Thursday, November 29, 2012

For Your Consideration: Jack Black

For years I've been trying to think of something new and different to do each Oscar season to try and do an alternative form of Academy Awards' coverage on the Review.  I consider myself an amateur Oscar predictor, and very often I try to simply make logical predictions that typically pan out, so I've decided to take a look at the films and performances that have less of a chance for Oscar recognition and highlight them.  I don't think anyone in the film industry reads this, but what I hope with the "For Your Consideration" posts is that I can both vent about Academy pretentiousness at ignoring blockbusters and also highlight lesser known films and performances, hoping to give them some added exposure to filmgoers looking for something great to enjoy.  I kind of already did a post similar to this a few weeks ago about why I felt The Avengers should be nominated for Best Picture, but this post is not about The Avengers, but rather about actor Jack Black.

What inspired this inaugural post is I recently saw the film Bernie on netflix.  Bernie is an independent film made by director Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, School of Rock, Before Sunset) that came out this past Summer in limited release.  The film only played for a few weeks in my neck of the woods, and I never really got around to seeing it, because I was so busy with my film internship at the time it came out.  It's always hard to see these indies when they come out in the midst of Summer blockbuster season anyways, because few theaters carry them at that time of year.

Bernie tells the unbelievable true story of an effeminate Texas mortician named Bernie Tiede, portrayed by Jack Black.  What's so brilliant about the film is that it's shot like a documentary, yet it's entirely scripted, lending the film both a realistic authenticity, but stylistic flourishes not found in typical docs.  Bernie was the nicest guy on Earth, everyone loved him.  He produced the local community theater, led worship at the church, and was friend to all, including the meanest old lady in town, Marjorie, played by Shirley MacLaine.  However, soon Bernie learned all about Marjorie and she began to wear on his nerves, and in a momentary lapse he shoots her in the back.  I should say, this film is a comedy, albeit a black comedy in the vein of the Coen Brothers' films, but a comedy all the same.  Even in the scene when Bernie shoots Marjorie, I found myself laughing out loud thanks to the performance of Jack Black and his reaction upon realizing what he's done.  For this reason, and many others, I truly feel that Jack Black's performance is worthy of Best Actor Oscar consideration.

The closest Jack Black has ever come to getting nominated for Oscar was the one time he came onstage with Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, singing a song about how hard it is to be a comedian at the Oscars and never get nominated.  It's as if the Academy knows they have a bias to comedies and comedians in general.  The thing is, Jack Black is not a bad actor when he's reined in and doesn't go too terribly over-the-top, like he did in King Kong, School of Rock, or The Holiday, or as he does here in Bernie.

As Bernie Tiede, Jack Black is very dialed down.  Sure, he has a funny effeminate accent, but when you hear the real Bernie speak in interviews from real-life, you realize how spot on Jack Black was.  The thing is, Jack Black uses all of his considerable talents in this one film.  He proves that he is a good singer, and not just adept at doing his heavy metal thing with Tenacious D.  Jack Black surprisingly sings hymns and Broadway showtunes real well, showing vocal range, but he also shows range in his acting chops.  He plays everything seriously and just lets the absurdity of the situations be what makes it all funny rather than him hamming it up, like he normally does.  This is a very contained performance that shows genuine maturation in Black as an actor, not as a comedian, and makes me intrigued to see what else he can do.

For this being such a controlled performance from a popular performer who tends to go off the rails, I feel it deserves at least to be nominated for Best Actor.  Sure, I feel Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln is more worthy of winning, but Jack Black as Bernie Tiede should be considered alongside Day-Lewis' portrayal.  Both are brilliantly controlled and genuine.  As well, I think that Richard Linklater should be considered for Best Director for being able to coax such a good performance from not just Black, but all of the actors in the film, but alas that is even less likely and isn't as deserved as Jack Black getting the nom.  Of course, will Jack Black happen?  More than likely, no.  While the distributors will likely push Black, he'll be overshadowed by the likes of Academy friendly names as Day-Lewis and Denzel Washington.  So I guess this will be the closest we ever will get to seeing Jack Black at the podium:

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