbook isn’t spot on, it’s that she’s one of those fine actors that does her job so well — a true ensemble member — that she doesn’t stand out in the usual way (unlike, say, the showy Robert DeNiro in the same film). Needless to say, Weaver’s just happy to be invited to the party.
Amy Adams is both the princess and the powerhouse. She could so easily have done the clueless sweetheart roles for the rest of her career — Enchanted, Junebug – or taken the rom com route a la Reese Witherspoon (shudder). Instead, Adams’s choices are consistently inconsistent — last year, she was in The Muppets, and now here she is, the wife of a cult leader in Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master. Adams’s quiet performance is deceiving: on the surface, her Peggy Dodd is the ideally gentle, loving mother, but underneath, barely visible, is a simmering rage, just waiting for the moment to boil over. You see this rage take over in the bathroom scene with Philip Seymour Hoffman before she forcibly pushes it back down, and exerting a terrifying discipline, erases every once of its effort from her face. It’s a — dare I say it? — masterful performance, but not the one that will give the four-time nominee her first Oscar.
This is Sally Field‘s third nomination, and it could very well be her third win; if anyone can overtake the singing prostitute, it’s Mrs. Mary Todd Lincoln. Not having done any significant work in well over a decade (possibly two), Field lobbied hard and gained 25 pounds (a true mark of the serious actor, of course) for this, her “comeback” role, and she nails it. As the president’s possibly bipolar wife, Field expertly crafted a sense of resentment verging on hysteria of a brokenhearted mother. Her Mary has two astonishing breakdowns — one opposite Daniel Day-Lewis, the other with Tommy Lee Jones — and more than holds her own; she commands those scenes. This would be a well-deserved win (if the Academy would just get their heads out of their asses and vote appropriately).
No one’s talking seriously about Helen Hunt‘s performance in The Sessions, which is an absolute shame. The very fine actress hasn’t had a significant role in over a decade — since the Mel Gibson 2000 rom com What Women Want (remember that gem?) — and her one other nomination was also a win for As Good as It Gets in 1997. This film was my big, delightful surprise of the year (everyone in the cast is stellar), and Hunt’s turn as a sensitive-but-straightforward sex-surrogate for a disabled client (played wonderfully by a snubbed John Hawkes) is beautifully touching in its sense of ease with both body and spirit. Her work is intimate, subtle and beautiful. I’d love to see her earn some much-deserved recognition here.