‘It’s About Time The Oscars Stopped Being So Political’

speaks to Brian Timoney, the UK’s leading method acting coach about the politics of the Oscars and the race for ‘Best Actor’

Javier Bardem in Biutiful

Javier Bardem in Biutiful

With three awards ceremonies down, The King’s Speech has already done a royal job of dominating the pack this year. But was Colin Firth’s acting really that good? Good enough to win best actor at the BIFAs, Golden Globe awards and the BAFTAs? With the Oscars just over a week away we will soon see whether Firth can complete his collection in the season’s most prestigious ceremony. But not everyone has been happy with Firth’s repeated wins. There have been claims that The Academy has a tendency to give awards to movies which are in vogue, and drawing profit, as opposed to those which are perhaps more legitimately deserving.

Brian Timoney is just one of the many critics who feel that Firth’s performance just doesn’t warrant the volume of awards it has received, and most certainly doesn’t deserve the Oscar. Timoney runs the UK’s leading method acting school, and boasting over 20 years of experience teaching actors for theatre, radio, television and film, has worked with the likes of Danny Boyle and Ken Loach, placing him in a great position to critique Firth’s performance. I caught up with him to ask him about the Oscars, and the race for the highly contested (or not as the case may be) award for ‘Best Actor’.

Brian as an expert in method acting, has evaluated the performances of those nominated in the Best Actor’s category, and strongly believes Colin Firth shouldn’t win the Oscar. He mentions a host of other actors who deserve to win the category over Firth, singling out in particular Javier Bardem for his role in Biutiful. He explains that: “Colin Firth has definitely put in a good performance”, but that “Bardem in Biutiful, made a far superior performance from the point of view of the emotional depth and breadth of what the character actually experiences”, but of course Biutiful is in Spanish, which will limit its US appeal.

He seems to believe that Firth has been winning best actor repeatedly due to the popularity of his movie, rather than his actual acting ability within it. He tells me: “Because a film is about the British monarchy doesn’t mean that all the performances should automatically become Oscar winners. The winners should go to the best performances regardless of the film type, but clearly that isn’t the case,” adding that “It’s about time the Oscars stopped being so political and more about the quality of acting”.

As arguably political as the Oscars may be, this year sees The Academy taking a step forward to embrace (to a limited extent) movies based on their value and not solely their market appeal. For example, the fact that Bardem was nominated at all, bearing in mind that Biutiful is in Spanish, is a step forward. In fact he is the first ever actor in a Spanish film to be nominated in the ‘Best Actor’ category.

Similarly, many were surprised at Jacki Weaver’s nomination for ‘Best Supporting Actress’, in Australian crime drama Animal Kingdom. I asked Brian about this trend, and he had to concede “that’s a big step forward”. But the fact remains that the majority of movies nominated for any of the awards are blockbuster films with a big commercial appeal. I asked Brian if he thought that there was even an outside chance of Bardem winning, to which he told me: “I’d be very surprised if he did win it, just because of the politics of it. I would love to see him win it, but I doubt he will somehow.” But surely there would be a chance, I thought, or was Bardem just a token nomination so that The Academy could appear to be breaking away from their alleged dogmatism?

Other nominations in the Best Actor category include, Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), James Franco (127 Hours), and Jeff Bridges (True Grit). I asked Brian if he’d felt as if anyone had been left out, as controversy rose within other categories regarding Christopher Nolan’s failure to recieve a nomination for ‘Best Director’. “The fact that Paul Giamatti has not been nominated at all for his performance in Barney’s Version is quite frankly insane,” he tells me, with a real sense of passion, adding that it was probably because it is a “smaller film”. Moving on ever so slightly I was intrigued to know who, if not Firth, could potentially be an unexpected winner. He tells me, “ I think that Jeff Bridges could win, he has a chance with True Grit purely on the basis that it’s an American film, it has a lot of heritage. But because he won one last year, perhaps not. We’ll see.”

Despite the strong competition between the performances of the nominees, all arrows are pointing towards yet another win for Firth. But whether the verdict is based on acting achievement or politics, will be left to the individual to decide.

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Corrections: “For example, the fact that Bardem was nominated at all, bearing in mind that Biutiful is in Spanish, is a step forward. In fact he is the first ever actor in a foreign film to be nominated in the ‘Best Actor’ category.”
-‘foreign’ changed to ‘Spanish’

3 comments

  1. And just who does Mr. Timoney think should have won some of the awards that Colin apparently doesn’t deserve. He may actually believe that but for you to claim that there are many critics who feel this way is ridiculous. His preference of Bardem to win the Oscar is laughable.

    Reply

  2. Lazy journalism at its worst. Yeah, there’s a lot of politics the Academy Awards, but amazingly, you managed to hit on just about none of it.
    “The Academy has a tendency to give awards to movies which are…drawing profit, as opposed to those which are…deserving” – seriously? Almost everyone else is making the exact opposite complaint – the Academy tends to favor dramatic, weepy roles in small films without mass appeal while overlooking blockbusters, scifi, comedy and animated films. Foreign films do get overlooked a lot, but there’s a reason most people haven’t heard of half the films nominated for best picture in any given year.
    Plus, why is this one acting coach’s opinion the end all be all on who gave the best performance? Would interviewing more than one person have been too objective and professional?
    Also, “[Bardem] is the first ever actor in a foreign film to be nominated in the ‘Best Actor’ category”? Roberto Benigni WON Best Actor for the Italian-made “Life is Beautiful” in 1999. Stop inventing facts on which to base an incorrect assumption.

    Reply

  3. 22 Feb ’11 at 11:55 pm

    Gareth Davies

    Thanks for bringing the error to my attention. It has been rectified.

    Reply



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