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Movies: Woof! It's Benicio (Plus: The Best Actress Race)

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Emily Blunt: snubbed by Oscar, chased by werewolves. Poor thing.

GuestbloggerNATHANIEL ROGERS
...dreams of naked gold men with swords this time of year. He blogs daily at the Film Experience.


YOUR FEATURE PRESENTATION
Zombies ruled the movie monster jungles for a good long while in the Aughts until Twilight and True Blood boosted the vampire back up top as the king of all supernatural beasts. When will it be the lycanthropes turn? If THE WOLFMAN is indication, they'll have to keep waiting.

The Wolfman, a reworking of the 1941 monster classic, begins with the recitation of a gloomy gypsy proverb. It amounts to this: prayers won't save you from curses. Something unholy and accursed is definitely roaming the forests near the Talbot estate. Bodies are discovered dead and mangled. Sir John Talbot's (Anthony Hopkins) son goes missing and his fiance Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt) writes to the Talbot prodigal son Lawrence (Benicio Del Toro) to return home and help has father in the search. By the time he does, he's been traveling the world as a famous stage actor, his brother's mutilated body has already been discovered. Local gypsies are blamed and Lawrence seeks them out only to run into the growling monster itself. You can guess what happens next.

Better hope you don't survive that bite Lawrence. What's that? It's already healed?! How strange. Who'da thunk it?

MORE AFTER THE JUMP
...including the most awkward segue-way ever to the Best Actress Oscar race.

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Picture 4In one exposition sequence after that lengthy pre-furry Benicio first act, Sir Talbot warns his son away from obsessing over painful memories. "The past is a wilderness of horrors" he says. It's too bad the film doesn't heed this warning. Why this movie needed so much back-story -- there's more to come in flashback form -- when all the director seems engaged by is the lunar savagery is a mystery.

The mysteries multiply. Why is the film so lethargic even as it races through a ton of plot? Why is literally every "scare" moment cheaply scored with ear-blasting gotcha cues? Why is Lawrence a famous stage actor when it adds nothing to the story? Why is Benicio so unbelievable playing a famous actor when he actually is a famous actor? Why is Emily Blunt taking this so seriously when her co-stars can't be bothered to take it seriously or play it for camp? If The Wolfman is taking the Gothic Epic approach, why doesn't the film risk more operatic indulgence (like, say, Bram Stoker's Dracula)? Why did the filmmakers choose to shoot their dark haired actors swathed in expensive looking black costumes on dark sets with next to little light? How is sleepy eyed Del Toro expected to stay awake when there's no light?

Best Actress
Emily Blunt, also in theaters as THE YOUNG VICTORIA was probably in the dread sixth spot for an Oscar nomination this year. So instead of basking in Oscar glory, she's onscreen running from Benicio. (Here comes the most awkward segue-way ever! Ready?) Once Benicio has gobbled her up, which actual Best Actress nominee would he sniff out next? I'm guessing Sandra Bullock since that hairdo requires chemical maintenance.

Actressfive

The Academy generally goes for only a few types of acting stories here: old pro, biopic and breakouts being are among the most common types and all are represented here. Tilda Swinton in Julia has my vote for best of the year. But her film made only $65,000 in theatrical release as opposed to the $77 million average the other actress vehicles took in. No cash means no campaign no Oscar.

The Best Actress Nominees

  • Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
  • Helen Mirren, The Last Station
  • Carey Mulligan, An Education
  • Gabby Sidibe, Precious
  • Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia

Common wisdom has it that this is now Bullock's to lose with Streep, as ever, as spoiler. Streep has been in the #2 position so many times now one wonders what she'll have to do to finally win another. Bullock has that edge of that all important feverish media backing. She's also got the advantage of carrying a blockbuster in a year when the Academy is widely considered to be trying harder for populism. Mark Harris in a singularly terrific New York Magazine piece on the politics behind Oscar season smartly identifies the embedded narrative of their respective campaigns, calling them "Who'da Thunk It?" (Bullock) and "There Is Now Way on God's Green Earth That This Woman Should Have Fewer Best Actress Oscars Than Hilary Swank" (Streep).

Which woman are you rooting for on March 7th or would you chuck them both to hand the coveted prize to one of the young breakout stars instead?

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Comments

  1. That Wolfman movie looks beyond retarded... and has the bad buzz to substantiate that.

    Does anyone know if that Valentine's Day movie opening this weekend has any gay characters? I'm a wee bit curious about that one despite that I despise Garry Marshall and it's such an obvious Americanized rip-off of the Brit Christmas classic Love, Actually (which I think is totally adorsable).

    Posted by: crispy | Feb 11, 2010 6:06:31 PM


  2. I'm confused, I thought Streep and Swank have the same number of Oscars?
    My favorites would be Carey Mulligan and Gaby Sidibe, though would love if Meryl finally won!

    Posted by: Joel | Feb 11, 2010 6:16:40 PM


  3. ^ re: the movie, not the review. haven't seen it.

    Posted by: ghostfacemillah | Feb 11, 2010 6:29:33 PM


  4. @Joel: Meryl does have two Oscars, but only one is for Best Actress (Sophie's Choice), while the other was for Best Supporting Actress (Kramer vs. Kramer).

    Posted by: Adam | Feb 11, 2010 6:47:30 PM


  5. @Joel --Adam is right, PLUS Meryl's last Oscar was in 1983(!!!) So she is highly overdue, and yes there is no way she should be out-Swanked.

    Meanwhile, though, Sandra Bullock is my movie girlfriend. Lovwe her. She is also everybody's movie girlfriend, and she is both liked and respected in Hollywood. I have placed money that Sandy takes it, in the "You've arrived, Baby" spot! (see: Reese Wotherspoon, Halle Berry)

    Posted by: Strepsi | Feb 11, 2010 7:19:59 PM


  6. That fried chicken comment disappeared fast, didn't it?

    Posted by: MD | Feb 11, 2010 7:32:17 PM


  7. I'm on team Meryl (though would be thrilled if Gabby Sidibe won).

    Posted by: Rodney | Feb 11, 2010 7:33:44 PM


  8. It sure did, MD. But, a jellyfish doesn't have a spine or a sense of humor.

    Posted by: TANK | Feb 11, 2010 7:47:03 PM


  9. I'm usually pro-Meryl but Julie & Julia was such a poorly scripted movie (and poorly conceived.) It was always Meryl Streep "playing" Julia Child -- you never loose yourself in Meryl _as_ Julia. I don't blame Streep for that as much as the direction/script/editing; to give her an Oscar for that is just to honor her legacy and not her work.

    Personally, I'd hope Sidibe to win but easy bets on Bullock.

    Posted by: unruly | Feb 11, 2010 7:59:04 PM


  10. Meryl Streep said that she was not actually attempting to portray Julia Child as she actually was; (and this is brilliant) rather, she was trying to capture what Julie's idealized notion of who Julia Child was and what her life might be, since the Julia in the film was the Julia that Julie speculated about in her blog. Just an interesting notion. Now, Streep so deserves an armload of Oscars, and frankly I believe she was so far better than her contemporaries that she often lost simply because folks in the academy wished to vote against her. She could have easily won in 1985 for her role as Karen Blixen in "Out of Africa," (as Whoopi Goldberg for her role in "The Color Purple), but that year the oscar went to the always engaging Geraldine Paige--winning it largely because she was then a woman in her 60's, and was the sentimental favorite, having contributed so much to film over the years.

    Perhaps, the twist this year is that Streep too will be rewarded for all the roles she should have taken the statue for, but was denied by petty folks who were cold to her brilliance. 16 Oscar nominations--her time has come again.

    (I love Bullock, but let me just say it, with so many losses experienced in the gay community at the hands of the born again/Evangelical right, I just admit I'd hate to see that particular role win an Oscar, yet empowering and legitimizing that community all the more. Petty? Yes, but there you have it).

    Posted by: MackMichael | Feb 11, 2010 8:22:20 PM


  11. apparently the fried chicken comment upset someone. It was a reference to a scene in the movie but I guess it didn't read well if you haven't seen the movie.

    moving on...

    @MACKMICHAEL -- i agree and I'm not sure that that's petty so much as human.

    @RODNEY -- i'm on Team Meryl too though I actually think if you're voting on just these performances and nothing else (and we know that few people vote on individual performances but entire careers and ideas like "you've arrived") I'm all for Sidibe too.

    Or maybe Mulligan. Either one.

    Posted by: Nathaniel R | Feb 11, 2010 9:12:46 PM


  12. It is probably rude of me to correct your spelling, but in any case, it's "segue," not "segue-way."

    Posted by: Anonymous | Feb 12, 2010 2:05:17 AM


  13. this guy is going to be excellent at MOE, in the 3 STOOGES MOVIE, he looks kinda like him too....Jim Carey as Curly, and Sean Penn was supposed to be Larry (but dropped out)...look forward to see'n it..and will def. see this version of WOLFMAN!

    Posted by: Disgusted American | Feb 12, 2010 8:38:27 AM


  14. Crispy: Yes, "Valentine's Day" does have a gay aspect, but it's a twist at the end of the film.

    As for Best Actress, I'll admit that I'm rooting for Sandra Bullock: I've loved her for many years (I think she's a very underrated comedienne) and she was terrific in The Blind Side (anybody who's grown up in the South knows she nailed this role). My second choice would be Carey Mulligan, who was simply exquisite in An Education.

    Posted by: Joseph | Feb 12, 2010 10:30:51 AM


  15. Tilda Swinton gave the best performance of the year in "Julia." Hands down.

    Posted by: Jordan | Feb 12, 2010 3:12:08 PM


  16. Bullock gave the weakest performance of the 5 nominees in the BS. So, anyone but Bullock should take home the Oscar...(the media clearly has given it to Bullock already but I think Streep takes it by getting all the "old hollywood" academy votes)

    Posted by: med | Feb 12, 2010 6:24:06 PM


  17. Anyone but Bullock! I actually thought she played the role as best as it could've been played in The Blind Side. However, it still isnt an Oscar caliber performance and shouldn't have even been nominated in my opinion.
    The Academy has a chance to create real Cinderella story here by giving it to Gabourey Sidibe. I’ve seen all 5 films and her performance was the only one I couldn’t stop thinking and talking about long after I walked out of the movie theater.

    Posted by: Filmman | Feb 13, 2010 6:28:53 PM


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