August 9, 2006

How to Win an Oscar

Whenever I use the word visceral, people look at me funny. I may not have the college degree to prove it, but my vocabulary can keep up with most topics. The term visceral is a medical term for major organs in one's midsection. Somewhere along the line it got translated to meaning gut or instinct. So when I say that I had a visceral reaction to a song, a movie or even a Costco polish dog, it means I couldn't control my reaction. I can think of three times off the top of my head when I had a visceral reaction to a movie.

1) M. Night Shyamalan's Signs. When Joaquin Phoenix locks himself in the closet to watch the TV coverage and we see in plain daylight; not a shadow or a hand or glowing eyes in a dark corner, a stinkin' alien and Joaquin jumps back and I jump back everytime I watch the movie. Say what you will about Shyamalan's movies, but there's something pretty original in each one.

2) Speaking of M., the second time I can remember having a visceral reaction to a movie is in The Village. I liked the movie, I liked the concept...but what got me was the moment when Ivy is in the woods and the camera moves to reveal "the monster" is behind her. Oh my, I was watching the movie with headphones on my laptop in a dark room and I think I literally gasped.

3) The third movie moment that got me in my viscera was in Syriana.

I watch the Oscars every year. I make predictions, I have my favorites...but this past year I hadn't seen most of the movies up for awards. I still haven't seen some of them. When George Clooney won best supporting actor for his work in Syriana, I was happy for him, but like George himself, I was convinced it was a consolation prize for not winning best director. And then I saw the movie. You want to know how to win an Oscar? You Googled "How to Win an Oscar" and wound up here? Here's a lesson.

The lesson doesn't involve gaining weight, although you can't read much about George Clooney's Oscar without hearing about the weight he gained. But who couldn't pack on 30 pounds on purpose for money?

The lesson doesn't involve growing a beard. In the best supporting or best actor category, you'd expect even a normal amount of testosterone could produce enough facial hair to constitute a beard.

The lesson is in how George Clooney portrays a man being tortured. I'm pretty claustrophobic and would panic being bound and gagged. But to be strapped to a chair and have someone pull fingernails out of my fingers...I can't even imagine. And George Clooney won the Oscar for me in that moment. My visceral reaction wasn't a gag reflex for blood, but rather that defenseless feeling of not being able to fight back. Clooney pulled it off brilliantly. He successfully fought without being able to fight, and convinced me the viewer that he was doing his own stunt. I figure in my infinite wisdom of acting, that if you can pull of being tortured, you can pull of anything...including fingernails. Knock whatever you want about Clooney, but he's one of the only actors who can do action, the comedy, the drama and the dramedy and pull it all off. And to prove my point, I recommend you brush up on these titles.

O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Three Kings
Intolerable Cruelty
The Perfect Storm
The Peacemaker

and if you can find it,

Without Warning: Terror in the Tower
co-starring The Chindo

Just skip One Fine Day and Batman & Robin.

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