Friday, January 21, 2011

Crimes in Oscar Snubbery...

You ever sit down to watch a film, mainly because someone has raved a particular performance and you really want to see what all the hype was about, only to find yourself scratching your head over that said performance, wondering how it is that anyone found it ‘rave-worthy’?  You’re sitting there staring at the screen waiting for that moment when it all comes together, you know…that ‘ah ha’ moment, but the movie is nearly over and you still haven’t seen it yet.  You’re just about to give up all hope and then it happens.  You’re awestruck but what you’re witnessing, and suddenly it all makes sense and you realize just how GENIUS the performance was from start to finish.

I had one of those this year.

With Oscar nominations due to be announce next week, I’ve given a lot of thought to performances that are NOT going to be nominated but damn well should.  Colin Farrell’s subtle yet moving work in ‘Ondine’, Kirsten Dunst’s stunning work in the train-wreck of a movie ‘All Good Things’, JULIANNE MOORE IN ‘THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT’…and right up there is a brilliantly crafted performance by Mr. Oscarless himself; Leonardo DiCaprio.

Shutter Island’, the film, is a little uneven for me to completely rave.  It has its moments, and when Scorsese does it right he nearly nails it, but the films textures are a tad mismatched for me to buy it completely.  The whole noir vibe seems to overlap the horror aspects of the film without meeting them for a full mesh; and the films overall construction is far too revealing to be fully effective (those flashback sequences were just a total mess).  I had previously read the novel, and so I knew the ending (which is pretty clich├ęd, if you ask me) but the film doesn’t try and shield you from the truth at all.  It basically hits you over the head with the eventualities which take away from the sting.

That said; it is within that ending that Leonardo DiCaprio does something remarkable.

Throughout most of the film I found Leonardo to be serviceable at best; but to be honest I kind of leaned towards ‘this performance is downright bad’.  He was a poor mans Humphrey Bogart and it showed.  His accent work was a tad spotty (no where near as consistent as in ‘The Departed’ yet no where near as dreadful as in ‘Blood Diamond’) but overall he just came across like a bad actor.  His reactions to situations played too heavily on the ‘amateurish’ side of things.  You could see right through him.  He seemed so out of place.  As the film continued to delude into preposterous scenarios (it is pretty faithful to the novel, which was also too obvious for its own good), DiCaprio continued to strip away any credibility to his character.  Granted, I knew the eventual outcome and so maybe that’s why DiCaprio was so ‘obvious’ to me, but it still bothered me.

And then there was that moment, in the lighthouse, where Teddy’s world came crashing down.

In a gutting sequence of raw human abandonment, Leonardo transforms Teddy into Andrew and delivers enough shocking reality to the screen to mask the fact that we saw this coming a mile (two miles even) away.  Yes, the shtick is gone; the scared, confused man pretending to be something he’s not is thrown completely out the window and instead we have replaced him with a man very much inside his own private hell.  The anguish on his face as the falsified tremors start to take on a more honest tone is ever reaching.  And then comes the dreaded flashback that has been hinted at from the moment the film started, when the ‘truth’ is revealed.  In that moment, DiCaprio ‘goes there’ in every sense of the word.  His gut reactions are pure and understandable.  His complete collapse is everything it needed to be to sell the moment. 

His sobbing mirrored mine, so I knew it was legit.

And here is the most remarkable part of all.  As I watched him completely flip his character and the way he was approaching him it shed so much light on the character he had created, the character that Andrew had created.  Every moment of the film where I felt Leonardo was phoning it in or where I felt he was in over his head were now moments where I felt he was, without question, flawless. 

He built a character within a character within a character; take that ‘Inception’.

In the end, I wish I could pimp this out for the Oscar this year, but my opinion carried no weight.  If DiCaprio could just pull out a surprise nomination; oh how wonderful that would be.  What he accomplished here was no easy task, for his character shifts create tonal shifts in the entire film.  He controls where this film goes, for the better.  He understands that only he can elevate this film, and he does it with an ease that is undeniable.

“So, what’s our next move?”

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