I've only seen two of this year's Academy Award-winning films, but thought one far surpassed the other in every conceivable way.
The Wrestler, starring Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei, held me in a Full Nelson grip throughout. The story of a down-and-out wrestler and his stripper girlfriend was, in a word, riveting. The settings, photography, dialogue and pacing beautifully captured the quiet air of desperation faced by the lead characters. And, Rourke literally became his character: Randy the Ram, a washed up pro wrestling superstar beset by drug addiction, nagging pain and an ailing heart. Tomei is also brilliant in her role as the whore with a heart of gold.
I've never liked wrestling and wouldn't waste my time watching one of their bogus matches on TV, but I can't say enough about this flick. It reinforced my belief that moviemakers really can create magic. And, Rourke was robbed. He deserved the Oscar. The judges deserve to be slammed by a collective Ram Jam.
Now, The Reader. I found this flick to be a pale imitation to The Wrestler. The plot was ponderous, plodding and predictable. And I, for one, have seen a lifetime's worth of Holocaust-themed movies and don't need yet another one. Ms. Winslet's accolades also surprised me. I didn't find her acting or her character particularly compelling or engrossing. If anything, Ralph Fiennes ran rings around Ms. Winslet from a performance standpoint.
I'm fascinated by Hollywood image and reputation discussions. The Reader was heralded as a strong best picture candidate and Ms. Winslet trotted out as a sure thing for best actress. Rourke's performance was also ballyhooed, but positioned as a "comeback" effort (as if that should handicap it in some way). And, The Wrestler wasn't considered to be on the same plane as Slumdog, The Reader and others.
As we know, beauty is most assuredly in the eye of the beholder. But, Mickey Rourke's battered, bloodied and beaten down wrestler got to me. I thought it was one of the most intense screen performances I've seen in a long, long time.