Monday, February 23, 2009

There was something missing last night.....

Finally, the Academy Awards have come and gone. All of the endless pre-show speculation, predictions, follies, oversights, and lazy reporting can be tucked into bed and fed Nyquil through a tube. The winners were announced in exactly the way we all expected, including Sean Penn (Really, the Academy was never going to give Mickey Rourke a statue....too risky, too unpredictable. He may shouted out that girl he calls Gap Tooth again, for crying out loud!). As much as I love anything Hollywood-news-related, the tireless Oscar blogging and forecasting began running dry weeks ago, since anyone with half a film-brain knew that Slumdog Millionaire was on the verge of strong-arming the festivities. Which is precisely what happened.

My one glaring question concerning this year's Oscars, though, remains unanswered --- where the hell was Che during all of this?


I've done a bit of brain-refreshing research, and all signs point to Steven Soderbergh's behemoth-in-size yet intimate-in-approach biopic as an Academy Award qualifier as far as release dates go. So why zero nominations? And not just total omission amongst the Oscar lists, but pretty much every other awards events?
Not saying that Che should've been a Best Picture contender. Best Actor and Best Director, however? Sure. Even a cinematography nod would've been welcome.

As much as I love Brad Pitt as an actor, there's no justifiable way anybody can say that is Benjamin Button performance is tops over Benicio Del Toro in Che. End of debate there. The other four remaining Best Actor fellas (Penn, Rourke, Richard Jenkins, Frank Langella) all feel right, so I won't question their inclusions. Let's just leave this at "Del Toro over Pitt any day." Same goes for Steven Soderbergh, Che's director, over Ron Howard (Frost/Nixon). Look, I loved Frost/Nixon as much as the next surprised fan, but Howard's work in it, though impressive, is more about letting his actors do the work as he tightly paces the action. Soderbergh does pretty much the same thing with his observer's-eye approach to Che, but then he also mixes in some truly striking action/battle sequences and other subtle but seriously-effective visual touches (the final shots seen from the dead eyes of Che Guevara's corpse are especially powerful).

This isn't something that I'm defiantly crying "Bullshit!" over, but just an issue that I'd love to hear some closure on. All of the necessary elements were in place ---- epic biopic (check), acclaimed director (double check), strong lead actor (triple check). Che is an arduous task to watch, but one that I found myself gaining newer, deeper appreciation for as days went by and I was further removed from it, left to understand just what Soderbergh and company really meant to accomplish, which they have in spades.


Odds are, I'm missing some vital morsel of behind-the-scenes information here. Could it be some sort of bad-luck-charm curse at the hands of IFC Films, the company that picked Che up for theatrical distribution, which is also currently playing the Italian Mafia critical darling Gomorrah, another Oscar cold-shoulder recipient? Maybe my calendar combing was faulty and Che didn't qualify, or perhaps Soderbergh and company didn't campaign for it well enough. Most likely, though, the film was met with more apathy than I'd initially comprehended. A shame, really.

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