' ' Cinema Romantico: Countdown to the Oscars: The Ruffalos

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Countdown to the Oscars: The Ruffalos

Back in the halcyon days of Bill Simmons’ late (best) web site (ever) Grantland, when I checked it as regularly as my Midwestern forefathers would check weather reports, and before it all went to pot in the name of ESPN giving its First Take ass clowns that much more money, my favorite podcast on the Interwebs was the aforementioned site’s liltingly titled Do You Like Prince Movies? It was hosted by Pulitzer Prize winning film critic Wesley Morris and ace culture scribe Alex Pappademas. And in the run-up to the Academy Awards of two years ago they bestowed their own set of acting prizes affectionately called The Ruffalos.

Mr. Morris and Mr. Pappademas did not define the criteria for their awards so much as just sort of shout out random guidelines in the discussion, but that was part of their charm. Ruffalos went to “People who aren’t getting nominated for anything.” To earn one “you gotta be playing the background a little bit,” or maybe not since some of the recipients were more in the spotlight rather than the background. And whatever, because The Ruffalos were more ineffable, something less stately and more tossed off, make-believe statues concerning a life-force that was more indelible than mere pomp. And because Grantland and, in turn, Do You Like Prince Movies? have been shuttered, Cinema Romantico, this itty bitty blog that most people stop reading at the first sign of a ham-fisted Keira Knightley reference, has taken on the task of keeping them alive. We did last year and we do again this year.

The Ruffalos go to.....

Gil Birmingham, Hell or High Water. Playing a Native American detective made to endure his partner's offhand but very authentic bigotry, Birmingham plays it with the same sort of droll semi-peace with which he seems to view the whole white mans world.   

Jack Reynor, Sing Street. If so much of John Carneys latest ode to the power of music is about youthful rebellion, Reynors turn as a slacker with mounds of emotional regret burbling beneath the lazy surface emphatically evokes what happens when the rebellion is over.

Zoey Deutch, Everybody Wants Some!! In an otherwise all-male movie, Deutch does not make her presence known by being one of the boys or by playing hard to get but by simply existing as who she is, even if she is still in the process of figuring that out.

Stephen McKinley Henderson, Fences. Playing the longtime consligiere of Washingtons protagonist, McKinley Henderson grants his character a charitable acceptance of his pals bloviating that you can tell, in little snippets, did not come easy.

William Jackson Harper, Paterson. As a bar regular nursing a broken heart that just wont heal, Jackson Harper’s amicably downbeat nature makes his bursts of so-called rage both laughable and sweetly sad. And when he delivers the most reductive idiom in human history - “The sun still rises” - damn if you don't, just for a second, sort of feel where hes coming from.

Rosemarie DeWitt, La La Land. Less blink and you’ll miss it than don’t squint and you might not see her, DeWitt nevertheless barrels directly into the movie with such a vivacious energy and tell it like it really is mentality as the sister of  Ryan Gosling’s main character that you desperately wish she would have stuck around longer as the straight-shooter perched on his other shoulder. 

Glen Powell, Hidden Figures. Granted, “Hidden Figures” is, as the full title of the book on which it is based clearly states, not once again all about John Glenn and his orbiting of Earth but about “the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race.” But then, that is exactly what I loved about the performance of Powell, who plays Glenn with an easygoing smile that the whole time seems to be saying “Why am I here?”

C.J. Wilson, Manchester by the Sea. It is a virtuoso rendering of the Hes Just There performance, the guy who’s there for support, who won't let you down, good natured and a rock, even if Wilson lets you sense that somewhere underneath it all he is nobly sucking it up and putting aside his own problems to tend to yours. 

Matthew Broderick, Manchester by the Sea. In a one scene walk off, Broderick exudes his peerless ability to turn a small stare or an innocent line reading (“Did you get any stringbeans?”) into a backstory of volumous prickliness.

Laura Linney, Nocturnal Animals. Linney does not steal the film, because Michael Shannon has already stolen the film by the time Linney arrives, but she nonetheless owns her cameo with cold hard steel. Linney wields the lifetime of knowledge that goes hand in hand with being the mother not as a means to give guidance to her daughter, but to instead lord it over her daughter with an icy glee.  

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