This is the time of year where people start searching frantically for something to go against the grain, possibilities that fly in the face of "consensus." Case in point, Martin Grove's one-two punch drumming up publicity for actors Frank Langella and Christopher Plummer for "Starting Out in the Evening" and "Man in the Chair" respectively.
All due respect to Mr. Grove -- and the advocacy in those pieces is fair enough and speaks for itself -- but I popped these two films in the DVD player over the past week and found them awfully second rate.
Langella's work in "Evening" is wonderfully subdued, sure, but you don't often see something this delicate find its way to the Best Actor ballot without a flooding of the marketplace. It's a brave portrayal and, hey, Langella even offers up some frontal nudity for those curious, but it's stuff like the upcoming "Frost/Nixon," showy performances with bite, that triumph, for better or worse, over delicacy.
Plummer's work in "Chair," on the other hand, is a touch more dramatic in its showmanship. But the director of "Cyborg 2" and "Cyborg 3" is behind this effort, and that sadly tends to show. Don't get me wrong, I think Plummer should have walked away with the Best Supporting Actor trophy in 1999, but I think serious Oscar talk for him this year is a bit inflated at best.