Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Oscar Nominations

Theatre and film have a peculiar relationship--film is like a younger sibling or cousin that has gone on to much greater success, but still looks longingly for the older relative's approval. Film envies theatre's prestige and cachet, not to mention the ability to get people to pay huge amounts of money for tickets, while theatre envies the money to be made and the global reach of film. There is frequent traffic between the two--plays adapted into movies and movies into plays, theatre actors, directors, and playwrights working on films and movie talent coming to stage--but the results are not always successful. Film actors often seem underpowered on stage, stage actors sometimes are overblown on film. Adaptations between media frequently stumble, and only rarely are writers and directors powerhouses in both fields. Still, I think that the traffic between the two media is generally a good thing--it gives people a chance to work more and stretch themselves, and sometimes results in something wonderful. It's just better when the work is done with some creativity, rather than slavishly taking work from one medium and forcing it into another.

All of this is by way of saying that the Oscar nominations were announced this morning, and included several items of interest to theatre people. As a caveat, I have not seen most of the films nominated.

--Of greatest interest to Chicago theatre lovers is the nomination of Michael Shannon as best supporting actor for his role in Revolutionary Road. Shannon has a long history in Chicago, and is in the ensemble of A Red Orchid Theatre. He played the lead in their production of Bug, which moved to Off-Broadway and won him the lead in the film version. Looks like the local boy is making good!

--It was a good year for stage to film adaptations. Peter Morgan's Frost/Nixon a hit at London's Donmar Warehouse and then on Broadway, won nominations for Best Picture, Frank Langella's recreation of his Tony-winning role as Richard Nixon, Morgan's adaptation of his own play, Ron Howard's direction, and editing. Doubt, adapted from John Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer and Tony winning play, one of the few to make money and go on tour in recent years, failed to get a Best Picture nomination, but did pick up one for Shanley's adaptation of his own play. Also, all four principal actors were nominated for Oscars. Meryl Streep got her start on stage and still makes an occasional appearance, usually in brief runs for which it's impossible to get a seat, Philip Seymour Hoffman works with some frequency as both an actor and director, usually with Off-Broadway's LAByrinth Theatre Company, and Viola Davis won a Tony for her powerful work in August Wilson's King Hedley II. Amy Adams has yet to do prominent stage work, which is a shame, since she's delightful.

--Several other theatre people have nominations this year. Actors include Anne Hathaway, nominated for leading actress in Rachel Getting Married, who once appeared in Carnival! at Encores, and Marisa Tomei, nominated for supporting actress in The Wrestler, who has been making quite a career as a theatre actress, most recently in last season's Broadway revival of Top Girls. Stephen Daldry, nominated for directing The Reader also has a long resume onstage, mostly in Britain, with credits including a famed revival of An Inspector Calls and, more recently, the musical adaptation of Billy Elliott, one of his films. Two other playwrights received screenwriting nominations: David Hare, for The Reader, and the notorious Martin McDonagh for his feature debut, In Bruges. (He won an Oscar for live action short for Six Shooter a few years back.)

That's what I've noticed. Anything I missed? Any other thoughts on this year's nominations?


Mr. K said...

Unbeknown to most viewers, WALL-E, one of the summer's biggest stars, spent three years in France studying mime with Marcel Marceau in order to prepare for his almost wordless performance in his film debut.
And now the star wants to return to his first love, the stage.
Sources say WALL-E and his agent are now in talks with the Public for a short performance run of Beckett's Happy Days.

Said a close personal friend of WALL-E, "for some reason, the little guy loves to perform in rubble."
-Not Michael Riedel

Zev Valancy said...

I believe that Mr. E also spent some time studying with Jacques Lecoq, which accounts for his extraordinary physical performance--both his acrobatic verve and his exceptional physical control.

AClevelandReader said...

I noticed most of these connections, but not al.....thanks for pointing out the rest!

Millionaire Maker said...

I am all for Kate Winslet.

Uncle Jay said...

I was riveted by Frost/Nixon - not just the performance but the get out of the way direction by Ron Howard. And "Wall E" is the best love story of the year.

Zev Valancy said...

I was terribly disappointed that Wall-E didn't get a Best Picture nomination. I am glad it at least got nominated for the screenplay--who needs dialogue to be brilliant?