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

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Countdown to the Oscars: The Ruffalos

Back in the halcyon days of Bill Simmons’s late (best) web site (ever) Grantland, when I checked it as regularly as my Midwestern forefathers would check weather reports, 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 several 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 the year before that, and the year before that, and we do again this year.

The Ruffalos go to.....

Phylicia Rashad, Creed II 

The best scene in “Creed II”, and one of the best scenes in any 2018 movie period, happens when Adonis Creed approaches the woman who raised him, Apollo Creed’s widow, Rashad’s Mary Ann, for her blessing to fight the son of Ivan Drago. As Adonis, Michael B. Jordan is an exquisite scene partner, making clear both how desperate he is to get her blessing but also making clear how he is not being honest with himself about why he needs her blessing so much. And simply in her air, in her deft little smile, in the bemused way she reads her lines, Rashad makes clear why her character’s blessing is entirely immaterial since he’s already made up his mind. Drago’s son beats Adonis up pretty good, sure, but Rashad? She eviscerates him.

Jane Curtin, Can You Ever Forgive Me? 

As editor to an unpleasant, foul-mouthed motormouth like Lee Israel, Curtin, in just a few scenes, manages the delicate task of being both a through-clenched-teeth friend and having to tell it like it is.

Christian Slater, The Wife

In reading reviews of “The Wife” I came across a few dismissals of Slater as an author of unauthorized biographies being “miscast.” I could not disagree more. I found Slater PERFECTLY cast. Slater, in that brash grin and oily charm, has long excelled at exuding borderline sleaziness, which is precisely what the role requires, not just in grubbing for information but comically invading everyone’s personal space.

Andrew Dice Clay, A Star Is Born

Speaking of brash, who’s more brash than Andrew Dice Clay. And yet, as father to Ally, Lady Gaga’s eponymous star, he impressively recalibrates that brashness as something akin to a smothering conviviality that ultimately proves essential to his daughter’s emotional makeup.

Cedric the Entertainer, First Reformed

Let’s let Vanity Fair film critic K. Austin Collins just take the reins on this one: “I can’t say enough about Cedric “the Entertainer” Kyles—a comedian I grew up watching on The Steve Harvey Show-—whose pastor in the film is an essential counterpoint to the Rev. Toller because, although representative of a damningly business-oriented ideological position himself, he’s also sincere, funny, a good pastor. He’s the kind of pastor I grew up knowing in communities of my own; you sense a scam, but not because his godliness is unreal. You love him anyway.”

Vanessa Kirby, Mission: Impossible – Fallout 

Wicked and titillating, in a single breath Kirby exudes more of a palpable anarchist streak than, well, the dude who was supposed to exude an anarchist streak. Say it with me once more, for old time’s sake, why wasn’t SHE the principal villain?

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