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March 20, 2003 - Image 19

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12B - The Michigan Daily - eekend IMaine - Thursday, March 20, 2003
Academy forgets some deserving supporting actors

The Michigan Daily - Weekend Magizin
Dear Ndugu:
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By Luke Smith
Daily Arts Writer

An autodidactic Floridian, a pride-
filled father of a con-man, a gangster,
a cellophane man and a wheelchair-
confined AIDS victim. These are the
characters portrayed by the nominated
class in the Best Actor in a Supporting
Role category at this year's Oscars.
Chris Cooper's gap-toothed red-
neck/academic hybrid John LaRoche
took "Adaptation" and ran away with it.

The incredibly smart script pegged
LaRoche as a "fun" character, while
making its own meta-referentialism a
mockery of both LaRoche's scripted
comedy and the film's faux realism. It
is a surprisingly strong performance
from a man previously best known for
his portrayal of latently homosexual
Colonel Fitts in the tragically overrated
Sam Mendes film "American Beauty."
While Mendes' "Beauty" didn't
garner a supporting nod for Cooper in
'99, his "Road to Perdition" brought a
nomination to Paul Newman. "Road
to Perdition" traces the eventual trans-
formation of a hit man on the emo-
tional mend. This is Newman's ninth
acting nomina-
tion - he won
in 1986 for
"The Color of
Money" -
but only the
actor's first
nomination for
a supporting
role. Newman's
depiction of
gangster John
Rooney does
not stand out
among per-
from the last

year. Where Jack Nicholson's spec-
tacular performance in "About
Schmidt" is clearly nominated for
more than just being "Jack," it
would seem Newman was nominated
because of who he is, and not his
performance in "Perdition."
Along with Newman, both Ed
Harris and John C. Reilly are rela-
tively undeserving of their nomina-
tions. Harris portrays an
HIV-positive self-loathing, suicidal
Richard Brown in "The Hours" - a
film bred for one purpose, to win
awards. The performance, while not
bad, is markedly over the top, culmi-
nating predictably. Harris, previous-
ly nominated for "Pollock," "The
Truman Show" and "Apollo 13," has
never won an Academy Award.
Reilly's nomination is an eloquent
display of the Academy's after-
thought-ish tokenism (See Scors-
ese's likely win for "Gangs of New
York" for another example). After
being snubbed for spectacular per-
formances in "Boogie Nights" and
"Magnolia," Reilly received a nomi-
nation for his depiction of downtrod-
den doormat Amos Hart, sullen
husband of starlet Roxy Hart in
"Chicago." While it is comforting to
see Reilly finally recognized for his
work, it is unfortunate he received a
nomination for a film in which his

By Joel M._Hoard
Daily Arts Writer
arren Schmidt is the anti-Jack - the epito-
me of uncool - which makes Jack Nichol-
son's performance as the retired insurance
agent in "About Schmidt" all the more remarkable.
Trading in his trademark sheepish grin and stylish sun-
glasses for a pathetic frown, a cardigan and a comb-over
Jack truly looked old for the first time in his career.


performance is so average.
Ultimately, Reilly's nomination ?s
more a result of his involvement in
other critically-revered films from
2002 ("The Hours," "Gangs of New
York" and "The Good Girl") than
his performance in "Chicago."
The actor with the best chance to
take the Oscar from Cooper's hands
is Christopher Walken. As Frank
Abagnale Sr., father of the notori-
ous con man, Walken sheds his ten-
dency to portray caricatures, in
favor of a more restrained perform-
ance. This nomination is his second,
his first won him the Best Actor in
a Supporting Role for 1978's "The
Deer Hunter."
Where Ian McKellen's involvement
in last year's "The Lord of the Rings"
installment was painfully brief com-
pared to his role in 2001's "Fellow-
ship of the Ring," it is another actor
from the film who deserved a nomi-
nation. Andy Serkis, the actor respon-

sible for the movement, voice and
expression of Gollum, was met with a
snub from the Academy. Because
Serkis' face and body were shrouded
by the digital technology that made
Gollum, he was overlooked.
A similar situation occurred in
1980 with John Hurt receiving a
nomination for his make-up covered
portrayal of John Merrick.
With the progression of technolo-
gy,: the makeup worn by Hurt can be
likened to the digital-makeup Serkis
was subjected to as Gollum. It is
disarmingly frustrating that as tech-
nology changes, the conservative
Academy and its voters are unable
to respond to progressive technolo-
gy and its role in cinema.
Instead of a very deserving Andy
Serkis, voters are left to choose
between Ed Harris, John C. Reilly,
Paul Newman, Christopher Walken
and the best of this year's bunch,
Chris Cooper.

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Nicholson toys with the audience's
expectations and preconceived notions
throughout "About Schmidt." Movie-
goers have come
to expect a Jack
who is quick-wit-
ted and forceful
- one who can
tell an unaccom-
modating waitress
to hold the chick-
en salad by-saying
"I want you to
hold it between
your knees."
In "Schmidt,"
however, we see a
Jack who has
retired from an
empty job and
lives with his sim-
ple wife in the
Midwest - a man who finds joy in
Hummel figurines and urinates sitting
down. And that's what makes his per-
formance work so well: Warren
Schmidt runs counter to everything that
Jack has come to represent.
It's almost a foregone conclusion that
the 65-year-old Nicholson will pick up
his record-breaking third Best Actor
Oscar (he has won previously for 1975's
"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"
and 1997's "As Good as It Gets"). Join-
ing Nicholson in the category are previ-
ous winners Michael Caine (Best
Supporting Actor for "Hannah and Her
Sisters" and "The Cider House Rules"),
Nicolas Cage (Best Actor, "Leaving Las
Vegas") and Daniel Day-Lewis (Best
Actor, "My Left Foot"). First-time
nominee Adrien Brody is the only
Oscar-less actor in the category.
Nicholson's stiffest competition
comes from actor-turned-cobbler-
turned-actor Daniel Day-Lewis, who
returned from a five-year hiatus to play
William "Bill the Butcher" Cutting, a
mid-19th century gang leader in the
Five Points area of New York, in Martin
Scorsese's epic "Gangs of New York."
Day-Lewis plays Bill the Butcher
with a fierceness that alternates
between demented humor and down-
right cruelty. One moment he's tapping
his glass eye with the tip of a knife or
coolly flinging blades at a woman dur-
ing a knife-throwing exhibition while
quipping "Whoopsy-daisy" with a

goofy smirk on his face, and the next
he's murdering a rival politician with a
meat cleaver. Through his sheer
dynamism and zeal, Day-Lewis creates
a timeless movie villain and proves
that he hasn't lost his step during his
break from acting.
Similar to Nicholson, Nicolas Cage
takes a break from
." his usual cool
dude action hero
persona for his
roles in "Adapta-
tion," playing twin
Charlie and Don-
ald Kaufman. The
film itself, written
by the real-life
Charlie and his
fictitious brother
Donald, shows
Charlie's struggle
to adapt Susan
Orlean's "The
Orchid Thief."
Cage shows a
remarkable ability to morph between
the Kaufman brothers: As Charlie, he
plays a stressed artist trying to turn out

a masterpiece on par with his "Being
John Malkovich" script; he's nervous,
awkward, overweight and balding. As
Donald, he plays a Hollywood dufus
who idolizes screenwriting guru Robert
McKee; he is dimwitted but energetic.
Twenty-nine-year-old Adrien Brody
picked up his first nomination for his
role as Jewish pianist Wladyslaw Szpil-
man in Roman Polanski's "The Pianist."
Set during World War II in Poland's
Warsaw Ghetto, "The Pianist" shows
the horrors endured by half a million
Jews under German occupation.
Brody turns in a quiet, unaffected
performance as Szpilman. He avoids
portraying Szpilman as some kind of
Ober-hero who stood up against the
Nazis; instead, he comes off as a man
just trying to stay alive.

In "The Quiet American," Michael
Caine plays a British journalist, Thomas
Fowler, caught up in the political tur-
moil of 1950s Vietnam. Caine's Fowler
loses himself in the exotic love of a
local mistress and struggles to keep her
while maintaining his integrity.
His performance is classic Michael
Caine, subtle but eloquent. Caine shows
a man fighting an internal struggle
between his journalistic responsibilities
and newfound loyalties.
While Day-Lewis, Cage, Brody and
Caine certainly turned in incredible per-
formances, Sunday night should belong
to Nicholson. Some have argued that
Jack will win simply because he's Jack.
But the truth is, Warren Schmidt is a
career-defining role for one of Holly-
wood's greatest stars.

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2003 Citigroup Lecturer
Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke
"Making the U.N. More Effective
in Times of Crisis"
Friday, March 21, 2003, at 2:00 p.m.
Hale Auditorium, U-M Business School
701 Tappan Street, corner of Hill
Ann Arbor
Ambassador Holbrooke served as U.S. Ambassador to the United
Nations from 1991 to 2001 and was the chief architect of the
Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the war in Bosnia in 1995.
The public is invited to attend the lecture and the reception
that follows in Foster Library, 2nd Floor, Lorch Hall.
This lecture is made possible by a generous gift from the Citigroup
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734-764-3490 or fordalum@umich.edu


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