Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Brokeback Truman

Off to see Brokeback Mountain today, but I confess: I'm a bit annoyed with it, already. Maybe it was Ledger's giggling through the SAG presentation. Maybe it's all the hype. But part of it is definitely the fact that Brokeback's legion of passionate fans are slagging Philip Seymour Hoffman's amazing turn as Capote.

And why?

Because they want Ledger. Not because they've seen Capote, or even care about the fact that Hoffman is America's best character actor. It's always the same old tired arguments, too:

"Hoffman was mimicking Capote!"

Uh, no. To successfully do that would be enough, one supposes. I couldn't mimic that weird helium voice of Capote's if I tried. But the point is that Hoffman channeled the writer. By the second scene, after you got past Capote's actual nasal voice and weird appearance, both organic manifestations of the writer himself, Hoffman the actor was lost. He became Capote, looks, voice, size but most importantly, spirit.

How do you take a very unscrupulous, grasping in ambition, self-obsessed role and make it not only likeable, but empathetic? Last time I saw someone pull it off was Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs.


And make no mistake: like Lecter, Capote was a bit of a monster. Not a flesh eating kind. Just as bad: a soul-eating kind. Watching his better angels duke it out with his debased devils was one of the most amazing things on celluloid in 2005. The fact that neither side truly won was just icing on the cake.


Next complaint from Ledger fans?

"The only reason Hoffman's gonna win is because he played a stereotypical gay in a movie that didn't even depict any gay love!"

That misses the point: He played a real person. Not a stereotype. It happens that the real Truman Capote really was kind of. . .uh. . . swishy. Can't say it any other way.

So then the issue is with the man, himself.

After reading George Plimpton's oral history on Capote, it stands out that not one of the many friends, detractors and enemies of the writer mentioned witnessing a single act of affection between Capote and his long term love, writer Jack Dunphy. Someone - maybe Carol Matthau - referred to Truman as fundamentally asexual. Which is not surprising.

It was the 50's, too. While the men lived and travelled together, and were known to be gay, they weren't overt about it.

How does any of this change the fact that Hoffman gave the most mesmerizing performance of an actor this year -- and maybe any other year? It doesn't.

Various other snark across the screen over the big 2005 Hoffman v. Ledger match-up is what I like to refer to as "backhanded compliments" designed with intent to slur the performer himself:

"The Academy only gives it to older performers!"

Not true. There's a pretty big age range of past Best Actors. Granted, they do tend to win only after paying serious dues -- but not always. Adrien Brody springs to mind.

I'm not sure why people want to slag one actor in favor of another, or deny the obvious in favor of a fantasy. Right now, oddsmakers have Hoffman at 1-7, Ledger at 10-1, and Phoenix (another one people are pushing) trailing even further behind than Ledger. Considering the shakeout of critics awards ( Twenty to PSH, six to Ledger, two to Phoenix) it's kind of hard to view Hoffman as anything other than a lock on Best Actor.

Could that change? Maybe. AMPAS is a fickle mistress. But it's hard to remember any year with one actor so far ahead of the pack only to lose out on the coveted Oscar.

Statistics and lame arguments aside, Hoffman will likely win simply because his breathtaking performance demands it.

[Edit: this was posted twice, and I had to delete one extra copy - unfortunately, with it went the one comment attached to it. So if you visit again, please feel free to post your comment again!]
Comments:
thanks. I completely agree about Hoffman...


What did you think of Brokeback?
 
And make no mistake: like Lecter, Capote was a bit of a monster. Not a flesh eating kind. Just as bad: a soul-eating kind. Watching his better angels duke it out with his debased devils was one of the most amazing things on celluloid in 2005. The fact that neither side truly won was just icing on the cake.

Wonderfully written. I couldn't phrase it better.
 
Thanks, beausephus. I'm kind of obsessed with worrying over whether or not PHS will take home the statue. Really, I'm not shallow. Know we all have bigger and better problems to worry about in the US than Oscars - but it's been a trend for over 30 years, now. I was a movie junkie at age 7 and haven't looked back since!
 
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