Suffice it to say that there are dozens of examples every year, but in 2009 there a few greater examples of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' fallibility than their decision to honor Matt Damon with an Oscar nomination for his supporting performance in Invictus rather than for his immeasurably better turn as Mark Whitacre in Steven Soderbergh's The Informant. The problem, it seems, is that Damon simply likes to work, and being good in good movies is enough for him, and it's why his accomplishments are often overlooked in favor of flashier turns from other performers.
But watching Soderbergh's film about an executive who inexplicably turns informant, Damon's skill and excellence is on display in virtually every frame of the film as he convincingly portrays a man who seems to have all of the angles covered but doesn't have a clue why.
The film was released largely without fanfare last year, and more recently debuted on Blu-ray complete with additional scenes, and a commentary by Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns. It's also this release which provided us a chance to revisit a sequence that went overlooked last year but which remains one of the funnier and more fascinating sequences we've seen in a long time.
In the scene, Whitacre agrees to help the FBI document his meetings with other corporations who are complicit in creating a monopoly on the market, but seems incapable of not calling attention to himself and his efforts. Entering a conference room, Whitacre notices a lamp with a camera, and conspicuously begins to look it up and down. Next, his audio recording device malfunctions during the meeting, and Whitacre distractedly dismantles his briefcase in order to fix it as his colleagues look on. Shockingly, they don't seem to understand or care what he's actually doing, but it's this really complicated dynamic between industrial subterfuge and government surveillance, Whitacre's complicity and his self-defensive incompetence that gives the moment such an odd and invigorating charge.
Here's a link to the clip:
The Blu-ray further highlights Soderbergh's inventive visuals and storytelling, and as an alternative to the bombastic so-called crowd pleasers or other conventional fare – not to mention conventional performances – check out Damon's turn, which will no doubt inspire you to inform others of his often unheralded but always noteworthy contributions to this film and others.