bill bodkin delivers pop-break’s 300th post by looking at a glaring oscar snub …
The other night, my wife and I finally got a chance to see one of the Oscar nominees for Best Picture, The Fighter.
The story of boxer “Irish” Micky Ward and his rise from “stepping stone” boxer to world champion is a classic underdog story and without a doubt one of the best movies about “the sweet science” ever created.
And when the credits rolled, there was one important thing I took away from this film …
Mark Wahlberg was snubbed by the Academy.
When it comes to Oscar snubs, this year we automatically think of Andrew Garfield for The Social Network, or Christopher Nolan for Inception. Yet, no one seems to talk about how the former leader of The Funky Bunch, the title character in the film, was not nominated for Best Actor. In fact, what’s even more criminal is that Wahlberg has only been nominated once this award season, for Best Actor in a Drama at the Golden Globes.
One of the main reasons for this, I believe, is because of the dominant performances given by his supporting cast. Christian Bale delivers far one of the best all-time supporting actor jobs in history as Dickie Ecklund. It’s a brilliant depiction of a man indulging in his own warped delusions of grandeur — aided by a crack pipe. He’s hilarious, he’s heartbreaking and he’s the center of attention of the film. He is an absolute lock to win Best Supporting Actor.
Equally impressive are Melissa Leo and Amy Adams, both as the hard-nosed women in Micky’s life. They are absolute dynamite, especially when on-screen together, trading verbal jabs and crosses with their words, actions and looks.
Yet, at the heart of the film is the underdog, Micky Ward. Like Ward, Wahlberg is seemingly overshadowed by the personalities that he shares the screen with. That is until the film’s final act when Dickie is finally released from prison (after assaulting police officers) and decides to make a triumphant and sober return his brother’s career. Watching Wahlberg as Ward have to decide whether to allow the the most toxic person in his life back into the fold weeks before his first title fight is as intense and brutal as any boxing scene.
Wahlberg, always known for playing the sensitive tough guy, disappears in his character much like Bale, Adams and Leo do. It’s just that his performance, much like the real-life Ward (who we see speaking in the credits), is understated and reserved. Yet, beneath the quite exterior lies a man torn between his past and his future. He’s a tormented and torn tough guy, a role that only Wahlberg could pull off.
And on the physical side of things, if we want to heap praise onto Natalie Portman for her transformation from actress to ballerina, shouldn’t we do the same for Wahlberg’s dedication to training as a boxer and taking part in brutal action sequences?
In the end, despite his snub, Wahlberg has scored a major victory. Since 2005, he has been trying to get The Fighter in theaters. He’s struggled with studios to back it, seen both Matt Damon and Brad Pitt become attached to the film to play Dickey and then drop out. He saw Darren Aronofsky sign on to direct, then leave to do Black Swan. And despite all that, he’s now nominated for an Oscar a producer — something he must be proud of.
Yet this was his best performance ever. I believe better than Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights or Sgt. Dingnam in The Departed. I hope Wahlberg will one day win an Oscar. He’s gone from white-boy rapper to tremendous actor.