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Oscar interlude – Penn or Langella?

February 19, 2009 at 7:38 am

And now it’s time for an Oscar moment. Slipping a little film talk onto the book shelf. After all, it is “Books and BEYOND.” That’s my license to stretch. 

So, come with me and share some of your own inner Siskel and Ebert.

I’ve seen most of the Oscar contenders: Doubt, Slumdog Millionaire (swoon), The Wrestler, The Reader, Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon and most recently, Milk. I have yet to see Revolutionary Road and the rest may just have to wait for the Netflix queue (sorry).

Needless to say, I’m momentarily high on the on-screen Harvey Milk — Sean Penn. What a performance! I had just decided that Frank Langella should win the best actor Oscar until this past Sunday when Penn hypnotized me for the entire two plus hours of the film.

First of all, Milk is a fine movie in and of itself. A wonderful tapestry of political statement and love story. If the real Scotty was anything close to the role Milk’s lover played in the movie, I want one for myself!! (I’d like mine straight up, please.)

Harvey Milk was a force whose smarts were enhanced by a little chutzpah, or maybe a lot of chutzpah, propelling him to get things done (an understatement). Armed with a compassionate heart he was a gay man’s champion and an icon to his community. In his political struggle, his most cherished relationship was sacrificed while he worked relentlessly to dignify the gay community and lead them in reclaiming its civil rights.

The story is moving. It’s hopeful. It’s heroic. But the hero of the two hours in the darkened theatre is Sean Penn. I personally don’t remember him being this good. I’ve always admired his talent but I was never over the top for him until now.

Like Meryl Streep in her chameleon-like  roles, Penn disappeared in his portrayal of Milk.  His masterful effeminate  New Yorker was expected but the depth he brought to the character transcended to the standard of “great acting”. His performance reached a magical level much like Slumdog Millionaire’s surpassing of a “great movie.” How lucky we were this year. 

Dare I say it? He was Harvey Milk.  Is channeling too eerie a word to use or is that actually another synonym for good acting?

I don’t know.

Frank Langella. I still adore your Nixon. It amazed me at how this handsome actor morphed into a despicable Nixon. Even though his body language was superb, his posture precise, Langella really did make Nixon a lot prettier than he was in real life. If you haven’t seen this movie, which can feel a little slow, it’s a must before the Oscars come on this Sunday night. If you see nothing else, see Frost/Nixon and Milk just to see the tremendous competition for best actor. Oh, of course you’ve already seen Slumdog, right? That movie is so far off the charts that none of the others compare, even the best ones.

It’s thrilling, Academy Award time. At least it is for me.  Remember, most of these films entered the world first as baby books. One, a play. All on the page before they graced the cinema screen.

Tell me who you like in my comment area. I would love that.

Cheers.

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