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Up for an Oscar: Great Nominations and How They Got There

February 4, 2012 Leave a comment

It’s easy to look at the Oscar nominations list and talk about the favorites; who should win and who will win.I thought it would be fun to look at some of the unconventional nominations from this year’s field, and talk a bit about why they deserve to be there. This is by no means an exhaustive list; I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t seen all the movies and performances in the running. These are just a few of my favorite nominations, and why I feel they deserve to be in the running.

Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids (2011) – Actress in a Supporting Role

What a run it has been for Melissa McCarthy. Before 2010, McCarthy was probably best known for her role as Sookie in TV’s Gilmore Girls (2000-2007). In the last two years, that has all changed. In 2010 her new series Mike & Molly (2010-Present) premiered and became a hit. In 2011 she stole the show in the hilarious Bridesmaids as Megan. People gave Bridesmaids credit with convincing Hollywood that, yes, women can be funny. But that’s a topic for another article.

The focus here needs to be on how a comedic performance ended up nominated for an Oscar, especially when The Academy tends to reward dramatic performances over comedic ones. The first thing that needs to be noted is the pure comedic value of McCarthy’s performance. There are a lot of comedic performances that pay homage to  earlier performances, but McCarthy created a truly original character that struck home with audiences. But I believe she got the nomination based on her character, and not just the comedic performance. In a brief moment of exposition, Megan explains how she was an outcast as a child. She rose above it to become the overconfident and sexually agressive woman she is today. This doesn’t become just a small detail. All the humor McCarthy portrays is deeply rooted in her overcoming her childhood problems and becoming confident in who she is now.

The character of Megan can also be used as a microcosm as to why the original screenplay for Bridesmaids, penned by Annie Mumolo and Kristin Wiig, is also up for an Oscar.

Animated Feature Film

While it’s no real surprise considering their entry this year, it’s important to note the growth of animation as a genre. This will be the first time since 2007 that Pixar will not win the Oscar for Animated Feature Film, and the first time ever that Pixar has not even been nominated since the category was introduced in 2001. This fact shows the growth of the industry internationally, with nominees from all over the world making the cut. Pixar will have it’s work cut out for them when Brave (2012) is released this year.

Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) – Actor in a Leading Role

Best Actor Oscars have a tendency to go to period pieces and overt displays of emotion. This isn’t to say overacting, but instead to congratulate an actor on being able to tap into difficult emotions and display them in a believable sense. This is why Gary Oldman’s George Smiley from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is such an incredible nomination.

Instead of an overt display of emotion, Oldman has to carefully control his emotions to play the introverted Smiley. Many times you can actively see Smiley’s internal emotions fighting to come to the surface, only to be pushed back down by his cold and calculating demeanor. Smiley’s struggle with the corruption of the spy organization he was a critical member of, is subtlely portrayed throughout. His final triumph is recognized by Smiley allowing himself a small, smug smile at the end of the film. In an era of overt emotions, it’s great to see an incredibly subtle performance get a nomination.

The Artist (2011) – Best Picture

The Artist, at first glimpse, seems to be an incredible triumph for a silent film. In an era of 3D, action, and explosions, a film that’s soundtrack consists of only music (for the most part) and has special effects that are nearly nonexistent, it’s incredible how The Artist has grabbed a hold of audiences and The Academy.

But on closer look, The Artist is a tremendously made film that speaks to the very culture that drives The Academy. Instead of a revolutionary or risque story in any way, The Artist compiles a greatest hits of Hollywood look and feel. Films ranging from Vertigo (1958) to Citizen Kane (1941) have visual and audio cues throughout, giving the film a legitimate feel. The Artist doesn’t have to fake its way through Hollywood’s golden era, it’s well versed enough to live in Hollywood’s golden era. Because of the incredibly well educated performances, cinematography, writing, and direction, The Artist fits right in as a Best Picture nominee.

How about you? What are your surprise nominations this year? How about all-time? Leave your thoughts and comments in the comments section below!

Zac Hogle is a writer/director who has worked on several nationally broadcast series and documentaries. You can follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/zhogle.

All images and videos are the copyright and property of their respective holders. No infringement is intended.

The Oscars air February 26th, 2012 at 4PM PST on ABC

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Categories: Acting, Industry, Movies

Who Owns a Character? – Iconic Portrayals in the Batman Franchise

February 5, 2011 2 comments

We see it time and again, great movies succeeding based on great characters. A lot of times we even remember not so great films simply on the strength of a memorable character.

Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones

Film franchises have been built entirely on a character. Who can forget when Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) premiered and introduced us to Indiana Jones? Each film after that became serialized and was introduced as Indiana Jones and the Insert Mythical Object Here. This isn’t to say the films don’t stand on their own, the success of The Mummy (1999) proves the Indiana Jones universe itself can engage an audience, but the films would not have been the same without Indy headlining.

 

Brendan Fraser takes on Arnold Vosloo in The Mummy Returns

But who owns these franchise characters? Not legally speaking, but artistically? Every character goes through so many hands to get to the screen, who has final ownership? Is it the writer? The director? The actor? While logical arguments can be made for all of the above, it’s hard to go against the actor. Their face is ultimately tied to their character and audiences the instant the film is released.

But even with that acknowledgement the answer isn’t that simple. While, so far, Indiana Jones has only been played by Harrison Ford, what about other iconic characters that have more than one actor? As a case study for this article, I thought we could look back at the many faces of The Joker of Batman fame.

Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight

If you were to ask most people right now who their favorite Joker is, I’d be willing to bet that more people would cite Heath Ledger than not. His brilliant portrayal of the sadistic madman in The Dark Knight (2008) shone a new and different light onto the character. In Christopher Nolan’s Batman universe, The Joker is a convincing, scary and frighteningly realistic psychopath.

Any cartoonish nature of the character was gone, and The Joker lived for once in our reality. Right now, the popular vote has to go to Heath Ledger.

But how much does the popular vote count for? Let’s not forget in 1989 the popular vote would have swung another way for another fantastic performance.

Jack Nicholson as The Joker from Batman

When Batman (1989) came out, it was in a dry spell for super hero movies. Nobody watched them and the genre had grown stale. So Warner Brothers hired a visionary impressionist director in Tim Burton to bring Gotham City to the big screen and he chose legendary actor Jack Nicholson to play his Joker.

Nicholson’s character lived in Burton’s fantasy world and wasn’t subject to normal laws and realities in the same way Ledger’s was. Nicholson was able to turn up the crazy while dialing down the realism. In other words: Nicholson’s Joker was completely off his rocker. Where it always felt there was more than meets they eye to Ledger’s Joker, Nicholson’s wore his plan on his sleeve. He was going to take over Gotham and kill everyone. No grander scheme. Simple. Crazy.

But his Joker wasn’t entirely original. Many of his comedic elements can be traced to yet another man’s portrayal of The Joker.

Cesar Romero as The Joker from the Batman TV Series

Who can forget the way that Cesar Romero played The Joker in the 1960’s Batman TV series? One of the first mainstream portrayals of the character, Romero made him much more of a comedian than villain. That’s how the universe was set up for the 60’s Batman franchise, however.

The campy, cheesy series was made that way entirely on purpose and succeeded because of it. The villains on the show had to have completely ludicrous schemes for the show to work. The more outlandish the scheme and character, the more fun it was for the viewer to watch. Romero took this ball and ran with it.

So, the nostalgia vote has to go to Cesar Romero. But there is still another vote we haven’t considered.

 

Mark Hamill as The Joker from Batman: The Animated Series

Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995) can be credited with keeping the Batman franchise alive in the early 90’s. DC Comics did fantastic work parlaying that into Justice League (2001-2006) and other cartoon series. In those series can be found yet another iconic Joker performance: that of Mark Hamill.

Many people graduating right now grew up with Mark Hamill’s Joker moreso than Nicholson or Romero. Hamill was able to draw on both Jack Nicholson and Cesar Romero for his performance. However, thanks to the animated format, he didn’t have to worry about taking people out of the performance by being too over the top. Thanks to this, Hamill’s Joker may be the most delightfully over the top of all four. He gets the nerd vote.

But, in the end, which of these four performances is the definitive Joker? Which actor owns The Joker? Does the popular vote, the nostalgic vote, or the nerd vote count for the most?

There is a poll below for your vote, expand your thoughts in the comments!

Zac Hogle is a writer/director who has worked on several nationally broadcast series and documentaries. You can follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/zhogle.

All images are the copyright and property of their respective holders. No infringement is intended.

 

Categories: Acting, Movies, Writing

Never Walk Off Set

October 8, 2010 Leave a comment

We’ve all had those days, whether they be as writers, editors, directors or actors. Somebody on set is being incredibly difficult to deal with. They are demanding something unreasonable, or they’re just treating you like dirt. Regardless, that person has made your day a waking nightmare.

It’s on those days that it’s so important to remember what should be your number one rule for working in the entertainment industry: never walk off set. Whether your ‘set’ is an edit suite, a writer’s room or an actual set, never leave in the middle of a job. You can claim that you were standing up for yourself, that the other person was unreasonable, but the bottom line is you become an X factor in any hiring decisions.

By walking off set, you tell everyone you work with that you are a renegade, and renegades scare producers. The people in charge of hiring like to know that they’re bringing in a known commodity. They like to be able to bet in what they’re going to get out if a person. If there’s even a slight doubt about whether or not you will be 100% committed to a project, they’ll most likely look for alternative options.

Now, I’m not saying lay down and take trouble from anyone willing to dish it, there are proper channels and ways to deal with issues, that may be another topic for a subsequent post. All I’m saying is don’t compromise your work over a grudge or some wrong-doing. All that will do is hurt your career in the long run.

Make sure people like working with you and that you always bring your ‘A’ game and there will always be someone willing to bring you on board. Just never walk off the set.

Categories: Acting, Editing, Writing
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