When Peter O’Toole was denied an Oscar for his astonishing performance in “Venus” a few years ago, I turned off the television declaring, “That’s it for me and the Oscars!”
I can’t recall all the times I’ve made that promise and failed to keep it. It should probably go onto my iConfess app list of sins to be confessed. Tonight I will once again be watching, yes, I confess, beginning with the ‘Red Carpet’ coverage — I can’t remember a year since I was a child that I have missed the Oscars on TV.
Politics is usually the reason for my outrage. The gratuitous slaps at anything Republican by both hosts and guests is a constant reminder of how expertise is compartmentalized, but wisdom is not.
Tonight’s hosts — James Franco and Anne Hathaway — will likely take a few shots at Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for his tough stand against organized labor, but that will probably be the extent of it. I hope!
I doubt if anyone will mention the American soldiers serving in Afghanistan under President Obama, although self-righteous protests against the war in Iraq under President Bush was never far from the Oscar podium during Bush’s second term.
The tribal behavior of Academy members is always to be looked for. I fully expect the Academy to honor one of its home town favorites, Jeff Bridges, over the UK’s Colin Firth, whose performance in “The King’s Speech” was as astonishing as that of O’Toole’s in 2007.
In “True Grit” Bridges gives one of his best performances, far exceeding that of the over-praised “Crazy Heart,” for which he won the Oscar last year. Yet, one hopes the Academy will pay homage to one of the rare moments of transcendence in cinema rather than giving Bridges his second under-deserved Oscar in a row.
Annette Bening’s standing in the Hollywood community may also win her an Oscar for playing a lesbian in “The Kids Are All Right,” a film of quality but compromised from the start by its determination to make a “statement” about gays and lesbians as parents. Bening should have received the Oscar for “Being Julia.”
The Academy simply can’t ignore the heroic performance of Natalie Portman in “Black Swan.” “Heroic,” by the way, is Roger Ebert’s description of Portman’s portrayal of a young ballet dancer driven mad by her aspiration to attain the title of a prima ballerina.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I could stay in the theater until the end of “Black Swan.” I can’t recall a mainstream American film that made me squirm so much. At one point in the film, my body was turned towards the row behind me as I watched over my shoulder. It’s a tribute to the film not that I squirmed but that I squirmed and stayed.
Watching Portman’s character of Nina ripping the skin off her back with her finger nails was disturbing but powerfully signified all that was to come. A beautiful, talented, and seemingly kind young woman gradually destroys herself with the help of an overbearing stage mother, played perfectly by Barbara Hershey.
If either Portman or Firth loses the Oscar it will repeat the 2007 “Venus” fiasco with Peter O’Toole.