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Daniel Day-Lewis Oscars 2013

Perhaps it’s my fascination for dark and troubled personalities that, added to my love of extraordinary acting talent, recently has got me hooked on Daniel Day-Lewis, a man who possesses plenty of both. Spurring it on was this old but insightful article from New York Times, 1992 which gives a really interesting insight into this phenomenal actor’s mind and method: both quite peculiar, yet both unquestionably potent.

I wish I could say that this new-found obsession has nothing to do with this weekend’s Academy Awards ceremony, where he won the Oscar for Best Leading Actor for ‘Lincoln’; that I’ve been meaning to watch more of his movies for a while now anyway (well, that is partly true) and that this just happened to be the time for it, but that’s sadly not the case. The truth is, despite Daniel Day-Lewis’ unbelievable achievements in the world of film and the almost-reverence with which he is treated among colleagues and critics alike, generally being regarded as the most respected, versatile and arguably the best actor of his generation, I shamefully admit that this man up until now has mysteriously somehow been more or less off my radar, and that it’s actually taken me this long to realize just how big of a deal he is.

My Left Foot (1989)

Then again, perhaps it’s not all that odd that I haven’t noticed him. Being exceedingly shy of the media and protective of his privacy, Day-Lewis appears to enjoy that incredibly rare and prized condition that very few celebrities of his caliber do, of generally being left alone by the press (I can think of only Johnny Depp as the other who shares this unusual privilege, as it seems to have become). There is very little being written by him that isn’t related to a movie project, and as he takes on noteworthy few of those, he remains something of an enigma despite his continuous achievements.

What usually is written about Day-Lewis concerns his tenacious use of method acting. He takes this acting technique perhaps further than any other modern-day actor, remaining in character for the entirety of a production and aquiring skills that aren’t strictly speaking neccessary for the movie, such as learning Czech for a character’s backstory and how to build canoes, remaining in a wheelchair off-set for weeks on end, and always insisting that others address him by his character name. Judging only by these kinds of reports and his choice of roles, usually portraying tormented or tyrannical men, one can easily be left with an image of a somewhat disagreeable eccentric.

Bill "The Butcher" Cuttings in 'Gangs of New York' (2002)

The first movie in which I remember taking notice of him (and not just because he’s in every single scene save one in the movie’s 2 hours and 40 minutes) was in Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘There Will Be Blood’ (2007). His intense performance earned him a place in the exclusive club of actors who have won all the five greatest film awards (Oscar, BAFTA, Golden Globe, SAG and Critics’ Choice) for a single performance. A few years earlier he had appeared in ‘Gangs of New York’ in a solid performance as the tyrannic Bill “The Butcher” Cutting, though I’m among the select few who found the movie as a whole largely overrated. In retrospect I remember noticing at the reception of both of these movies the way this man always seemed to be mentioned in a noticably revered kind of way, but for some reason it escaped my mind to inquire about why.

The first news of his newest all-consuming project, Steven Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln’, presented by way of a teaser poster of his face in profile, initially sparked my interest. Here was “this guy” again, whom everyone seemed to think so much of, and in biopic about a very interesting historical figure. But with the arrival of the farce ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ around the same time and the painful memories of Spielberg’s last and hugely disappointing movie ‘War Horse’, the interest soon dwindled and turned to increasing skepticism. By the time the movie finally reached the cinemas here much later, despite raving reviews in the US and numerous award nominations both for Day-Lewis and the movie in general, my skepticism had festered and the movie was opted out in favour of other cinema released around the same time.

Lincoln (2012)So watching the Oscars ceremony this Sunday, I still didn’t know all too much about this mysterious and intense man when he was announced the winner of the Academy award for Leading Actor – in the process writing film history on two accounts: as the only person to ever receive three Leading Actor Oscars, and the only person to ever win the Big 5 twice. And here, at last, is when my eyes opened to this extraordinary person. Not only was it fascinating to witness how the entire crowd present at the ceremony saluted him as he approached the stage to accept his reward, but the charisma, incredible humility and down-to-earth air that radiated from while he delivered his well-spoken and witty acceptance speech left me completely astounded as to how I’ve managed to avoid being taken in by him sooner.

As you can imagine, I’ve spent some time rectifying my errors and updating myself on his cinematic history since then. I’ve added six new titles to my watchlist (at this rate steadily becoming more like a -booklet), and, thankfully, discovered that another three were already on it (‘A Room With A View’ (1985), ‘The Last Of The Mohicans’ (1992) and ‘The Crucible’ (1996)). For once I’m grateful about the generally untimely late distributions of American blockbusters to Norwegian cinemas, because it gives me a chance to still catch ‘Lincoln’ on the big screen.

The other five are ‘My Left Foot’ (1989, which earned him his first Oscar), ‘In The Name Of The Father’ (1992, which earned him his second Oscar nomination) and ‘The Ballad of Jack and Rose’ (2005), written and directed by his wife, ‘My Beautiful Laundrette’ (1985) and ‘The Unbearable Lightness Of Being’ (1988).


Oops. So I caved in and watched the Oscars ceremony anyway, even though I’d decided not to. Seeing as in my local time the show airs from 02:30-06:00 AM on night to Monday, and I work weekdays from 8 AM, I thought I’d be the responsible adult and obstain from such silly indulgences, but apparently something happened along the way and now I find myself on my way to work with the desperate hope that memories from the show, aided by large amounts of caffeine and sugar, will pull me – and my work – through the day with an ounce of dignity remaining by the end of it.

It’s the first time I’ve watched the show in its entirety for many years, and I have to say I’m pretty pleased with it. Very little of the usual awkwardness, and apart from a few minor (and one major) blunders, the show was tasteful and pretty funny, safely guided by host Seth MacFarlane, whom I have no trouble imagining might be invited back to host again next year. All in all they played it pretty safe, but that’s a good thing. The live performances were steady, but not flashy, not even those by legends Barbra Streisand and Shirley Bassey. There were no legendary speeches, but no dreadful ones either. Daniel Day-Lewis and Christoph Waltz were both impossibly charming, as was Jennifer Lawrence, who tripped on her dress on her way to the stage but handled it in the most graceful way.

As for the awards, I’m actually pretty satisfied with the results. As the Oscars tend to be a popularity contest as much as about recognizing outstanding contributions in the art of film, it’s far from the most interesting award ceremony, and it can sometimes be fairly easy to guess who will win in many of the categories. I generally tend to disagree with some of the choices, which are clearly made for reasons other than to honor the best in each category. For instance, Meryl Streep’s award for ‘The Iron Lady’ last year was more of a “lifetime achievement award” to an icon who has missed out on more Oscars than any other nominee, than a testament to that particular performance, which was clearly outweighed by the competition. This year, there wasn’t all too much of that.

‘Life of Pi’ and ‘Argo’ were perhaps the biggest winners, to my satisfaction, though no movie totally swept the table this time. ‘Lincoln’ “lost” the most, as it was nominated in a rediculous amount of categories (for all I know, well-deservedly) and only ended up with two. Since I still haven’t seen some of most heavily nominated movies, such as ‘Lincoln’ and ‘Zero Dark Thirty’, I didn’t make a list of my favourites in each of the 24 categories. Instead, I made a list of who I expected to win, and I got 13 right, which I thought was pretty decent.

Here are the winners of the 2013 Academy Awards, which concludes the movie and award year of 2012:

Best picture: Argo (a little surprising, but cool)

Best director: Ang Lee, Life of Pi (called it)

Adapted Screenplay: Argo (called it – and yay!)
Original Screenplay: Django Unchained (yay)

Leading actress: Jennifer LawrenceSilver Linings Playbook (yay!)
Leading actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln (called it)

Supporting actress: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables (called it – and yay!)
Supporting actor: Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained  (called it)

Editing: Argo (called it)
Cinematography: Life of Pi

Production design: Lincoln
Visual Effects: Life of Pi (called it)
Costume Design: Anna Karenina
Make-up and Hair: Les Misérables

Sound Mixing: Les Misérables (called it)
Sound Editing: Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall (tied!)
Original score: Life of Pi
Theme song: ‘Skyfall’ (called it)

Documentary feature: Searching for Sugar Man (called it – been wanting to see this)
Documentary Short: Inocente

Live Action Short Film: Curfew

Animated feature: Brave (called it – disappointing, but unsurprising)
Animated short: Paperman (called it – I saw this charming little film by chance at the cinema the other week, and I was thrilled to see it win)

Best Foreign Film: Amour (called it – obvious choice)

Did you watch the Oscars? Did any of your favourites win?

It’s finally Oscars time! The last and greatest of the movie awards will be handed out tonight, concluding the cinematic year of 2012. The show’s kicking off in four hours, aka sleeping time for me who has to be at work tomorrow morning. I’ll take a peek in the early hours to check the status. Nominees here. Best of luck to all contenders!