The strike is over, the Oscars are going on as planned, and there will be inevitable cries of fury and outrage towards at least some of the winners. The Academy always shocks and disappoints us with at least a few of the picks, and no matter how much I prepare myself to be bummed, I still wind up surprised. Honestly, I usually just watch it masochistically to get my fill of obituary sadness.
There have been 79 Oscar ceremonies, and that's a lot of disappointment and upset. So really, you can just zoom into any year and pick a few really worthy losers that should have scored themselves those coveted trophies. Me, I'm picking a few recent ones. One win was sad, and the other was completely infuriating, but both stick with me because of performances given, the actors who gave them, and the wonder of the films themselves. Instead of adding more glory to the winners, we should give the losers the appreciation they deserve. This week -- Richard Farnsworth in The Straight Story and Ellen Burstyn in Requiem for a Dream.
Check both out after the jump ...
The Straight Story
Click on the image to view the trailer at Virgin Media...
This loss wasn't a slap in the face, but it was disappointing. If I would have picked anyone other than Richard Farnsworth to win the Best Actor Oscar, it would've been Kevin Spacey, so it isn't all bad. But still, this was the actor's last film, he was the oldest man to ever receive a nomination, and it was a wonderful performance in a simple and moving story. He just had that way of making moving and memorable on-screen moments, which I first discovered back in 1985. I couldn't tell you about anything in Anne of Green Gables, other than the scene where Matthew falls in the field.
But this film is based on the true story of 73-year-old Alvin Straight -- a man who traveled 240 miles on an old, 5mph John Deere lawnmower to visit his brother who had just suffered a stroke. It was simple, solid, and a shock since it came from David Lynch. Just as it was a straight story compared to the filmmaker's other fare, it was also the story of Straight, and shot straight -- each scene was filmed in chronological order, along the route taken by the old man back in the '90s.
Trivia: Both John Hurt and Gregory Peck were offered the role of Alvin.
A reprise for The Straight Story.
Alvin discusses the war.
An interview with Farnsworth for The Straight Story. Part two. Part three.
An old Siskel and Ebert review of Misery. Ebert gives props to Farnsworth's performance.
Requiem for a Dream
One night, I'm sitting in my house, watching the Oscars with my roommate of the time. It was one year after Richard Farnsworth lost to Kevin Spacey. This time, Ellen Burstyn was up for her simply jaw-dropping performance as Sara Goldfarb in Requiem for a Dream -- against Julia Roberts for Erin Brockovich. Ellen was robbed, Julia was letting out that big smile and grabbing the trophy, and my roommate actually shrieked and danced around the room in celebration. Me, I wasn't celebrating. (And later, my roommate later said Roberts didn't deserve it, which always confused me since she did a literal dance for her win...)
No matter what the Academy decided, nothing came close to Burstyn's performance in this movie. As Sara, she traveled through a shocking range of emotions -- from the muted lows of loneliness to the energetic highs of hope, and finally, the emotional, heart-wrenching disappointment that followed. I took a number of friends to see this movie, and it's the only one that made each and every one of them sit there well after the credits rolled, trying to absorb it all. (And it seems they weren't the only ones.)
Trivia: "During Ellen Burstyn's impassioned monologue about how it feels to be old, cinematographer Matthew Libatique accidentally let the camera drift off-target. When director Darren Aronofsky called 'cut' and confronted him about it, he realized the reason Libatique had let the camera drift was because he had been crying during the take and fogged up the camera's eyepiece. This was the take used in the final print."
It's a reason to get up in the morning.
The haunting score.
A comparison: Julia or Ellen?