SANTA BARBARA: Virtuosos on the march

Posted by · 11:55 pm · January 28th, 2009

Richard JenkinsUnfortunately, “Happy-Go-Lucky” star couldn’t make it to tonight’s presentation of the Virtuoso Awards at the Lobero Theatre due to surgery recovery, but Viola Davis, Richard Jenkins, Rosemarie DeWitt, Melissa Leo and Michael Shannon were on hand to talk their roles in five of the most critically acclaimed films of the year.  James Cromwell did the honor of presentation.

It’s a shame DeWitt was the only one on stage lacking (criminally) an Oscar nomination, but moderator Roger Durling kept the conversation away from awards as much as he could.

A considerably amount of the discussion was spent on the nature of these actors’ careers, floating between the big screen, television and theater with a particular ease.  Many of the Virtuosos swept the comment aside with the usual “we go where the work takes us” rhetoric, which is fine, but Davis made a compelling comment regarding the state of the profession.

“When you think about actors, you think about Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie,” she said.  “But most of them look just like us here on stage.”  The indication, of course, is the middle class actor and how often he or she isn’t given the proper credit, be it on television, on stage or, certainly, on the screen.

“Please, go to New York,” DeWitt said.  “See a play.  Some of the greatest actors in the world are working on stage,” but their names aren’t well-known.  It’s an interesting topic with the SAG dispute of late, which finds middle class actors at the forefront of a fight for credit.  Durling, of course, didn’t pursue that line of questioning.

Jenkins’s dry sensibilities afforded its fair share of guffaws from the crowd.  “I’m beginning to understand your sense of humor,” a timid Durling noted.  “But you intimidate me!”

Shannon, meanwhile, really brought the house down once the crowd finally warmed up to him.  This is a guy you really need to feel out for a minute or two, but once you’re in step you’re right there with him.  He’s one of the funniest guys in the race this year, but you wouldn’t know it because he hasn’t shown up on television interviews for whatever reason.  But in Q&A after Q&A, he’s got a subdued thing going on that makes the jokes that much funnier when they come.  I always look forward to talking with him, because the conversation invariably moves to some mundane refreshingly removed from the movie fray.

Anyway, back to his sense of humor.  Take the long story he told about a recent Sundance screening, for instance.  Upon being asked, rather broadly, what it felt like to suddenly find himself thrust into the spotlight, he recounted a screening of “Bronson” in Park City last week.  It’s the story of London’s most infamous inmate, Charles Bronson (born Michael Peterson), the most violent prisoner in British history and the film reportedly presents violence as a for of art and self-expression.  “All I could think of is I’m glad I’m not that guy,” Shannon said slowly.  “I’m glad I’m this guy.”

Davis made a similar comment, stating “I’ll take it” twice regarding her accolades and Oscar nomination for a 12-minute performance in “Doubt.”  Funnily enough, Davis admitted to thinking her performance was poor when she first saw the film and seemed stunned at the attention.  But she’ll take it.

Finally, Leo — rather stunningly, given the public setting — expressed some irritation at the fact that “Frozen River” has not yet been screened in and around the Plattsburgh, New York filming location for the numerous actors and, presumably, crew that had a part in the production.  If that’s true, it’s rather shocking no one at Sony Classics has made that PR move yet.  To have their lead actress nominee out making statements like this at an awards presentation — not good.  But props to Leo for doing what she can to get things done.

I didn’t manage to make it from Virtuoso to Virtuoso at the after-party.  In fact, I hunkered down with Shannon for a drink and mainly talked about the unfortunate reception “Revolutionary Road” has received, both from certain critics and certainly the Academy (his nomination notwithstanding).  “Sam [Mendes] seems to keep taking hits on the chin for this film,” he said.  “I don’t get it.”

We also talked about the cinematography in the film and my top 10 shots of the year piece from earlier this month.  I mentioned the shot I chose but how taken I was by the final shot of the film, too (depicting a rather brilliant beat in the screenplay as actor Richard Easton’s Howard Givings character turns down his hearing aid to drown out his wife’s chatter).  “There are like eight shots in that film that should be hung in a museum,” Shannon said of Roger Deakins’s shockingly un-nominated work on the film.  “I can’t believe he didn’t get a nomination.”

Well, my theory is without “The Reader” in the mix, he would have made it.  Just one more screwjob from Stephen Daldry’s film, but I won’t go there for now.

→ 15 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

15 responses so far

  • 1 1-29-2009 at 1:14 am

    richard said...

    Correction: Howard Givings is played by legendary New York stage actor Richard Easton (not Robert Easton).

    Cool post.

  • 2 1-29-2009 at 4:33 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    What a shame Sally couldn’t make it. This was a really terrific selection of actors — whoever picks the Virtuoso honorees (or the Newsweek and Hollywood Reporter roundtables, for that matter) is a lot more clued up than the Academy voters.

    It’s a scandal that brilliant actors like DeWitt and Hawkins have been blanked by the Academy because they apparently only have room for so many non-marquee names. Thank God there are institutions like this to give such artists their due.

  • 3 1-29-2009 at 8:41 am

    JC said...

    One more cheap shot at The Reader. Most of you just can’t give it up, can you?

    The Reader deserves its Cinematography nomination, something you mentioned in your earlier piece on the film months ago, as opposed to Changeling’s nom which came as a complete surprise.

  • 4 1-29-2009 at 10:29 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    I agree it deserved it’s nomination, JC. Go back and read my comments on the film, the first word anywhere. I immediately praised the lensing. This “cheap shot” was more in jest, but I don’t think anyone will disagree that without the film in the mix (or at least Deakins’s name being attached), “Revolutionary Road” would have been nominated. And I think that’s a shame.

  • 5 1-29-2009 at 10:43 am

    hugo said...

    Hawkins has a heart and so it must be hurt by the lack of recognition of SAG, BAFTA and OSCAR and may have created any excuse not to attend, which I think is justified.
    All these awards, I was disappointed and not reward the great performances as Sally, the winners are elected and those who organize these events are the producers.
    Example: The Reader, with 64% acceptance metacrítica and best picture nomination, director, leading actress.
    Who were the producers and Mingella Pollack (deceased) heavyweight producers. Adding a brutal campaign Wenstein.Esto is to give a sample.
    Well (you understand), Hawkins for not attending this event.

  • 6 1-29-2009 at 11:43 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Hugo: Hawkins wasn’t creating any excuses. She broke her collarbone on her most recent shoot, and she’s been in and out of hospital during the healing process. You can bet she would have been at Santa Barbara if she’d been able.

  • 7 1-29-2009 at 12:13 pm

    Leone said...

    Kris, I think you have the coolest job around. How fun to get to spend time with such an interesting and talented group of actors. Michael Shannon sounds like a hoot. The nice thing about many of the actors that are nominated this year is that they are true “actors’ actors” and to see the light shine on them this way is great — it will change their lives, get them the recognition they deserve after years of working hard in role after role. I like the idea that the film festival would honor these actors as a group and take the whole nasty competition thing out of it for at least a night!

  • 8 1-29-2009 at 1:38 pm

    Kit Stolz said...

    Amen about Rosemarie Dewitt. Without slagging anyone else, she deserved a nom as much as anyone in “Rachel Getting Married” — without her performance, the movie wouldn’t have made a lick of sense.

    Them that has, gets, and them that don’t — don’t.

  • 9 1-29-2009 at 1:45 pm

    actionman said...

    Penelope Cruz over Rosemarie DeWitt? NO F’ING WAY. Finally caught up with VCB and was less than blown away; had read (maybe too much) good stuff about the script and Cruz’s perf and I came away with…well…not much. It was horrible (I enjoyed the movie overall) but there’s not much there, and Cruz is barely in the film.

    DeWitt gave a brilliantly layered performance in Rachel Getting Married (as did the also un-nominated Bill Irwin). It’s also a joke of the first order that RGM didn’t get an original screenplay nod for Jenny Lumet.

  • 10 1-29-2009 at 1:47 pm

    caleb roth said...

    Hey, I followed the link to your Best Shots info, and there’s wrong info. Deakins is not the most nominated DP ever. James Wong Howe had 9 nods, and Robert Surtees had 16.

  • 11 1-29-2009 at 2:09 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Leone: I certainly can’t complain.

    actionman: I think VCB needed to be experienced back in September or even as early as Cannes, before it had been turned over in the media mill, to really enjoy it. It doesn’t have the ability to surprise at this point, I think.

    caleb: If you check again, it says most nominated lenser ever “without a statuette to his credit.” Howe and Surtees have won the big award. Deakins, shamefully, has not.

  • 12 1-30-2009 at 8:07 am

    caleb roth said...

    Oh, I got now, but I think that comma shouldn’ be there? Not playing the jerk. I’m just wondering how I didn’ get what you were saying. Oh, the comma is not there anymore.

  • 13 1-31-2009 at 2:17 am

    sally p. said...

    actionman, your point of view is spot on. But, Penelope was good but not brilliant on the level of Rosemarie. Hathaway deserved her nomination, I just wish she could have shared an Oscar nomination with the incredible Dewitt. There performances are so outstanding that I truly believed they were sisters , and the dynamic of ther relationship. Don’t get me started on the lost nomination for Bill Irwin (and Happy Go Lucky’s Eddie Marsan) – a travesty of the highest order. By the way, actionman, I generally agree with most of your viewpoints.