Sunday, October 21, 2007

Naked Gold Man: The Michael Clayton Fix

He's 13 1/2 inches tall. He wears only a sword. He's shiny. Everybody wants him. He's the Naked Gold Man and this is a new weekly Sunday series --my attempt to keep Oscar discussion corraled in the weekends at least until we're truly in the season.

Let's start with Michael Clayton, a very serious fellow. Some people have rushed to take the legal drama off their Oscar lists due to its solid but non explosive opening weekend and the still sturdier if not hosanna-filled reviews. Anne Thompson worried that Warner Bros was releasing too wide for the "delicate" business of kudos seeking fare. David Poland countered the wave of negativity in the box office articles, reminding everyone that this wasn't a terrible take for a serious fall drama... I'd agree with that assessment. What did people expect?

To paraphrase the movie in question: Michael isn't a miracle worker. He's an Oscar contender.
Any Oscar film arriving before December needs sturdier legs far more than it needs a splashy entrance. Flashier competition will undoubtedly surface but there's always a chance for a sober entry to stick. And Michael Clayton may prove a resourceful contender.

The most obvious weapon in its arsenal: the actors.

<--- Tom Wilkinson has made almost two dozen movies since his one and only Oscar nomination for In the Bedroom six years ago. That's a lotta acting. Detractors might say he does a lotta acting as "Arthur Edens" too --'too much' in other words. But I disagree. And even if I didn't: you may have noticed that Oscar voters don't object to a lotta acting. It can't be easy to navigate a mentally ill character with crazy making fecal focused monologues, striptease breakdowns, and inappropriate romantic drives and still keep something valuable in reserve for your character's final act. He does. Wilkinson flips off his crazy switch at exactly the moment the movie most needs him to reign it in and it's a beauty of a scene (shared with George Clooney), forcing the audience to recalibrate their take on his character. If AMPAS voters like the movie at all, he's a safe bet for the short list.

But he isn't elevating the movie alone. Michael Clayton triangulates between three big roles. Wilkinson's role is but the most obvious sharp point from which to hang Oscar Bait. Once hooked, voters will notice that Wilkinson isn't the only one sweating for the film's success. For Your Consideration: Tilda Swinton


For thoughts on Tilda, Clooney, and the production's other Oscar possibilities. Or, you know, go and see the movie. It's quite good.

25 comments:

John P. said...

I'd like to humbly suggest Sydney Pollack as a Limited/Cameo nominee for this year's FBAs.

adam k. said...

What's with all the nudity? I've always been a little been annoyed with Clooney (too pompous and self-satisfied for my tastes), but suddenly I want him really bad. Tilda Swinton, too (though she doesn't annoy me).

adam k. said...

Oh and has Wilkinson really been in an average of 4 films per year this decade? That's insane. I guess they're pretty much all supporting roles, but still... yowza.

fever said...

I love all these Oscar predictors, if the movie that they liked and they are expecting to feature during the award season gets mixed reviews, unstellar BO numbers then they do not matter because they can still "make it" but if it was a movie they panned then the reviews, BO numbers matter A LOT and people are implored to pay attention and forget them in the race. David Poland is an irritating twit, any movie he doesn't like gets punched and punched by him and those he like get the hooray every week and the pitbull bite to whoever doesn't agree with him.

Joe R. said...

Your take on Wilkinson in this movie mirrors mine almost exactly, Nathaniel. He navigates a tricky character and does so expertly. And he's STILL the third-best performance in the cast.

Ryan said...

Fully agreed on Tilda Swinton!

She was beyond mesmerizing- her final confrontation with Clooney (loved her mounting trembling) was flawless- lets hope HFPA and AMPAS members take notice.

If they don’t, at least we can look forward to Ms. Swinton snagging her first Film Bitch nom! ☺

JK said...

Incredible film...!!!

Clooney and Wilkinson should definitely should be in the top 5, for the time being Tilda is in there too, but I thinks she'll fell as the year progress

NATHANIEL R said...

fever you have a point. It is a danger of oscar prediction to let your personal taste influence you too much. But that said, i've been very honest about my feelings about the movie so you can factor "the bias" in.

at any rate I firmly believe we've already seen a Best Picture nominee --the argument is just as to which one or two. Nobody ever seems to have faith in the pre December films until the December films arrive and they invariably disappoint but for one

... or three.

steve said...

Oooh, I dunno. I really think Swinton owns the title of most overdue for a nod. Bale's really only missed out for American Psycho. Maaaaaybe Velvet Goldmine (although he might make my supporting list for I'm Not there - we'll see how the rest of the year pans out). Whereas Swinton should have been invited to the party for: Edward II, Orlando, The Deep End, and Teknolust (of course, 2001 is really the only year she had a realistic shot). And she's certainly deserving this year (she'll probably stand as the film's sole nomination in my own personal awards). Love them both, though.

I agree that this looks like a pretty safe bet for Oscar, though.

adam k. said...

This didn't get mixed reviews. If that's what fever was implying. And the box office really isn't bad either... assuming it has legs, which it probably will.

But I agree that David Poland is irritating. That's why I'm here instead of on The Hot Button.

A Swinton nod seems pretty likely if only for the fact that her category's so totally weak. She's much more famous than Amy Ryan, for example. And her film is doing much better than JJL's. ANd HBC appears to be going lead. So unless ALL of the Atonement girls manage to get noms, she seems to have a pretty clear path to a nomination.

Kurtis11 said...

A Swinton nomination is one of the things I'm looking forward to most this season. Yeah, I've definitely been on Team Swinton since The Deep End. I completely agree with ryan regarding the 'final confrontation' scene. Sooo many films have had scenes similar to that, and I don't think I've ever seen an actor provide so genuine a reaction as hers. She made me extremely uncomfortable and I love her all the more for it. And while I wouldn't say I'm on Team Clooney, he continues to impress me. He's a Hollywood icon who's actually the real deal. I was absolutely glued to this movie. At this point, I'd imagine Tom Wilkinson is a lock. Of what I've seen this year, his is one of the most well-drawn screen characters. I'm really rooting for this film (just so we're clear:).

fever said...

I love Clooney up to a point but kurtis11, he is the icon of what exactly? smarm? lol

Adam K, I am not talking of reviews alone or BO, I am also talking about if the movies barely made a ripple, yes, MC got great reviews and OK BO for the kind of movie it is but I am yet to read countless write-ups on its power. It simply looks to be another good/great movie that is enjoyable and that's pretty much it, it might as well be one of those strong summer movies that Denzel Washington makes every year. It is not causing cartwheels in a major way.

Anonymous said...

I found "Michael Clayton" to be a pretty tedious and drawn out "Law & Order"-esque episode. "Gone Baby Gone" was far better and should be the film getting the early best picture talk, but whatever. I'm sure that the Clooney love will get the film far into the Oscar season, despite the unremarkable box office.

Anonymous said...

I'd LOVE to si Tilda nominated.
Then at least I would have a reason to watch the show.

Anonymous said...

I think the best part of the film experience is the film itself and not the Oscars.

lylee said...

I, too, LOVE the scene where Wilkinson's character "flips off the crazy switch." It's scary and sobering and wonderful all at the same time. That scene alone should be enough to get him a nom, even if "Shiva the destroyer" isn't enough.

But Swinton really is the one who totally inhabits her role as the corp counsel with everything to lose. She looks like she's made of glass throughout the entire film, and it works. I do hope the Academy noticed.

And agreed with John P on not overlooking Sydney Pollack. He fit the role of the jaded law firm partner like a glove.

vince said...

The two best scenes: Wilkinson and Clooney in the alley and Clooney and Swinton at the end

steve said...

Wait, fever, how man best picture nominees have countless articles written about their power? Some, I guess, but those'll mostly be coming once awards season really starts. MC definitely has the reviews and (if things keep up) the box office to secure itself a spot on the shortlist. I just don't see what else is gonna take its spot at the moment - it's just what they like.

fever said...

Steve, how many articles have you read on Michael Clayton that really gets into it and I am not talking about reviews here, when No Country premiered at Cannes, that was something even There Will Be Blood is very heavy with the noise being made about it. I am not saying Michael Clayton is sub-par or bad, it is just that, there isn't that much noise being made about it in MOST quarters. Like Slate said on its site, Michael Clayton has George Clooney but nobody is watching it (just paraphrasing). David Poland is going to start ranting and raving in a short time because of this.

It may be nominated but like some nominated films, they come and go. Very few BPs warrant any kind of talk, discussion, analysis in the long run.

steve said...

So you're basically saying that Michael Clayton didn't have the pre-release buzz that No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood, are currently enjoying. Fine, but there's an (at least significantly partial) explanation of that: Anderson and the Coen bros. have a built-in fan base among cinephiles that Gilroy doesn't. Those films were bound to attract more attention. What matters for Oscar, however, is what happens once the film is actually released. On that count, Michael Clayton has already succeeded, with stellar reviews and solid box office. We'll see what happens when NCfOM is released wide, and TWBB is released at all.

Having seen NCfOM, I thought it was better than MC, but don't expect it to make the shortlist. It's not what they really go for. And I love PT Anderson (Boogie Nights and Magnolia both placed at the top of my list in their respective years), so I want it to be great. So I'm not really projecting my feelings onto Michael Clayton - I honestly don't see how it can miss.

fever said...

All I am saying is very simple: MC may be a great movie, it may be getting raves and even manage to make money at the BO or even get nominated for various awards but in about 2/3 years, not many people will have it at the tip of the tongues. Some of the recent BPs have been nothing but flies in pans so to speak, they are hot for the winter months but soon after *puff*.

Stephen G said...

Saw this last week - a rare timely release in Australia - and enjoyed it immensely. I think a Picture nom is well within reach. And during Wilkinson's 'flipping off the crazy switch' moment, I couldn't help but think 'aha! Oscar clip!'.

I think Clooney has a great chance for a nom - the attention-grabbing closing credits really stay with you and do the heavy lifting for him.

I am rooting for Tilda too. She could have played this as an ice queen (ala Narnia), but she was somehow disarming and misguided and nasty and human all at once.

NATHANIEL R said...

adam it's not quite four a year. (some of the films aren't released yet) but yeah, Wilkinson works a lot.

steve you're probably right about Bale. But he's just so consistently a fine talent that it seems crazy that there's no Oscar love. He's better than so many winners.

joe i'm glad you liked it. we so rarely agree ;)

lylee i agree that Pollack fits that role well... but i kind of feel he always plays that role. I'd like to see him doing something less corrupt eventually. he's always the voice of reason, or the company man, or the sinister voice... i dunno

anon bite your tongue. a bad episode of L&O? ugh. I hate L&O. MC has more depth and theme and performance in one single scene than L&O manages in every episode I've seen put together (Unfortunately I have seen quite a few: it was the dark days where a homeless friend was staying with me and she watched it religiously... and the TV shows it always. I bet it's playing on 7 stations even as I type this)

fever whether or not that's true of MC, you're right that it's true in general. But that's the problem of homogeny of group voting. The middle quality stuff tends to rise and the divisive stuff (i.e. the stuff that's more challenging and thus more likely to reward interest in years to come as it still holds interest) falls away.

Anonymous said...

ok - it is an intelligent film with good performances - but it is sooooooo cliche - soooo reminiscent of the 70's paranoia films - ooohhh corporate and government conspiracies against us all - kind of deal - not original - one would think a best picture nom might shown a bit more originality and not be a throwback to another time -

having said that - Swinton is great - Clooney gives his best performance but - it aint no where near one of the best performances of the year - however - sine H Wood loves George - he'll get the nom -

Anonymous said...

Yeah, that's what I said. I didn't think that "Michael Clayton" was much more than a juiced up "Law & Order" episode, and I'll stand by every word of that.