Animadversions.

The weblog of Joshua Drescher

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Doubt.

January 25th, 2009 · 1 Comment · Art, Movies

The following is pretty much spoiler-central, so stop reading now if you haven’t seen Doubt.

Let me just start with the following ABSOLUTE statement:

It is shameful that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was nominated for Best Picture and Director this year while Doubt was not. While films like Milk and Slumdog Millionaire are certainly worthy, films like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - comparatively - ARE NOT.

Be not fooled by the hype.

Doubt is complex and challenging. “Clever” viewers watch it with uncertainty - each scene undermining the opinion we formed in the previous scenes. It is, at it’s core, a supreme mystery/drama.

Moving on, let us discuss Meryl Streep. She DOMINATES this category. I realize that The Academy sometimes hesitates to grant awards to people who have become viewed as perennial contenders. Meryl Streep demands special attention. Even by her own, unique “standard”, this performance is unarguably magnificent. Streep enters the epic realm of multi-dimensional heroes that is occupied by the likes of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird - a towering, eternal figure who redefines what we thing of “the good guys” in film.

Philip Seymour Hoffman is excellent, as well, but his performance is overshadowed by the rest of the picture. Streep, obviously, matches Hoffman’s efforts and then eclipses them, but perhaps the most shocking fact is that Doubt’s staggering supporting effort is ignored by The Academy.

Oddly, a nomination IS granted to the film for Best Supporting Actress, but is decidedly given to the wrong performer.

Academy Award nominee Amy Adams’ performance is, to be sure, excellent, but I challenge ANYONE who sees this film to not watch it and argue that Viola Davis - in the role of the mother of a conflicted young, black student in a 1960s Catholic school - is infinitely more worthy. Not since Beatrice Straight’s performance in Network has so much been accomplished in such a short period of time on screen. She literally removes the atmosphere from the theatre - shocking and challenging us with her efforts.

[EDIT] I somehow managed to miss the fact that Davis - along with Adams - IS, in fact, nominated. So… kudos there to the Academy and shame on me for lazy reading.

Like all great films, the message of Doubt is, in the end, not entirely clear. We come away with the sense that no one in this story has “won”. Strong characters have been challenged and have stood up to the burden of those challenges. Standards we consider to be flawed and atavistic are shown to be worthy and powerful. Protectors have been forced to accept imperfect justice. It is those weaknesses - coupled with unmatched performances - that - in a year of tremendous achievements - make Doubt the best film of the past year.

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 @shyndarkly // Jan 25, 2009 at 8:07 am

    Ok, color me now intrigued; normally fore go seeing any period piece that appears to be getting a ton of TV ads, preferring to wait for its DVD release if the marketing folks are spending pennies like crazy; but after your write-up, maybe its worth a visit.

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