(Awards season) At the Movies: Revisiting recent Oscar snubs

  • Jim Carrey for Best Actor for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d

– From the poem Eloisa to Abelard by Alexander Pope

Comedians have a tough time at the Academy. They are hardly ever nominated. Back in the 90s, Jim Carrey was the reigning King of whacked-out mainstream comedies. In the late 90s and sometimes in the 2000s, he decided to shake things up a little and show off his range. And he killed it. Well, not always in the right movies (remember 2007’s The Number 23?), but when he did, he really killed it.

The Academy seems to pretty much appreciate and reward comedians when they step out of their comfort zone and take on darker dramatic roles. Yet it didn’t happen when Carrey turned up in a Best Actor-worthy performance in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004). The film’s plot is about an estranged couple – emotionally withdrawn, needy Joel Barish and unrestrained free spirit Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet in an Oscar-nominated turn) – who have each other erased from their memories. It’s a great one and features great lead performances by Carrey and Winslet.

His performance is riveting and subtler than anything he did before. He makes diving into Joel’s head, witness his relationship with Clementine and his desire to preserve its memory, as well as his interior life and emotional process very compelling viewing. He perfectly embodies his restrainment and his heart-brokenness just as well as he expresses how he falls in love all over again and understands that maybe forgetfulness isn’t the only comfort after the end of a love affair. Carrey’s awards tour for Eternal Sunshine is also interesting because he was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Actor – Musical or Comedy, while this one is actually a darker film than The Truman Show (1998), which earned him the Globe for Best Actor – Drama, as well as Oscar buzz. It just feels odd – and wrong – that the Academy decided to pass on him considering he had everything in his favor.

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2 thoughts on “(Awards season) At the Movies: Revisiting recent Oscar snubs

  1. Good call, and a very good film. A bit of a departure for Cronenberg, but excellent to see how he allowed the plot to develop through actors talking to each other, trusting their body language and the things they said to keep it going instead of inter-cutting with superfluous action scenes e.g. some visual representation of their dreams.

    As for Keira Knightley, she really did shine in it. Quite something to come out of a film starring Viggo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender as the most memorable performance, but then she stole it with the development of her character, the facial and bodily contortions in the early scenes of her hysteria blending into controlled poise, whilst the emotions are writ just as large.

    A shame about the Oscars snub, though in fairness I think the voting process within the Academy often has so little to do with the best work and performances that who gets it is rendered meaningless. This was the year that Meryl Streep won it for playing Margaret Thatcher, wasn’t it? Not a bad impersonation, not a patch on this, but then it’s Meryl Streep playing Margaret Thatcher. It was a shoo-in.

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  2. There’s no denying there’s some real issues at the moment with the awards. And as you pointed out – it’s not just BLACK or WHITE. I had this discussion with a friend earlier about race and cinema. The idea of a black James Bond. Fair enough, but…what about an Indian James Bond? Or Hispanic? Or Asian? The awards highlight such issues even more, focusing so much on race….in many ways when clearly it should just be a case of the winner goes to ….whoever was the best, so open up the flood gates and start to recognize more films and talent from all over the planet. It’s mad isn’t it?

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