Burton’s version of this bleak allegory is appropriately monotoned and monochromatic — in short, bleak. But Depp provides enough negative energy to convince Academy voters that the film is both art and entertainment. More important, the film suits the diabolical, nihilistic mood of the nation. It will be a close shave, but Depp should nick a best-actor spot and the film should work up a lather in the best-picture field.
Juno where your children are?
So what about the women? How do they fit in with this trend toward macho malice and unabashed villainy? Badly. As in year’s past, they have been cast as helpless victims, distracted ditzes, co-dependent screw-ups, and deluded meddlers.
Although far from helpless, Marianne Pearl was the quintessential victim of demonic male violence when Al Qaeda beheaded her husband, Daniel. With self-conscious pathos, Angelina Jolie makes Pearl’s tragedy her own in A Mighty Heart. Despite a release of more than six months ago, audience antipathy to movies about the war on terror, and the shadow of Jolie’s overexposed ego, this film seemed pre-destined for a best-actress nomination before it even hit the screen.
More helpless but more authentic and moving is the dementia victim played by Julie Christie in Sarah Polley’s impressive debut film, Away from Her. On the one hand, the film compassionately dissects how mortality erases identity and how love perseveres nonetheless. On the other hand, it tells the familiar story of a damaged woman protected by a gallant man. Christie’s career-crowning performance will be up for (and will likely win) the best-actress Oscar. Oddly, though, Gordon Pinsent’s equally masterful performance as the formerly wayward, now chastened husband has been overlooked up to this point and, sadly, will continue to be when the nominations are announced.
Taking a more active role in her self-destruction, Marion Cotillard’s Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose will warm the hearts of Academy voters eager to watch the spectacle of an irrepressible, supremely talented woman shrink into a booze, drug, and male-dependent husk over several decades. One more female loser in the best-actress squad.
But the list wouldn’t be complete without a woman who is not only victimized, dependent, and ineffectual but also has low self-esteem. Sounds like a role for Laura Linney in The Savages, as the would-be playwright and full-time fuck-up who resorts to lies, denial, and self-loathing to contend with her depressive brother (Philip Seymour Hoffman, outstanding again) and her gaga father.
But what about the spunky, sharp-tongued, and above all hip 16-year-old title heroine played by Ellen Page in Juno? Isn’t she a model of female independence? Sure, if you think it’s “hip” and independent for a 16 year old to destroy her life and those around her by having unprotected sex, getting pregnant, and not getting an abortion. (I could go on at length about the hypocrisies and phoniness of this movie and its hype — and I have.) Nonetheless, she’ll be nominated for best actress, as will the film itself for best picture.