Tuesday, February 2, 2010

FOTM: What the SAG's Forgot

"Crazy Heart"
Originally uploaded by beastandbean
Until awards season rolled around I had completely forgotten about a little movie called Crazy Heart; the films title confused me, but I remember reading the cast list and logline and thinking it sounded pretty interesting…but it was a small movie and until Jeff Bridges started getting recognition it disappeared from my radar. Luckily, the film did start getting some recognition because that pushed it into one theatre in Orange County and I was able to see it. For me 2009 may be a year that lacks as many phenomenal films as some of the prior years in the decade, but I do think that in 2009 a lot of actors did very phenomenal work and Crazy Heart is one of the films that contains phenomenal performances – not just from Jeff Bridges, but from the entire cast.

When it came time for the SAG nominations this year I fully expected Jeff Bridges to be nominated, but there were two nominations I wanted to see and didn’t – I wanted Maggie Gyllenhaal to be nominated for best supporting actress, and I wanted the entire cast to be recognized with best ensemble.

Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Robert Duvall, Colin Farrell and the rest of the cast perform their butts off in this film. Bridges of course leads the pack with a moving performance of a has-been country star sliding towards rock bottom, Gyllenhall is the woman who can’t resist latching on to him while he slides, Duvall is the friend that wants to be there no matter what and Farrell is the sideman that broke out on his own. They relationships between the characters are complex and played by all the actors with a subtle grace that shouldn’t go unrecognized. Farrell alone plays perhaps the pin in the most complex relationship in the movie as Tommy Sweet the new country superstar that used to be Bad Blake’s (Bridges) side man; while he went up Bad slid further down into oblivion and Bad blocks every way Tommy tries to show him his gratefulness. The performances are impeccable.

I think that perhaps Gyllenhaal was forgotten at the SAGs because her performance is a subtle one, especially compared to Bridges character. Gyllenhaal plays Jean, a single mom and a reporter in one of the small towns Bad performs in. The two meet and you can immediately tell that in a way that too often seems exclusive to females Jean knows a relationship with Bad is not a good idea she slowly enters one with him any way. Like so many of the characters in the film her character is developed more by performance than by the script and watching the character unfold slowly is a pleasure.

My personal theory as to why Crazy Heart itself was ignored for best ensemble is pretty simple. I think the cast was too small. With the exception of The Hurt Locker every film nominated for best ensemble at the SAG’s this year had a pretty large main cast. The Hurt Locker had six-plus months of hype behind it and it’s director which easily explains why it was nominated, Crazy Heart was still a small film, relatively new to everyone’s radar.

Today the Oscar nominations were announced. Even though Crazy Heart didn’t score one of the ten Best Picture nominations, it did get one award I am very happy with. Maggie Gyllenhaal scored a surprise nomination for Best Supporting Actress. I don’t think she’ll be the one to take home the little bald man this year, but in this case I do think it’s an honor just for her to be nominated.

Other Performances to see from 2009:
Robert Downey Jr - The Soloist
Karl Urban - Star Trek
Jeremy Renner - The Hurt Locker
Zoe Saldana - Avatar
Nicholas D’Agosto & Eric Christian Olsen - Fired Up
Jeffrey Dean Morgan & Jackie Earl Haley - Watchmen
Meryl Streep - It’s Complicated
Robert Downey Jr. & Jude Law - Sherlock Holmes

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