Saturday, March 04, 2006

don't give Matt Dillon an oscar

I know it isn't a *review* -- it's a plea.

Please, please, please don't give matt dillon an oscar for crash.

That movie was amazing, simply incredible and a bunch of people did some SERIOUS acting work to get the results. Matt dillon wasn't one of them.

Playing the role of the "angry white guy" is the easiest job in the world. He has a clear justification -- and all he has to do it get loud. Heck a baldwin could have played that role.

But what about Terrence Howard (who should win for Hustle & Flow but won't). His job as the TV producer caught between injustice and rage? Look at his eyes during the cop confrontation scene and see some ACTING. Shaun Toub who plays the aged Persian shopkeeper? What about Cheadle? The stuff with his mom? Heck Ludachris even out-acts Dillon.

I wonder what made the academy pick Dillon out of this fantastic cast . . . oh yeah, he's white.


Blogger ronvon2 noted on 3/04/2006 01:22:00 PM that...

I think that might be a little unfair. Good acting demonstrates a transformation over the course of the narrative. While many of the characters undergo great transformations, Dillon's character moves from anger to guilt to understanding. But it is a guarded and complex understanding: an embodiment of the film's take on racism (so the angry white guy take does not account for the entire spectrum of the character arc). The actual Crash rescue, where he has to convince Thadie Newton to let him save her even after his horrific acts, I think counts as acting. Now, this is not to suggest that his performance was better than any of the other actors' (you are right about all the other performances-except for perhaps Ludachris), but to suggest it is demonstarbly worse seems a bit unwarranted. Yes, there is racism in Hollywood; but in a year where Hollywood is actually turning its back on tentpole, big budget films to heaps awards upon and honoring socially consciuous films, it is hard for me to buy a racial argument as the sole criteria for judging acting acumen.  

Blogger Omri noted on 3/04/2006 05:04:00 PM that...

Maxwell: Hollywood can be criticized for a lot of things. Pathological narcissism expressed as endless, white-and-heterosexual-guilt inspired emoting - followed by massive over-compensation in the form of heralding a B+ movie with B+ acting as the bravest, most honest expression of the Love that Won't Shut the Fuck Up since CHiPs - is not one of them.

Dillon wasn't picked because he was white. He was picked because at this year's Oscars, asshole is the new ugly. Now earlier this week Defamer said that gay is the new ugly, but my joke is far more subtle and even works for the Dillon nomination too. It's a double-entendre. That means it has two meanings.

Seriously though, "Hollywood not equal politically correct enough" is the worst argument ever. Maybe there's covert racism there, but it's been buried sooooo deep (third paragraph, third BBM joke - score) that it's certainly not serving as grounding for action any more.  

Blogger Omri noted on 3/04/2006 05:12:00 PM that...

Ron: We're all friends here. We're all busy. Every word matters. There's no reason to make us go through the hassle of working through your tortured attempt to correctly spell and deploy the phrase "socially conscious" when you could just have used "liberal".

I especially liked the social consciousness of Munich. If only the athletes wouldn't have insisted on being so damn Jewish, maybe the nuanced and torn Arab terrorists (oh, but he was playing the *music* with his *daughter*) wouldn't have had to go and murder them all.  

Blogger ronvon2 noted on 3/04/2006 11:53:00 PM that...

I knew the Munich comment was coming: About as predictable as most Hollywood-fare.  

Blogger Omri noted on 3/05/2006 04:31:00 AM that...

I mean, listen - when I intentionally say stupid things about movies or music to get a rise out of Marcus, his withering responses are predictable. That doesn't make him wrong.  

Blogger Paul Johnson noted on 3/05/2006 12:55:00 PM that...

I thought Crash was as a whole far more uneven then several of the other best picture nominees, and I think it was because some of the performances in the movie rang relatively hollow with me- Brendan Fraser and Sandra Bullock in particular. But these performances highlighted for me how difficult it was for Dillon to do what he did- evil is hard to act- look at Joaquin Phoenix's overwrought Commodus in gladiator.
I also think people are attracted to Dillon's character because of what he means as a metaphor for America in general- a country that really has some very messed up stuff going on in terms of racial/ethnic relations, but is still willing to pull the very people we Otherize (Somalians etc.) out from a burning car- or at least try.
And its not even chic' to rip on the Baldwins anymore- Alec established with his performances in The Cooler and The Aviator that he's a serious actor, just not when he's a leading man, and William Baldwin was actually hilarious in last year's The Squid and the Whale.  

Blogger maxwell noted on 3/05/2006 05:16:00 PM that...

Thanks for the responses. At least I don't feel unfulfilled in my rage.

Both Ron & Paul make the argument that Dillon did some acting work in the movie. He yelled and cried and emoted, but I don't think it was hard for him to get the kind of emotional energy that comes out in others in the film. He is simply not doing the best work in that film. Just because his character changes over time doesn't make the reach any easier.

Ron says that this year the academy cares. I dunno Ron. I'm not sure this year is any different than the tepid liberal cheese that we usually get from Oscars.

They had to pick somebody from the flic because it was TOO GOOD and they picked the character THEY thought did a tough job . . . the nice white actor who had to play a racist. Phew . . . what a struggle.

It wouldn't be tough for a black actor to play a character who watches a white cop molest his wife in front of him. No . . .that problem doesn't really resonate with the academy.

Omri. As usual I have no idea what you are talking about.  

Blogger ronvon2 noted on 3/05/2006 06:53:00 PM that...

I am not suggesting that the "academy cares." The Oscars are a time for self-congratulations, and usually there is a titanic film that is the lord of the awards. This year is not the case, and Hollywood is congratulating themselves on being "liberal" (and if conservative talk shows, re: Fox) and socially conscious.

The problem with ensemble films is that there are too many folks to nominate. Producers put up acting performances for your consideration, and given that Dillon has a respectable body of work without a nomination, I can see this nomination as a nod for a career achievement. Cheadle had a nomination, and Howard was getting a nod for H & F. So I am not certain it is a racial issue, as much as an endorsement for a career.  

Blogger Omri noted on 3/05/2006 06:56:00 PM that...

Max: My apologies for the glibness. My point was that, while false consciousness and institutional discrimination may be useful hermenutics for the analysis of some social dynamics, explanations of behavior and judgement get a little more complicated when false consciousness colides with a very explicit, very attractive narrative that a community tells itself about itself. It's difficult to over-estimate how over-wrought today's film celebrities are about themselves and their own progressivism. I'm willing to bracket whether their actions and institions are in tension with those beliefs (I happen to think that the 2mil+ Vogue pre-Oscar starfuck is a more damning indict than the town's lauding of a movie about the horrors of racism, but I guess I'm quircky that way). The point isn't that communities are constituted by the stories they tell themselves about themselves (duh), but rather that the accusation of false ideology is at its weakest and most vulgarly simplistic when, as in this case, that narrative is exactly the opposite of what the critic believes is going on. Hollywood celebrities not only spend most of their public lives convincing each other of their progressive bona-fides - that happens, but the more subtle dynamic is that they so believe those things about themselves that it's untenable to simply say "the white guy was nominated cause Hollywood is racist". For instance, it could be the fact that Hollywood is genuinely deeply racist (although I doubt is), and that all of their over-compensation is an hysterical attempt to not allow themselves to realize that about themselves. That's an explanation that incorporates most of your good assumptions (albeit in a more subtle manner), while still explaining the dynamic that troubles you so much.

Even if your (new) argument is that having a white guy play a racist isn't hard because white guys are all racists, it's a tenuous point for similar reasons. If you're a white guy who just happens to be immersed in a narcissistic, self-absorbed culture where the most important thing is to keep telling yourself how progressive you are (read: Hollywood), then telling yourself that you're a racist and acting accordingly can be quite difficult. And I'm pretty sure I'm not even doing too much of a disservice to the nuance of your point by stating it that way (the nice white actor who had to play a racist. Phew . . . what a struggle.")  

Blogger ronvon2 noted on 3/05/2006 07:00:00 PM that...

My last thought. I am troubled by what I see as the logical consequence of the argument that Dillon did not have to do too much to channel the rage of a racist. That argument suggests that Dillon is closer to the character he portrays than any of the other characters, which suggests it is easy for him to be a racist. To me, the real racism that all the minority actors face on a daily basis in white Hollywood also makes for an accessible emotional place for actors to generate emotions.  

Blogger maxwell noted on 3/05/2006 07:34:00 PM that...

Ron's point about Dillon and the body of work is a good one. It's hard to believe he didn't get the nod for "herbie: fully loaded" or "one night at McCools". An actor for my age. *grin*

Ron makes an interesting point in his recent comment about how far white actors have to go in order to play racists.

Don't get it twisted. Black asian and latino actors have been taking arrows, lazer blasts, and fists for a long time in hollywood. That doesn't make it easy to play depth -- because they still don't get the roles.

What makes Dillon's job easy isn't that he is really racist, but rather that character of the white guy whose entitlements have been taken away is a common story. Every movie has this character.

DJ Quall's film THE NEW GUY is a good example. Despite it's decidedly B-movie steez, I'd argue that Ross Patterson does a better job playing the angry entitled white guy whose outrage at his loss of power than does Matt Dillon in Crash.

Omri. I still have no freaking idea what you are talking about.

(In order to enter this post, the word verification software is requiring that I type in KKK as the first 3 letters . . .)  

Blogger Omri noted on 3/05/2006 07:53:00 PM that...

Max: My point is that in Hollywood, progressivism is reflexively part of pepole's identity - they tell themselves they are themselves to the extent that they are progressive. As a way of explaining action, simple ideological unmasking ("better acting minorities got overlooked because they weren't white") becomes increasingly untenable precisely when people are making decisions that (a) they believe are symbols for who they are and (b) are adjudicated consciously. In other words, while there is undoubtedly instutional racism that structures decision makingi in Hollywood (white writers creating screenplays based on what they know - which we can probably describe at least in some senses as white experiences), that racism is probably close to its lowest point when people are ticking off the checkboxes for Oscar nominations, where judgement is done with explicit reference to the explicit ideals that directors, actors, etc hold about themselves. It becomes so minimal in this situation, I have been trying to assert, as to cease being a factor in decisionmaking and action.

Re the word verification algorithm: obviously, mathematics and number theory are constitued by institutional racism.