Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Giamatti Wuz Robbed!

Despite some of our occasional bitch sessions here about movie awards shows, don't mistake us for one of those glassy-eyed crazies who'll be camped along the Kodak Theatre's red carpet, shrieking like an air-raid siren for Catherine Zeta-Jones or Ted Danson to look my way so that one day I'll be able to tell my test-tube baby about how a movie star once acknowledged my existence in the universe.

In other words, those awards shows doesn't really mean that much to me. Hell, Citizen Kane didn't win best picture and Hitchcock never won a Best Director Oscar. The celebration of classic cinema and the celebration of what simpering Jack Valenti clones consider entertainment are not necessarily one and the same.

That said, I'm still a movie fanatic, and so it's my God-given prerogative to grouse about boneheaded Oscar moves.

So, here is: Paul Giamatti wuz robbed. It's not just that his performance in Sideways would've won my vote for Best Actor, but the Academy didn't even nominate him.

Trembling, I raise my fist to the restive heavens as lightning flashes across the night sky to illuminate my ashen face: Damn you, Academy! The fools! The mad fools!

What a crock. No, let me amend that: What a friggin' crock.

As the sad-sack wine connoisseur/failed novelist/depressive high school English teacher Miles, Giamatti's performance was one of serious depth, subtlety and humaneness. For me, what nudges Sideways from an excellent film to the realm of the extraordinary are the small moments of humanity that resonate because they are so easily recognizable and yet reveal such complexity.

I think, for example, of the scene in which Miles goes to the bar in hopes that he will find Maya (Virginia Madsen) waitressing there. The scene is prefaced by a hand-held camera shot of Miles on his way to the place, and briefly this character, so steeped in loneliness and self-loathing, actually has to practice what it is like to smile naturally. It's a quick, seemingly inconsequential moment, but Giamatti is masterfully low-key with it.

He is similarly impressive when delivering a monologue about what draws Miles to the frail Pinot Noir grape. It is a bit of tremendous writing, but it is almost too neatly metaphorical for Miles' own life. Nevertheless, Giamatti makes it authentic.

Uh-oh, I'm wanting to wax rhapsodic now ...

Or there's the hilarious scene in which Miles, in insufferably pompous mode, shows Jack (Thomas Haden Church) how to taste wine appropriately. Or the scene in which Miles slumps in a booth at a burger joint, taking gulps from his prized bottle of wine concealed in a brown paper bag.

Johnny Depp was terrific in Finding Neverland, but I certainly don't think he bested Giamatti. And besides, Giamatti is a character actor. He was great as cartoonist Harvey Pekar in 2003's American Splendor, but let's face it; unlike Depp, Giamatti isn't likely to be swamped with leading-male parts for years to come.

So there. We got it off our chest. Giamatti wuz robbed and that's it.

But while we're on the subject, let me just mention two other glaring omissions with the Oscar nominations: Eternal Sunshine of the spotless mind, which easily boasted the year's most inventive screenplay, should have been nominated for Best Picture. And the Academy unfairly stiffed Metallica: Some Kind of Monster in the Best Documentary category.

Finally, just to demonstrate that we're not just crabby whiners -- well, we are crabby whiners, of course, but in a vain effort to prove otherwise -- here was a pleasant surprise: Catalina Sandina Moreno's Best Actress nomination for the amazing Maria Full of Grace.

I hope she will acknowledge my existence in the universe when I see her at the Kodak Theatre.


At 7:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"awards shows doesn't really mean that much to me."? I don't even know you anymore.

At 2:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure this'll make Chase angry, but I didn't think Giamatti deserved an Oscar nomination. Sure, the movie was fanfreakintastic, but come on, the part didn't require a lot of depth.

At 1:01 AM, Blogger OKPartisan said...

I agree, Chase!
I stopped thinking the Oscars meant anything when Shakespeare in Love won Best Picture, but that doesn't mean they still don't make me irritable.


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