Every now and then you look back at this or that Oscar winner and ask, “What was the Academy thinking?” Or, if you’re someone like myself, you ask yourself “What was I so excited about? Why didn’t I just man up and express respectful disagreement instead of going along with the pack mentality?”
My current object of Oscar remorse is the Best Actor trophy that Jeff Bridges won for Crazy Heart in early 2010. I never really liked that film or even Bridges’ performance. I respected the chops — he was real, honest, un-actorish — but I never really liked the guy he was playing (too grizzled and pot-bellied, too many cigarettes, too much booze) or the film, for that matter. I just went along with the gladhanders who were saying “Jeff!…Jeff Bridges, what a great guy!…and what a great career!….Oscar, Oscar….show Jeff the love!”
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jeff Bridges in Scott Cooper’s Crazy Heart.
So I was feeling a little bummed this morning about what I failed to say (or thought I’d failed to say) in late ’09 and early ’10. And yet when I re-read my original 11.13.09 review of Crazy Heart, I realized I actually wasn’t the obsequious sell-out that I thought myself to be. The following passages restoreth my soul:
Excerpt #1: “Jeff Bridges is definitely in the Best Actor derby for his performance as a grizzled, pot-bellied, booze-swilling, cigarette-sucking ex-country music legend on the downswirl who just manages to save himself from self-destruction. It’s an honestly scuzzy performance — Bridges’ best since The Big Lebowski but tonally opposite and much harder hitting, of course.”
2016 verdict: No ass-kissing here, but an honest assessment of what would probably happen, and I was right.
Excerpt #2: “It’s the same kind of ‘look how gross and dessicated I can be’ performance that Orson Welles gave in Touch of Evil — and I say that with genuine respect. Bridges really swan-dives into the toilet, you bet. No sweeteners, no movie-star charm moments, no winking…except when his character is on-stage.”
Excerpt #3: “As noted, the only time Bridges’ Bad Blake is ‘spirited’ is when he’s singin’ and playin’. Otherwise he’s a bulky Uriah Heep during a good 75% or 80% of the film. The title of Bruce Beresford‘s Tender Mercies aptly described the story and the tone of that tough little 1983 film, which is similar in many ways to Crazy Heart (boozy broken-down country singer comes back to life through a love affair with a single mom and her son).”
Excerpt #4: “I don’t know what Crazy Heart is supposed to refer to but it’s not Bridges’ character, I can tell you that. If they wanted to be descriptive they should have called it Boozy Gut, Smokey Lungs, Old Man Beard-o, Dead Man Sweating and Going Down or…whatever, Mr. Emphysema.”
Excerpt #5: “I had a problem with Gyllenhaal’s Jean Craddock, a single mom in her mid 30s, hooking up in a steady way with Bridges’ Blake. Alcoholics can never be trusted to act like adults — they’re basically children — and there’s no reason for a sober, sensible-minded mother with a four-year-old getting serious with a jowly, grungy, cancer-stick addict who’s at least 25 years older than she and basically a disaster-waiting-to-happen. Sooner or later a guy with booze issues (as well a guy in denial about a son that he abandoned in his youth) will endanger her child, and if she doesn’t realize this she doesn’t have my allegiance. It’s just common sense. The only way I would buy her being with Bridges long-term would be if they were both alcoholics. But she’s not so I don’t. Either way Bridges has bigger tits.”
What are some other hard-to-shake cases of Oscar remorse?