The Corner

Watching the Oscars at the Thompson Household

In case you were wondering, I did watch the Oscars last night. My wife, Jeri, and I were settled in for the red carpet show. What was I wearing, you ask? A frown. It was a Thompson original designed just for that event.

To be fair, I didn’t take too many issues with the show, but I would point out a few things that did highlight my “fashion statement” for the evening.

Not to be an “anti-short-ite” but are there any actors over 5′ 8″ anymore? Perhaps that explains their over-compensation with long speeches.  

I have to say, though, that being passed over once again by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had me pretty irritated. I thought that my “pivotal” role in Secretariat would finally do the trick. As a “Hollywood aside”: You should know that when the role is small and the money smaller, “pivotal” is the word the producers use when they offer the part to you.

I have been fortunate to have had a number of pivotal roles, so you can understand my bewilderment at the Academy’s snubs. I thought Secretariat might get a nod for “Best Picture.” After all, the movie was inspirational, wholesome, and directed by a well-known conservative. You’d think the Academy would be all over that.

But I can’t quibble with The King’s Speech winning “Best Picture.” Imagine, a movie that was made by people who understood the importance of “story” and had the vision to make it, actually won. In this industry of $100 million claptrap, some big-time Hollywood talent saw the wisdom in making a movie that many might have read as being simply about correcting the stammer of King George VI so that he could deliver radio addresses, but which was really about fate and accepting the responsibility thrust upon you to inspire a nation, even if you would prefer not to. Where most of us might have seen only a slab of marble, someone saw a beautiful sculpture.

Which brings me to Colin Firth, who won for “Best Actor.” Most actors go through their careers playing themselves. I never got tired of watching John Wayne being John Wayne. Saying this is not a denigration of actors. They, like most people, have various facets to their personalities, can get angry, be kind, or have a mean streak. Or all of the above. There is a lot to work with in one personality. A good actor can summon the facets of his personality that are called for.

However, a few actors can do much more than that. They can not only draw on their own personalities but seem to inhabit the personality of another — the character they are playing — at the same time. Over many months of preparation, almost as if they were slipping into a hypnotic state, they create and “become” that person. They are not pretending. This is what we see in Firth’s King George VI, and what made the movie so appealing compared with the coldness and calculation that inhabited the The Social Network, which was the odds-on favorite to win many of the big awards. Honestly, did anyone feel like “friending” any of those people after watching the first half hour?

And then there was The Black Swan, which I saw with Jeri. One of us wanted to see a good ballet movie. And either Jeri is going to have to become a better sport, or I am going to have to limit myself to more literal and linear movies. Below is just a bit of the transcript of our conversation so you can get the flavor:

Fred: “Did that really happen?”

Jeri: “No, that was in her imagination.”


Fred: “Is that really happening?”

Jeri: “No, that was a flashback.”


Fred “Is THAT really happening?

Jeri: “Yes, Fred, that is really happening.”

Jeri (under her breath): “Is THIS really happening?”

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