Many who suffer for art end up celebrating Oscar wins

This evening Academy Award race for best actress is generally seen as being between Annette Bening and Natalie Portman. That contest pits an older star (Bening is 52) against a younger one (Portman is 29). It also a tale of two styles of acting. Bening plays a Los Angeles doctor who learns that her lesbian partner is sleeping with their children sperm donor. Portman plays a Manhattan ballerina losing her mind. Who knows what Bening did to prepare? Did she spend a lot of time at hospitals, with gay women, in front of the record player brushing up on her Joni Mitchell? I imagine Bening might say it beside the point: How was my performance?

Of course, in Portman case, her preparation has become very much the point. It been widely reported that, as part of her readying for Swan, she underwent extensive dance training and lost 20 pounds. In the film, she lithe and angular. Some dance experts have carped that Portman doesn dance like a dancer. But to a lot of us, she seems like one. I had dozens of conversations with moviegoers civilian and professional in the last couple of months about Portman in Swan. Not everyone a fan, but most are, and what they love about the performance often comes down to the challenge she faced as an actor. She had to immerse herself in this character. She played two people. I had zero similar conversations about her competition (two of whom had sex scenes similar to the famous one Portman has with Mila Kunis).

In Kids Are All Right, the beauty of Bening performance is its grace, wit, and intelligence its ostensible lack of work. Her part wasn as hard as Portman or at least whatever she did to play the character hasn been made part of an Oscar campaign. If Bening character, Nic, suffers, it emotionally. Portman suffering and suffer she does is physical and more grueling. We know how much she changed herself for Swan, and that seems brave.

Bening might not care to remember, but she been here twice before. The two grandly dramatic, more or Nike Roshe Run Hyp Run 833125-001 Men Black White Outlet Malaysia less classical performances she gave in Beauty and Julia were both famously upstaged by the physical suffering of Hilary Swank. So much of what we now consider great acting depends on how much effort we think we can see or have heard about. Bening is one of our great movie actors, but looking at how she been treated through the admittedly superficial prism of plaudits, we don appear to think she that great.

In the last 50 years, as various types of realism of believability, really have become crucial components of American moviemaking, believable acting has become crucial, too. A gritty part requires a gritty actor; a homely part requires a homely one. So in 1966, when moviegoers got a load of 32 year old Elizabeth Taylor weighing two dozen pounds more than her normal weight, cursing up a storm in Afraid of Virginia Woolf, they were blown away. The idea that a glamorous star could let her mouth and body go like that began to shape our perception of the physical extremes to which actors could go for a role. Her determination to put on the weight demonstrated an obvious passion for this part: Cheap Adidas Ultra Boost Uncaged BB 4073 Unisex White Malaysia She was wearing it.

A decade and a half later, Taylor male counterpart came along, and permanently altered that perception. To play the boxer Jake La Motta in Bull, a slim, 35 year old Robert De Niro first got himself in athletic, muscular shape. Then the production of Martin Scorsese movie was shut down for four months so its star could lose the boxer physique and pack on the 56 pounds necessary to turn him into a pursy whale.

just can fake acting, De Niro said at the time, having allegedly eaten his way across Europe. know movies are an illusion and the first rule is to fake it, but not for me, I too curious. I want to deal with all the facts of the character, thin or fat. . . . Just by having the weight on, it really made me feel a certain way and behave in a certain way. . . . It was a little like going to a foreign land.

If De Niro had changed our appreciation for actorly commitment, so he also, like Francis Ford Coppola, permanently changed himself. Both De Niro and Taylor won acclaim and Oscars for their work, but neither was ever the same after, especially De Niro, who appears to have sacrificed his vitality, psychological complexity, spontaneity, and sexual heat for the part. In one performance, he managed to do Marlon Brando whole career and spent the next 30 years more or less wiped out by it, often great more by reputation than by example. Even though, it was some example.

De Niro titanic performance and the legend of what he put his body through to achieve it inspired a generation of actors not to fake it. The Method had become a kind of workout routine. This sort of physical acting is easy to appreciate because we can see it. Surveying the Oscars, the change has been especially apparent in the last 10 years, in which many of the lead actors and actresses completely transformed themselves, with either physical or prosthetic help. Playing known figures like Idi Amin, Ray Charles, Queen Elizabeth, or Edith Piaf also helps since we have a template for measuring how accurate the performance seems. The authenticity of Joaquin Phoenix Johnny Cash was frequently called into question. The direct comparison failed to give Phoenix ingenuity its due. (Reese Witherspoon won an Oscar for playing his wife, June Carter Cash, a star who isn the looming physical icon Cash is.)

Surprise winner Adrien Brody whittled himself down for his role as a Holocaust survivor in Pianist. Nicole Kidman wore a plastic nose and inky Adidas Superstar Unisex White Black Serpentine Factory Outlet Malaysia hair to play the depressive Virginia Woolf in Hours. Charlize Theron bulked up for her role in for which she also wore heavy makeup. Theron was part of a trend in which glamorous women deglamorized themselves and won Oscars Kidman, Swank for Don Cry and Dollar Baby, Halle Berry for Ball. They all won after Gwyneth Paltrow unexpected best actress Oscar in 1999 for in Love, in which she pretended to be a man but was ravishing in both genders. She was the last woman to win as much on the grounds of movie star radiance as skill. Despite an embarrassment of excellence, Paltrow hasn been nominated since, and the lead acting contest has been completely averse to her sort of incandescence.

It as much the transformation we salute in some of the winning work, the bravery of choosing, for one movie, to resemble someone other than Charlize Theron or Halle Berry, neither of whose careers has been the same after their wins. (Nor has Ren Zellweger She put on weight for Jones Diary, lost it and more for then put it back on for Mountain, for which she won the supporting actress Oscar.) A bloated, stoned, severely undershaven Phoenix tried to mock this serious, grueling, possibly self destructive approach to acting in Still Here, and appears to have scorched his own good name in the process.

In Theron seemed not simply hidden but disguised. It was tricky to see the performance beneath the prosthetics. It might have helped Theron feel who Aileen Wuornos was, the way the right shoes or gait or suit does another actor. But part of the astonishment of Theron performance is how little of Theron there appears to be in it. This, of course, is acting. It is also something strange and less exciting than that it a kind of effacement. But in erasing herself, we were supposed to be able to see, at last, beyond her beauty.

This year, the biggest winner in this preference for work that shows will be Colin Firth, whose vivid stuttering in King Speech borders, under the circumstances, on pornographic. The most ironic loser is Mark Wahlberg. His performance in Fighter has been roundly underpraised compared with the admittedly deserved kudos heaped upon his costars (and likely winners tonight) Melissa Leo and Christian Bale. It true they were bigger, louder, and showier than Wahlberg, who plays a real life character who happens to be passive. But the bias for work that shows almost certainly worked against him. Leo was made to look older than her 50 years and worked her Lowell accent like a whip. Bale, an extreme technician of the Bull school, lost a lot of weight and hid his native Welsh accent for a Lowell one, as well.

Given what these two and their blue collar costar Amy Adams obviously did, people were forced to ask what Wahlberg had done, besides get himself in fighting shape and get the movie made? He from Boston. He was already in great shape. He made it look too easy by comparison. Where was his work? Depending on how things go for Natalie Portman tonight, he might want to go over and tell Annette Bening he knows how she feels.