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Gary Oldman does not deserve the Oscar … this year

Gary Oldman is a filmic chameleon, but does he deserve an Oscar for his least challenging role?

Gary Oldman in "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy"

It’s Oscar season, and Guest Clacker Gari Hart shares some thoughts on why Gary Oldman does not deserve an Oscar … this year, at least.

With little argument, Oscar night is peppered with incredible moments. Perhaps the most astonishing juncture viewers will see this year is Gary Oldman on screen, when the nominations for Best Actor in a Leading Role are announced.

Leonard Gary Oldman has been in the film business for twenty years now, having landed his first film role in 1982 for a film called Remembrance. It was only a short four years later that Oldman would already make a solid imprint as a character actor, when he was cast as Sid Vicious in a bio-pic on the Punk Rocker’s ill-starred life. After portraying Lee Harvey Oswald in 1991’s JFK, Oldman became one of Hollywood’s optimal actors for character driven parts. Gary Oldman has rarely, if ever, looked/sounded/walked the same from one character to the next (Dracula, Jean-Baptize Emanuel Zorg, Ludwig Von Beethoven, Drexl Spivey, Agent Stansfield, Ivan Korshunav, Dr. Smith, Mason Verger, Sirius Black, Jim Gordon, Carnegie). Such an assortment of personalities on display, but something is missing: Gary Oldman never received an Academy Awards nomination for any of his performances in the past. After altering his appearance and mannerisms dozens of times, and with such authenticity, Oldman has walked away more than empty handed year after year; he’s walked away simply ignored.

Accepting the part of George Smiley in Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy — an adaptation of John le Carré’s 1974 British spy novel — Gary Oldman seemed to put little effort into his work: George Smiley and Gary Oldman are both middle-aged and English. In fact, Oldman’s performance in Tinker lacks vigor, especially when set against the splendid supporting cast (Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Tom Hardy, Toby Jones, John Hurt, Ciarán Hinds). Ironically, when the nominations were announced last month for the 84th Academy Awards, Gary Oldman was called for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

Unbelievable! Was this a way for the Academy to play catch-up? The real question might be: Should Gary Oldman win on account of his impressive repertoire, or should the Academy not fail to reward his next outstanding presentation? This year, Oldman is running against George Clooney, Demian Bichir, Jean Dujardin, and Brad Pitt for his Oscar — with Dujardin favored to win for The Artist — while other terrific acting was passed-over, like Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 50/50 and Michael Fassbender in Shame or A Dangerous Method. Virtually any other year, Oldman’s performance in whichever part he chose would be one of the better, in not best of the year, warranting an Oscar nomination. However, Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy plainly wasn’t that performance; not the best given for 2011. Does Gary Oldman deserve an Oscar? Unquestionably! But for his 20 years of service; not as George Smiley.

Gari Hart has been a film fanatic since a young age.  Movie watching has taken up more than 70% of his life.


Photo Credit: Studio Canal

Categories: Features, General, News

8 Responses to “Gary Oldman does not deserve the Oscar … this year”

February 24, 2012 at 10:04 AM

I’m looking for next year with his last performance as Gordon. He has mastered that quiet, complex role.

February 24, 2012 at 11:08 AM

The fact that you saw Oldman as “putting so little effort” into the role speaks to his abilities as an actor. He wasn’t just quiet, he was tightly controlled. There was a fierce intelligence and a simmering rage just below the surface of Smiley. Not to mention, Oldman is only 53. He managed to transform his physicality into that of a man in his 60’s just by the way he carried himself. Smiley’s very speech patterns are nothing like that of Oldman’s. (In fact he was doing an homage to Alec Guinness).
Of those nominated, I would rather see Gary Oldman win than Clooney, Pitt or even Dujardin. Frankly, Fassbender was robbed but that’s another story.

February 24, 2012 at 1:33 PM

Which role was Fassbender robbed for? Honestly, I can think of three roles off the top of my head for him in 2011.

February 24, 2012 at 1:48 PM

Absolutely, so can I. I guess I should have been more specific. I meant for Shame. No actor, none, gave a better performance, imho than Fassbender’s Brandon.

February 24, 2012 at 1:52 PM

I actually loved his performance in Jane Eyre (which I reviewed here if you feel like searching for it, haha).

February 24, 2012 at 3:01 PM

I hated Shame. I don’t think Fassbender did anything but look tortured and distant throughout the entire film. He did nothing to make me care about Brandon, which may be the script and the director’s fault for not giving him more to work with. The whole thing was massively over-hyped solely because of the full frontal nudity. I didn’t see A Dangerous Method, but I thought he was excellent in X-Men: First Class … but, of course, that’s not the kind of film you get nominated for.

February 24, 2012 at 3:15 PM

My appreciation for Shame had little or nothing to do with the nudity, frankly I think if it weren’t for that, the film would have gotten the attention and not Fassbender’s anatomy. He was a study in pain and functioning addiction. I’ve followed Fassbender’s career for a number of years (I first spotted him in 300.) and I’ve yet to see anything but a stellar performance no matter what the material. I loved his Rochester, his Carl Jung made A Dangerous Method worth watching and his Magneto was magnificent. I’m very excited about the fact that not only will there be another Matthew Vaughn directed X-Men, but that it will focus on Fassbender’s character.

February 24, 2012 at 8:25 PM

It’s a bit unfair to say he shouldn’t win because he has been better, when, well, it’s not the case with the others contenders as they have not a resume like Oldman, or even a real resume at all anyway. So, of course their performances “stand out” more, as we have pretty much nothing else to compare. Of course “he has been better”, he’s Gary Oldman, not some “banal” actor that everyone raves about because he (finally) gave a good performance. People are used to great things with Oldman so he has always been taken for granted. He is so good at what he does, he always makes it look so easy, that people sometimes don’t get the brillance and all the work he did to achieve this, because he never shows the effort.

Fassbender or Gordon-Levitt are irrelevant for this as they are not nominated. It’s still one of the best turns of Oldman. He is a master of restraint, with his hidden emotions only sometimes visible through his cold, almost cruel exterior. He’s the only performer here who knows how to play subtext, who gave a real depth to his character. It’s a stunning and very refined work. He did so much with an exquisite subtlety, he’s the only nominee whose we can talk lengthily about his work, about every nuance, mannerism, every thing his demeanor exuded, implied, from his internalized dry wit to the weight of all the years of his job he made us sense effortlessly (that’s why it’s so brillant), and so on. It’s an amazingly layered performance. He is easily the best of the nominees, so of course he won’t win.

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