Friday, March 13, 2009

Oscar Bait: Could Little Gold Man Lead Not To The Best Roles But To Franchise Oblivion?

By Lars Trodson

OK, so the Academy Awards have always been about commerce. No question. They were born out of a desire to give films -- the poor cousin to theater and opera -- a little sense of dignity, a little boost to the box office.

So little Oscar was meant to add a little prestige, and so he did. Over time, the Oscars, to some degree, became synonymous with quality. That was good PR. Of course, the track record is actually spotty -- but it is not as miserable as a lot of people would have you believe. There are very few performances or pictures that absolutely did not deserve to be nominated, or win.

Even if we disagree with who or what actually won the thing, there may be a general sense of agreement that the nominated films or performances were at least noteworthy. That sense of commonality often gets lost in the Oscar debate. The nominations are generally fair (outside of the song and documentary feature categories, which is another column). With nominations limited to only five in each category (it wasn’t always so -- the world has become quite anal in the past 50 years), there are bound to be disagreements who was left out, but often there is agreement that the nominees were worthy.

And that meant getting nominated for an Oscar indicated you were good at your craft. And so, in turn, if you were nominated -- or won -- you were subsequently offered the best scripts. This was true whether you were an actor, a director, or cinematographer. You got the prestige scripts.

Now, however, you get the comic book franchise.

Fifty years ago if you were Jack Lemmon, an Oscar lead to “The Apartment” or “Some Like It Hot” or “”The Days of Wine and Roses.” If you were Sidney Poitier an Oscar paved the way for an unbroken string of critical and audience favorites. Look at your history: Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Faye Dunaway, Marlon Brando -- or a director like Jonathan Demme or ...well, name a person. An Oscar can boost a career for five full years.


Just this week it was announced that Mickey Rourke, fresh off his Oscar nomination from “The Wrestler” -- had signed on to “Iron Man 2.”

I’m not sure a role in a tentpole movie already stuffed with stars is the right way to go.

Just a few years ago, Thomas Haden Church co-starred in “Sideways” and revived his career with an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor.

He parlayed that success into a role in “Spider-Man 3”, in which, as memory recalls, he played a pile of sand.