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.