Friday, February 27, 2009

The Academy Snubs Yet Another Great Hitman Movie

In 2005, the Academy overlooked The Matador, a fantastic little quirky film starring Pierce Brosnan and Greg Kinnear. Written and directed by Richard Shepard, it was easily the one of the most original stories I've seen in a long time. Never once did the plot take a predictable turn. Shepard managed to balance oddball humor with depth, and the ending is surprisingly poignant. The film also marks Brosnan's most inspired performance to date: a bisexual(?), aging hitman suffering from panic attacks who befriends a businessman in Mexico on a sales trip. Alternatively frightening, pathetic, sleazy, and lovable, Brosnan's creation is something entirely unique, entirely new. Kinnear plays off him extremely well, the everyman to Brosnan's one-of-a-kind. I didn't hold out much hope for this movie but thought it deserved at least a nomination for Best Original Screenplay. No dice.

In 2008, the Academy did themselves one better (or worse?) by nominating, but not awarding, In Bruges, a film written and directed by Martin McDonagh and starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Ralph Fiennes, for Best Original Screenplay. Laced with dark humor, a lot of style, and some fine performances--Fiennes absolutely steals the show--In Bruges tells the story of Ray and Ken, two heavies working for an English mobster who have to hide out "in Bruges" indefinitely after a botched hit. There's no shortage of laughs in the film, and like The Matador, the plot never quite goes where you think it will. There's a lot going on in this story, and many have posited that Bruges is purgatory for all these characters, while they or the fates or God determines how they are to be punished and if they are to be saved. In Bruges certainly deserved the one nomination it received, though it was probably deserving of a few more. But alas, it was not meant to be.

When will the Academy not be afraid to honor a hitman movie with an Oscar?

10 comments:

Phil Stiefel said...

Brian
I have to agree with you on the Matador at least getting a nomination for screenplay... It is a very underratted movie and yes it has to be one of Bronsons better roles. Also Greg Kinnear is a very underrated actor. I have not seen the other movie In Bruges, so I cannot comment on that just yet.

Brian O'Rourke said...

Phil,

But wait, The Matador isn't about war or baseball, so how could you have seen it?

All kidding aside, TM was such a ridiculously awesome movie. I like Kinnear as an actor, although of late he seems to be re-playing the same "everyman" every time out.

Phil Stiefel said...

Well see I saw the name The Matador and thought it was a sports movie first... (matadors are athletes).... no not really.

Brian O'Rourke said...

Phil,
Nice save. How's the shop?

seanag said...

Brian,

Thanks for the recommendation. I will add it to my Netflix queue directly after posting here. I have to agree with you guys about Kinnear, who is maybe just a little too handsome to get the more interesting character roles that he would really be good at. Which is actually true of Pierce Brosnan as well. I was surprised how good he was in an Irish movie I saw within the last couple of years as a father who stands to lose his children. Don't remember the name just now. Up till then, I had thought he was all flash.

Also, I hadn't heard the whole bit about Bruges as purgatory, and I think it's wonderful. Having been to Bruges, waiting overnight for a ferry as it happens, I think that is very, very apt.

Brian O'Rourke said...

Hey Seana,

Okay, so I'm jealous...you've been to Bruges?! It's funny, but whenever I go to your, Adrian's, or Peter's blogs, I'm always reminded of how little I've traveled (and sometimes, read).

The wife has been dropping hints about us taking a vacation to Bruges ever since we saw the movie. Looks like a beautiful place.

As for The Matador, we didn't have anything else to do one particular day, so on a lark we went to see it at the theater. I was really blown away, especially since I had no expectations going in to it. Hope you enjoy. And thanks for stopping by!

seanag said...

Brian, I think Peter and Adrian are both far more well-traveled than I am. Whole eras of time go by when I hardly even leave town.

And Bruges was probably a little wasted on me, as the friend I traveled with and I had just finished our backpacking through Europe jag and were pretty tired and full up mentally. But it was a beautiful town, and I hope you and your wife get to go there one day.

The Matador is now hovering near the top of my Netflix list, so it won't be too long. I love that experience you describe of just going to a movie without any big expectations and being blown away by it.

Brian O'Rourke said...

Seana,

I love that experience you describe of just going to a movie without any big expectations and being blown away by it.

And no doubt you see the irony of this post. If anyone reads it, I've effectively built The Matador way up in their minds, thereby denying them the opportunity that I had--to go in blind with no expectations.

Apologies! I hope you like it. If you don't, you can always come back here and blame me.

seanag said...

Well, it's a little different. One person recommending something that they like is not the same thing as huge media hype. You think, I agree or disagree. You don't think, I hated this--has everyone but me gone completely insane?

Also, there's no way I would ever have the experience of walking into a theatre and having your experience anyway. As wonderful as Netflix is--and it is wonderful--it is not the same order of movie watching.

But I expect I'll like it. I'll let you know.

Brian O'Rourke said...

Seana,

You think, I agree or disagree. You don't think, I hated this--has everyone but me gone completely insane?

I know exactly what you mean. There's nothing like overhype that ruins an otherwise okay film. Sometimes, even a great one.