Values and Destiny

There’s usually one Best Actress Oscar nominee every year who receives attention as the token newcomer — someone relatively fresh and young like last year’s Gabourey Sidibe or Carey Mulligan. 2010 has another six months to go (duhhh), but there’s a feeling right now that Jennifer Lawrence‘s performance as a determined Ozark teenager in Winter’s Bone — a young woman of exceptional steel — has a better-than-reasonable shot at landing a Best Actress nomination seven months hence.

Applauding acting talent is the basic criterion, of course, but nominating young actresses for an Oscar tends to be about values — about the Academy’s approval and respect for the characters they play. Mulligan’s Jenny, the lead in An Education, was celebrated for being plucky, spirited and eager for cultivated experience; Sidibe’s performance in Precious was embraced because she played such a hopeless, put-upon sad sack — obese, AIDS-afflicted, Downs Syndrome baby — that everyone (except Mo’Nique‘s Mary) wanted to comfort her.

Lawrence’s character, a 17 year-old named Ree Dolly, is about intestinal fortitude . Her goal in Winter’s Bone is to find her character-deficient criminal dad who put the family’s backwood home up for his bail bond and then skipped. If he stays gone Ree and her family will be homeless. The film is basically about Ree asking questions of several grungy Ozarkians — where is he?, you know anything?, just trying to care for my family. They all lie, glare, threaten, stare her down and dance around the truth, but she won’t back off. Ree is strong and unafraid, which you can’t help but admire.

Which is why she’s looking good for a nomination. We all want our kids to be tough and determined, and celebrating such a character will be a way of saying “see? This is what we’re talking about…life isn’t easy and you have to show a little mettle.”

On top of which Lawrence is damn good in the role — clearly, obviously. There’s also the fact that Lawrence is (please forgive) hot stuff, and voting for her will be a way for Academy geezer types (i.e., the Lorenzo Semple, Jr. types) to keep their hand in, so to speak.

I’ve been asked by two publicists why I haven’t posted an mp3 of my Lawrence interview. It’s because I made the mistake of recording it with an iPhone app called iRecorder, which is a huge pain in the ass in terms of uploading sound files onto my hard drive, and which rebuffs all attempts by Wavepad, my audio-manipulation software, to permit the files to be converted into mp3. I just gave up after an hour or so of messing with it, and for whatever reason I didn’t record my Lawrence chart on video.

Winter’s Bone is straight, sturdy, “real.” But my primary thought after catching it at last January’s Sundance Film Festival was that I’m glad I wasn’t born to poor white Ozark trash — a fate equal to the one that befell poor Precious, or worse? — and that I’d be grateful if the Emperor of the Universe told me I’ll never visit this region ever again for the rest of my life. In actuality, I mean.

I spoke to a 20-something lady at a recent Knight and Day screening who’d seen Winter’s Bone and didn’t like it because of the cruelty shown to Lawrence’s character, and because of the general Ozarkian scuzziness. I said “okay, I hear you, but Jennifer Lawrence…” And she finished my sentence before I got the words out: “Oh, I know, she’s great! Totally.”

It’s not a rumor — twentysomething women really do have a thing for the word “totally.” They use it a lot.

58 thoughts on “Values and Destiny

  1. Sigh, another Coaster assuming a movie like this is representative of an entire region they’ve probably never even been close to.

  2. Sigh, another Coaster assuming a movie like this is representative of an entire region they’ve probably never even been close to.

  3. It’s not a crush. Jesus…lame thing to say! It’s an analysis of what moves Academy types to nominate young actresses — values more than performance — and why I believe that Lawrence may be this year’s actress to fill the same spot that Carey and Gabby occupied last year.

  4. It’s not a crush. Jesus…lame thing to say! It’s an analysis of what moves Academy types to nominate young actresses — values more than performance — and why I believe that Lawrence may be this year’s actress to fill the same spot that Carey and Gabby occupied last year.

  5. Oh god. Great. Another 9 months of hearing how some young broad that tickles J Dub’s fancy is he second coming only to be let down once I see the flick.

    Does anyone know if it’s playing in Tokyo?

  6. Oh god. Great. Another 9 months of hearing how some young broad that tickles J Dub’s fancy is he second coming only to be let down once I see the flick.

    Does anyone know if it’s playing in Tokyo?

  7. I see we’re having a Stupidity Festival today. Is anyone man enough to address the issue? Do people tend to vote for the values that a character represents as much as they vote for pure acting chops? Or do they mostly respond to chops, pure and simple? Or do they tend to respond primarily to values?

  8. I see we’re having a Stupidity Festival today. Is anyone man enough to address the issue? Do people tend to vote for the values that a character represents as much as they vote for pure acting chops? Or do they mostly respond to chops, pure and simple? Or do they tend to respond primarily to values?

  9. From what I’ve read of Ms. Lawrence, she’s probably going for a big middle-of-the-road Katherine Heigl career eventually.

  10. From what I’ve read of Ms. Lawrence, she’s probably going for a big middle-of-the-road Katherine Heigl career eventually.

  11. Ms. Lawrence, in an interview, griped about having her teeth yellowed for the role–saying something about not being able to see it in the finished film. Sounds like someone eager for big paychecks in gotta-get-married romcoms to me.

  12. Ms. Lawrence, in an interview, griped about having her teeth yellowed for the role–saying something about not being able to see it in the finished film. Sounds like someone eager for big paychecks in gotta-get-married romcoms to me.

  13. Terry: That’s a bit of a stretch. She’s 19 and she’ll surely do a few romcoms at some stage, given that they represent most actresses’ best chance of a payday, but she seems to have a fair few indie projects lined up. I don’t think griping about yellow teeth can be taken as a sign of her desire to be the the next Heigl.

  14. Terry: That’s a bit of a stretch. She’s 19 and she’ll surely do a few romcoms at some stage, given that they represent most actresses’ best chance of a payday, but she seems to have a fair few indie projects lined up. I don’t think griping about yellow teeth can be taken as a sign of her desire to be the the next Heigl.

  15. i hope jeff at least made the attempt to get her phone #. time on earth is short – gotta go for all opportunities. Lex – this applies to you too. worst thing that could happen is she shuts u down – but she at least has more respect for u for having some balls and going for it……

  16. i hope jeff at least made the attempt to get her phone #. time on earth is short – gotta go for all opportunities. Lex – this applies to you too. worst thing that could happen is she shuts u down – but she at least has more respect for u for having some balls and going for it……

  17. A nomination for Lawrence would not be inappropriate. Her performance is remarkable. She’s stepped up onto the big stage and shown she can handle it.

    That said, I walked away from Winter’s Bone feeling frustrated and disappointed. The movie is masterfully set up, and then doesn’t seem to have a third act at all. I almost wondered if the projectionist had left out a reel or two.

  18. A nomination for Lawrence would not be inappropriate. Her performance is remarkable. She’s stepped up onto the big stage and shown she can handle it.

    That said, I walked away from Winter’s Bone feeling frustrated and disappointed. The movie is masterfully set up, and then doesn’t seem to have a third act at all. I almost wondered if the projectionist had left out a reel or two.

  19. Too bad Wells didn’t give Michael Fassbender’s epic, towering achievement in HUNGER his subtle gaze. One of the top three perfs of the last 10 years. No question.

  20. Too bad Wells didn’t give Michael Fassbender’s epic, towering achievement in HUNGER his subtle gaze. One of the top three perfs of the last 10 years. No question.

  21. Re Eloi Wrath’s comment:

    Shows Ms. Lawrence isn’t aspiring to a career a la Daniel Day Lewis or early De Niro.

  22. Re Eloi Wrath’s comment:

    Shows Ms. Lawrence isn’t aspiring to a career a la Daniel Day Lewis or early De Niro.

  23. Terry: I Googled it and found the following:

    “They didn’t want to hire me at first. They ended up yellowing my teeth – which was annoying, because I couldn’t eat and all I wanted to do was eat all the time. So they ended up taking care of that. And I think they did a pretty damned good job.”

    You’re reading far too much into it. I’ve heard plenty of respected actors saying how they hated gaining weight, or it was a struggle to lose weight, etc. for a role. It’s hardly groundbreaking stuff, and neither is it disrespectful.

  24. Terry: I Googled it and found the following:

    “They didn’t want to hire me at first. They ended up yellowing my teeth – which was annoying, because I couldn’t eat and all I wanted to do was eat all the time. So they ended up taking care of that. And I think they did a pretty damned good job.”

    You’re reading far too much into it. I’ve heard plenty of respected actors saying how they hated gaining weight, or it was a struggle to lose weight, etc. for a role. It’s hardly groundbreaking stuff, and neither is it disrespectful.

  25. >Do people tend to vote for the values that a character represents as much as they vote for pure acting chops? Or do they mostly respond to chops, pure and simple? Or do they tend to respond primarily to values?

    I guess a performance is hard to like if a character doesn’t resonate with you in some way, if the actor doesn’t find something within that role for us to admire or connect with or glom onto. I can think of two Oscar winning performances off the top of my head that are portrayals of absolutely horrible individuals (Joe Pesci in Goodfellas, Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs), yet both characters are (as long as they are safely onscreen) both super-likeable and expertly portrayed.

    You wouldn’t think that Hannibal Lecter’s “values” are something most of us share (at least, the eating-people part of it). But his values include education, articulateness, intelligence, culture, and a sort of courtly, old-world etiquette. These are all admirable things and so we like him. Would Hopkins have got the Oscar had his Hannibal been nothing but a feral monster? Perhaps not. On the other hand, being feral can have a zest and gusto all its own — viz. “Bronson.”

    Bruno Ganz’s Hitler is interesting — here is a guy who doesn’t have as many redeeming characteristics as Lecter (at least as dramatized onscreen), yet his performance is obviously admirable and admired. He didn’t win an award but he certainly could have. Maybe that also ties into the iconic presence of Hitler in our pop culture, and our recognition of the skill of mimicry, since we have all seen newsreel footage of the real deal all our lives.

  26. >Do people tend to vote for the values that a character represents as much as they vote for pure acting chops? Or do they mostly respond to chops, pure and simple? Or do they tend to respond primarily to values?

    I guess a performance is hard to like if a character doesn’t resonate with you in some way, if the actor doesn’t find something within that role for us to admire or connect with or glom onto. I can think of two Oscar winning performances off the top of my head that are portrayals of absolutely horrible individuals (Joe Pesci in Goodfellas, Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs), yet both characters are (as long as they are safely onscreen) both super-likeable and expertly portrayed.

    You wouldn’t think that Hannibal Lecter’s “values” are something most of us share (at least, the eating-people part of it). But his values include education, articulateness, intelligence, culture, and a sort of courtly, old-world etiquette. These are all admirable things and so we like him. Would Hopkins have got the Oscar had his Hannibal been nothing but a feral monster? Perhaps not. On the other hand, being feral can have a zest and gusto all its own — viz. “Bronson.”

    Bruno Ganz’s Hitler is interesting — here is a guy who doesn’t have as many redeeming characteristics as Lecter (at least as dramatized onscreen), yet his performance is obviously admirable and admired. He didn’t win an award but he certainly could have. Maybe that also ties into the iconic presence of Hitler in our pop culture, and our recognition of the skill of mimicry, since we have all seen newsreel footage of the real deal all our lives.

  27. Haven’t seen this yet, but if the similarly-lauded Michelle Williams couldn’t get a nomination for Wendy & Lucy (and she was already an established, nominated actress), I wouldn’t bet too hard on Lawrence.

    It would be great if it happened, though.

  28. Haven’t seen this yet, but if the similarly-lauded Michelle Williams couldn’t get a nomination for Wendy & Lucy (and she was already an established, nominated actress), I wouldn’t bet too hard on Lawrence.

    It would be great if it happened, though.

  29. Mettle and Intestinal Fortitude (love that phrase) are right, but I think you can strip it down and say that people admire performances of characters who are DEDICATED, even if their goals, needs, wants, values, whatever are different from the average audience member.

    Hannibal Lecter, the Joker, Indiana Jones, Tony Soprano, even Kirk in last year’s Star Trek, are all dedicated to their goals. They throw themselves headfirst into whatever they’re doing, even if it puts themselves and others at risk. When you get someone who can adequately convey that sense of balls-to-the-walls commitment, that’s when you get a performance that really soars.

  30. Mettle and Intestinal Fortitude (love that phrase) are right, but I think you can strip it down and say that people admire performances of characters who are DEDICATED, even if their goals, needs, wants, values, whatever are different from the average audience member.

    Hannibal Lecter, the Joker, Indiana Jones, Tony Soprano, even Kirk in last year’s Star Trek, are all dedicated to their goals. They throw themselves headfirst into whatever they’re doing, even if it puts themselves and others at risk. When you get someone who can adequately convey that sense of balls-to-the-walls commitment, that’s when you get a performance that really soars.

  31. She’s a lock. Michelle Williams didn’t get a nomination because WENDY & LUCY cost about $100 to make and took most people a week to watch on their laptops.

  32. She’s a lock. Michelle Williams didn’t get a nomination because WENDY & LUCY cost about $100 to make and took most people a week to watch on their laptops.

  33. It’s both a crush and an agreement with the general consensus that she is already getting a nomination. Hot young thing – rave reviews – good publicity always equals Oscar nod. Always.

  34. It’s both a crush and an agreement with the general consensus that she is already getting a nomination. Hot young thing – rave reviews – good publicity always equals Oscar nod. Always.

  35. Also amusing we all have to pretend like Gabourney Sidibe was some BREAKTHROUGH TALENT, as opposed to a one-timer. Seems like a nice kid and all, but sorry, lady, JENNIFER LAWRENCE is the real deal, Mulligan is the real day. Gabby was fine in THE ONE ROLE she’ll ever be right for, but she’s the Jaye Davidson of the new millennium.

  36. Also amusing we all have to pretend like Gabourney Sidibe was some BREAKTHROUGH TALENT, as opposed to a one-timer. Seems like a nice kid and all, but sorry, lady, JENNIFER LAWRENCE is the real deal, Mulligan is the real day. Gabby was fine in THE ONE ROLE she’ll ever be right for, but she’s the Jaye Davidson of the new millennium.

  37. Sorry, not to over-post, but NO WAY is this goddess from this thread and the video posted a week or two back the same chick from the one-sheet of Winter’s Bone replicated in the current ads on this site. Just on the basis of that alone, JL deserves a nomination.

  38. Sorry, not to over-post, but NO WAY is this goddess from this thread and the video posted a week or two back the same chick from the one-sheet of Winter’s Bone replicated in the current ads on this site. Just on the basis of that alone, JL deserves a nomination.

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