Acting, and greatness

I’m not a big fan of awards shows so I only tuned in to the Academy Awards briefly Sunday night to see the Oscars for best actor and best actress.

Last one first: I think Meryl Streep is the greatest living actor in the world today. She has been so great for so many years that people think it’s just a matter of course that she’s going to be nominated, but don’t seem to realize that in the years she has been nominated, she has given the best performance and out of 17 nominations and only three wins, I’d say she was robbed of the Oscar eight times. Look at the past three nominations:

— How could she have lost in 2009 after that performance in “Julie and Julia” as Julia Child? And to Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side”?

— How could she have lost in 2008 after the performance in “Doubt” as Sister Aloysius Beauvier? And to Kate Winslet in “The Reader”?

— How could she have lost in 2006 after the performance in “The Devil Wears Prada” as Miranda Priestly? And to Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth in “The Queen”?

(OK, that’s a tough one. Helen Mirren was great in “The Queen.” But then, that’s why you have ties. Remember Barbara Streisand in “Funny Girl” and Katherine Hepburn in “The Lion in Winter” back in 1968?)

And if you watched the show, you saw she was actually shocked that it happened. She was sure Viola Davis was going to get it. And I think, one day, Viola Davis will get it. But I’m glad Merrill Streep got this one, even though she was more deserving of the three previous one she lost. The last time she won the big one was 30 years ago: That in itself is an outrage. The world’s greatest actor has been denied the top acting honor for three decades? The Academy owes her big time.

Now to the Best Actor.

I saw “The Artist.” I thought Jean Dujardin was great in it. And I thought I didn’t know who he was.

Then I turned on France 24, the English-speaking news channel out of you know where and saw its story on Dujardin.

They said that his first major role was as “Brice de Nice.” Holy crap! I hated Brice de Nice! It was a bad French movie that was advertised forever in Belgium when I was there. I didn’t want to see it, I didn’t want to be exposed to it, but everywhere I turned, there were huge posters for “Brice de Nice.”

Then they said he was in the television series “Un gars, une fille.” Holy crap! I hated “Un gars, une fille.” It was an annoying series of vignettes about a married couple that played on every stereotype of male/female relationships. One I’ll never forget is the couple running a marathon. She is talking on her cellphone to her friend when the race starts. The next shot is the end of the race. He’s wasted and she’s still talking on the phone as they cross the line together, and she doesn’t even realize the race is over.

The worst part of “Un gars, une fille” (for you non-French speakers, that’s “A guy, a girl”) was that I bought a DVD in Brussels once that was labeled as “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” And they had put in “Un gars, une fille” by accident. I didn’t take it back, because I figured I’d take a look and find out what it was and learn a little French in the process. Big mistake.

So, Jean, you deserve your Academy Award for “The Artist.” But someone should take it away from you for putting me through all that misery in my early years in Brussels.

Oscar-winner Cliff Robertson dies at 88

Cover of "Charly"

Cover of Charly

Cliff Robertson was John Kennedy in “P.T. 109” (he was reportedly Kennedy’s personal choice for the role) when he was young, and Peter Parker’s (Spiderman‘s) Uncle Ben when he got older.

But he won an Oscar as best actor for his 1968 role as “Charly,” a mentally challenged adult who, through a medical experiment, became a genius… for a while. John Lithgow‘s character in today’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is, in essence, an abbreviated version “Charly.”

Robertson died today at 88 in Southampton, N.Y.

For now, you can see “Charly” on YouTube. Here’s the first part:

The ultimate Hollywood couple

As everyone in the world knows, Elizabeth Taylor died yesterday at the age of  79. Everyone in the world knows, because she was the original modern superstar. No one, not even Marilyn Monroe, matches the excitement Elizabeth Taylor created in her personal life. Liz was one half of the ultimate Hollywood superstar couple.

Today’s overwhelming interest in Brangelina doesn’t hold a candle to the obsession with Dickenliz back in the ’60s. Make the comparison. When you think Brangelina, you’re really thinking Angelina Jolie, because Brad Pitt, superstar that he is, is kind of dull.

But Dickenliz (or Lizendick). That really meant two dynamic, larger-than-life personalities. Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. Every fight, every new diamond, the excessive spending, the acting rivalry, all the bad behavior. They loved and hated each other so much, they married and divorced themselves twice.

The world wanted their marriage to really be like this:

She got the Oscar for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.” He absolutely deserved one as well, but didn’t get it, and that has to go down as another Academy Award crime. (Does anyone remember Paul Scofield in “A Man for All Seasons? I didn’t think so.)

Now that’s tabloid fodder.

Liz and Dick. That’s the couple by which all true Hollywood tabloid couples have to be judged. And no one, yet, comes close.

May I have the envelope?

It’s Oscar time.

The Big Show is Sunday night. Every newspaper, TV station and blogger has put together a list of expected winners, so why don’t I just follow the crowd, join the bandwagon, run with the herd and anything else involving being one of many with little to say on a not-overwhelmingly-important topic.

Hopefully, the Academy Award broadcast won’t be like the Super Bowl, which compared the event to recovering from the Great Depression, winning World War II, Martin Luther King’s speech at the March on Washington and the 1969 moon landing.

BEST PICTURE

I’ve seen 8 of the 10 nominees here. Didn’t get around to “127 Hours” or “The Kids Are Alright.” Nothing very appealing about a movie about a guy who gets himself in a life threatening situation because of pure arrogance. I don’t find that uplifting. And when you name a movie after a song by The Who, it immediately says the demographic is people my age, which means it’s serious, yet witty. Blah.

“Inception” and “Black Swan” were whacked out insane so they’re out of the running (but I loved them both). “Toy Story 3” is going to win the Best Animated Film, so don’t expect a two-fer, even if it was the most appealing movie of the year.

All you need to know about “Winter’s Bone”: meth labs in the Ozarks. Which actually is a very important issue, but definitely not fun for the whole family. All you need to know about “The Fighter”: crack houses in working class Massachusetts. Not an important issue, but shades of “Rocky.”

That leaves “True Grit,” The Social Network,” and “The King’s Speech.” Now “True Grit” is infinitely better than the thing John Wayne got the Oscar for all those years ago. Jeff Bridges is “The Dude” as drunken sheriff. Matt Damon is a far better LeBoeuf than Glenn Campbell was. And Hailee Steinfeld should have been nominated for Best Actress because she carries the movie. But the Coens already have a couple of Oscars, so let’s share the wealth.

And this is what it comes down to: wealth. A movie about an arrogant little prick who becomes a billionaire in his 20s while screwing over his best friend, or a movie about an old money guy with a stammer who takes over a country from an arrogant little prick who feels his enjoyment of a raucous sex life is more important that rallying people against Hitler. “The King’s Speech” it is.

BEST ACTOR

Rule out Jesse Eisenberg and James Franco, because you should never reward people who try to make arrogant dillwads lovable. Javier Bardem is speaking Spanish the whole time, and we all know how much Americans love to read subtitles. Jeff Bridges won last year, but this year’s performance was better (as I’ve said, I don’t like movies where you’re supposed to feel sorry for a screw up, and last year’s “Crazy Heart” offended me just because of that). Now Colin Firth should have won last year for “A Single Man” so all indications are he’ll get it this year for being overlooked last year. Kind of like when they gave the Academy Award to James Stewart for “The Philadelphia Story” when they should have given it to him the previous year for “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

BEST ACTRESS

Why bother going through the list. It’s going to be Natalie Portman. “The Black Swan” was a totally great insane performance. I left it thinking “Did she die or was it all a hallucination?”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

There are really only two choices here. Christian Bale and Geoffrey Rush. As much as I hated Christian Bale’s character (once again, a screw up you’re supposed to feel sorry for), he is “The Fighter.” The movie doesn’t get the attention it did without him in it.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

I really hope it’s Hailee Steinfeld, because she had “True Grit.” Please don’t give it to anyone from “The Fighter.” Those accents were driving me up the wall. And Helena Bonham Carter is fine as the Queen Mum, but she should have to pay for butchering “Sweeney Todd.”

Times’ whitewash

Whoopi Goldberg in New York City protesting th...

Whoopi Goldberg (Image via Wikipedia)

I’m trying to figure out why the New York Times is being so pissy after Whoopi Goldberg criticized it for not including her in a list of black people who have won an Academy Award for acting.

Here’s the sequence of events, as far as I can tell:

The Times published a Sunday piece headlined Hollywood’s Whiteout that began:

CRAMMED into this year’s field of 10 best picture Oscar nominees are British aristocrats, Volvo-driving Los Angeles lesbians, a flock of swans, a gaggle of Harvard computer geeks, clans of Massachusetts fighters and Missouri meth dealers, as well as 19th-century bounty hunters, dream detectives and animated toys. It’s a fairly diverse selection in terms of genre, topic, sensibility, style and ambition. But it’s also more racially homogenous — more white — than the 10 films that were up for best picture in 1940, when Hattie McDaniel became the first black American to win an Oscar for her role as Mammy in “Gone With the Wind.” In view of recent history the whiteness of the 2011 Academy Awards is a little blinding.

The story went onto say that in 2002, the best actor Oscar went to Denzel Washington (“Training Day”) and the best actress Oscar went to Halle Berry (“Monster’s Ball). The story then named the African-Americans who won after 2002.

Now the women on “The View,” the daily morning talk show, were riled because the Times story didn’t mention Whoopi, who won an Academy Award as best supporting actress in 1990’s “Ghost.” Whoopi is part of “The View” crew. She said the story was hurtful and sloppy.

The Times fires back that there’s nothing wrong with the story. Apparently, the point wasn’t to name every black actor who won an Oscar. and they specified that before 2002, only seven got an acting prize, either in the best or the supporting categories.

OK. So after 2002, five African-Americans got Oscars: Jamie Fox (“Ray”), Forest Whitacre (“The Last King of Scotland”), Morgan Freeman (“Million Dollar Baby”), Jennifer Hudson (“Dreamgirls”) and Mo’nique (“Precious”).

Halle Berry and Denzel Washington are named as 2002 winners (but they really won for performances in 2001).

If the Times says seven won before 2002, it must be including Berry and Washington. Now the story also refers to Sidney Poitier (who won for “The Lillies of the Field”) and Hattie McDaniel (the first black to win an Oscar: best supporting actress in “Gone With the Wind.”) That’s four. Total’s up to nine.

So the Times’ argument is that the point of the story wasn’t to name every black person who won an Academy Award in a story about how few black people have won an Academy Award?

A total of 13 Oscars have gone to black actors. As far as I can tell, the Times story is missing that piece of essential information. The Times story names nine of them, but doesn’t bother to mention that Denzel Washington has two Oscars  (He was best supporting actor in “Glory”). That’s kind of a big deal, isn’t it? Anyway, the number is up to 10.

Is it really asking too much to name the remaining three?

I’ll do it: Whoopi Goldberg, Cuba Gooding Jr. (“Jerry McGuire”) and Louis Gossett Jr. (“An Officer and a Gentleman”).

That didn’t take up much space, did it?

Sorry. I have to side with Whoopi on this one.

Matinee madness

John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit.

Image via Wikipedia

The Oscar nominations were announced this week. I watched the announcement on the Internet. Here’s the link.

Of the 10 best picture nominees, I saw seven (missed “The Kids Are All Right,” “127 Hours” and “Winter’s Bone”). I’ll think about what’s up and give my opinion closer to the awards date.

Anyway, Salon has put together a list of the 10 biggest Oscar rip-offs of all time. I’m surprised they missed one. John Wayne in “True Grit” as 1969’s best actor over Dustin Hoffman or Jon Voight in “Midnight Cowboy.” (Just for the record, this year’s “True Grit” is infinitely better than the original version.)

But I’m sure you have your own Oscar outrages.