Sunday night was dominated by the 84th Academy Awards in Hollywood and whist many films, performances and talents were snubbed of overlooked, the one which I hoped against hope for was Gary Oldman to win Best Actor for his role as George Smily in the recent Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Now, I must admit that I haven’t seen this film yet, though I will be soon enough and though I have seen clips and trailers and Oldman leaps off the screen with his understated performances, so do many of the ensemble of British talent also involved.
But I’m not prepared to judge his performance in a film which I haven’t seen as the context is missing. So, it’s unfair for me to say that he was head and shoulders above the competition, and though having not seen much more of the other leading films, nor The Artist or its leading man and winner of the category, Jean Dujardin. Though I did find all fairness that Dujardin was a just winner as acting in a silent film in 2012 is a whole new art form and one which so far, looks to have been performed excellently.
My point is leaning towards the 2007 ceremony, when Martin Scorsese won for The Departed, a film which I liked, though many critics felt that it was far from his greatest work. Scorsese won for Raging Bull, Goodfellas and Taxi Driver, just decades too late. He was rewarded for a career of unprecedented work and The Departed was the excuse to award him after years of being snubbed.
But Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy is not The Departed in critic’s circles, nor is Oldman’s performances which has been almost universally heralded. But when I call for Gary Oldman to win the top award, I’m calling for him to be rewarded for being one of cinema greatest actors, whom, no matter how prestigious or low brow the project, he will always deliver a top-notch performance.
Sometimes, it’s camp, others downplayed or straightforward but there’s little doubt that this is a charismatic actor who can put his money where his mouth is without fail. Below are what I believe to be five reasons as to why Gary Oldman should have already bagged an Oscar or at least a nomination and why…
THE FIFTH ELEMENT (1997)
Possibly, Oldman’s campest and most bizarre performance to date. Playing Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg in Luc Besson’s Sci-Fi oddity, He certainly made an impression,with this often being refered to when thinking Oldman. He was not afraid to overplay him, giving a fully formed and fleshed out performance of a character which most actors would have camped up even more! The key here is that he took the role seriously and that is at the heart of great comedy.
As Lee Harvey Osward, Oldman’s early performance as one of American’s most despised men, he was never going to be playing this as a likeable bloke. But even though he was depicted wholly in disjointed flashbacks, Osward’s still managed to come across as a sympathetic character, even though his innocence is still open left open to interpretation.
LOST IN SPACE (1998)
The film, was in many ways a rubbish Sci-Fi adaptation of a rubbish TV show. But as an adaptation, it’s quite well conceived and though the effects are as crass as the wooden acting, this can still be entertaining if you let it. But there’s no doubt that the shining light in the film was Gary’s take on Johnathan Harris’s Doctor Smith.
He sounds and acts like the weaselly villain from the original series but manages to play him a bit darker. But this was the most enjoyable part of this average film.
LEON (aka LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL) (1994)
I must admit that I haven’t seen this film in a while, but the image of the corrupt cop, Stansfeild strolling into the blood spattered and bullet riddled apartment of young Natalie Portman’s family will stick with me. Real presence…
BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA (1992)
This was far cry from Bela Legosi’s inaugural performance in 1931. Francis Ford Coppola began his version with Vlad The Impaler, which humanised Oldman’s Dracula, for a brief time anyway.
He conveyed the melodramatic pain of the demonic creature who heart was enslaved to the image of his deceased wife, who was seeming incarnate in the form of Winona Rider. He held this film together but that’s not to discount a series of good turns, especially from Anthony Hopkins. Though the less said about Keanu Reeves’ accent, the better…
Whist these five choices, all from the 1990’s by the way, but that’s just a coincidence, are my top five examples of Oldman exercising his acting skills at his best, that’s not to say that that’s it. Oldman’s contribution to Harry Potter helped make The Prisoner Of Azkaban with an understated but solid performance as Potter’s Uncle, Sirius Black, and he delivers the same in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins & The Dark Knight as Jim Gordon. In both cases he plays a reliable character, earning the trust of the heroes and the audience alike, with a performance which whilst not extravagant, it is absolutely true to the characters.
The same can be said for his turn as a white drug dealer who likes to think of himself to black in Tony Scott’s, True Romance, where he simply plays him as black. It’s bizarre but once you get it, it works. But besides his stellar film work, his TV appearances are also something to note. I must admit, that I’ve not seen some of his earlier work, particularly his early British projects, but his role in series 8 of Friends, “The One With Monica & Chander’s Wedding Parts 1 & 2, where he plays a legendary British actor working with Joey on an epic war film was just perfect, and proof that as in The Fifth Element for example, that if you play comedy with same vigour in which you play a drama, the results can be hilarious for all the right reasons.
I’m very much looking forward to seeing Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and hope that the film lives up to its reputation and that the performance of Oldman as Smiley, lives up to the clips and trailers which I have seen. And I stand by my view that Oldman is defiantly due an Oscar, but at least, finally he has garnered a nomination.