Remember nobody giving A Better Life‘s Demian Bichir a chance to land a Best Actor nomination last year because Life was too indie and he didn’t have a well-funded campaign behind him? And his getting nominated anyway? The same needs to happen this year with Middle of Nowhere‘s Emayatzy Corinealdi, winner of the 2012 Gotham Awards’ Breakthrough Award and a 2013 Spirit Awards nominee for Best Female Lead. Because she delivers with such bearing, for one. And because it’s necessary (if you want to be fair) to nominate at least one actress from a smallish indie.
(l.) Middle of Nowhere director-writer-producer Ava Duvernay; (r.) Emayatzy Corineladi — 12.3, 9:15 pm.
Corinealdi and director-writer Ava Duvernay attended last night’s Hollywood Elsewhere- and Participant-sponsored screening of Middle of Nowhere, and then sat for a nice little q & a. It was great to see Nowhere again and to recall my first reaction (“Nowhere Deserves Everything“), which I posted on 10.21.
So in a perfect world the 2013 Best Actress nominees would be Corinealdi, Silver Linings Playbook‘s Jennifer Lawrence, Zero Dark Thirty‘s Jessica Chastain, Amour‘s Emmanuelle Riva and Rust & Bone‘s Marion Cotillard.
Yes, Corinealdi’s best shot is with the Spirit Awards. But she really does give “one of those performances” that stands out big-time, and I mean just as inescapably as Bichir did last year. With a quiet, steady, home-run performance as an emotionally torn wife of a convict, she’s that real, that good.
Duvernay’s film has also been nominated for the Spirit’s John Cassevetes Award, and two of her supporting actors — Lorraine Toussaint and David Oyelowo — have been respectively nominated for Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actor.
“The script is an interior story of a woman,” Duvernay recently told Script interviewer Jeanne Veillette Bowerman. “You’re in her head. You’re with her when she’s alone. You’re facing her challenges with her, which is not exactly the purview of most studio films. Add onto that she’s a black woman, then you add onto that you’re doing something with a black woman but it is not a comedy, and it’s not an historical drama, it didn’t fit into any paradigm that was currently in the industry.
“For me, as a part of that industry, it was clear, and I place no blame, that is what the industry is. So the question became, if you’re on the outside of that dominant culture, what do you do? Nothing? Complain? My solution was to make my own stuff on the outside.”
(l. to r.)) Corinealdi, Blair Underwood, Duvernay.
Fron HE reader Ben Lauter, who attended last night:
“Middle of Nowhere is an incredible emotional journey of quiet intimacy. With assured writing and directing by the talented Ava DuVernay and astonishing, fully-realized lead and supporting performances by Emayatzy Corinealdi, David Oyelowo, Lorraine Toussaint, Omari Hardwick and Edwina Findley, it marks one of the year’s great cinematic surprises.
“Corinealdi occupies just about every scene of a story that effectively details the tug of war between heartbreaking, lingering love and the tentative renewal found in fresh romance. The character may face much ambivalence, but the performer shows no such signs of it, offering up a revelatory, captivating performance full of both vulnerability and toughness.
“Her interactions with the somber and regretful Hardwick stand as a neat contrast to the quietly playful ones involving Oyelowo’s world-weary, but lighthearted jocularity. Both of her love interests offer a nice relief from the domestic scenes at home, in which Ruby, Ruth and Rosie separately reflect upon their triumphs and tragedies of life and love.
“These scenes are as loving as they are rough, and from that complex contradiction comes some of the film’s most evocative scenes. Toussaint in particular does a marvelous job of showing her matriarchal power, knowing what’s best for her children and why, even when they themselves may not, skillfully riding the edges of her advice-giving boundaries to modest success.
“Mention must also be made of the movie’s wonderful, crisp visual style, which by far makes full use of a mere $200,000 budget. Middle of Nowhere is the kind of film that lives or dies by the strength of its characters, the performers who breathe life into them, the writing, and the confidence of their creator. Because these are all present here, this is a movie to discover.”