Monday, February 23, 2009

A Little Touch of Sadness

Right off the bat I want to be clear that I don't in the least begrudge Sean Penn his Best Actor win at last night's Oscars. He turned in a skilled and compelling performance as an important historical figure in a movie that is focusing much needed attention on crucial human rights violations. When I put it that way, why wouldn't he win, right?
Just because he's not this guy.

They're both tough cookies with reputations for random acts of bad judgment. They're both great actors who have made a variety of choices on the watchability spectrum over the course of their careers. They both held top billing this year for in-depth character portrait movies with complicated endings. They did those movies proud and drew huge national audiences to their relatively small independent features.
Why do I pick Rourke over Penn? In my heart of hearts probably because I feel like Mickey needs a win. Whereas Penn's aggression and rebellion were always focused by his continued acting work, Rourke followed a less direct path. His questionable choices led him far away from acting. They changed who he was as a person and who he was as an actor. He learned the fine art of having his ass handed to him in the boxing ring and it changed him physically so much that when he returned to Hollywood no one wanted anything to do with him. Well, no one except for his chihuahua, Loki, and director Darren Aronofsky. I don't know about Aronofsky but Loki seems to be a pretty good judge of character. After spending many years at Rourke's side and being fitted for a matching tux in anticipation of last night's festivities Loki had to leave a week before the red carpet was unfurled. She was elderly, she reportedly hung on as long as she possibly could but couldn't quite make it to the Kodak Theater.

As Mickey Rourke told that story on the red carpet last night I wondered whether, in the coming weeks, he would think the universe required payment of one loyal friend for one big, much-needed win. I was that sure he had it in the bag. I guess he won't have to wonder.
I saw both movies, I loved both movies and I think both men are equally deserving of all the accolades the industry has showered on them this awards season. I know that Rourke has had a lot of wins lately in this category and I can see how you might think those would be enough. I also understand and, honestly, believe that Penn's win is a vital boost to the Anti-Prop 8 (and all the other human rights violating propositions we saw passed in November) movement. I'm pleased that Penn recognized that responsibility and made use of his Oscar platform to reach out and make his feelings known.

On the other hand, though, I just can't help thinking that Mickey Rourke sat in a room full of people who wouldn't have pissed on him if he was ablaze 10 years ago, handing over to them what might be called the performance of a lifetime, and he left the building with another tick in the loss column. And when he got home, his best friend wasn't even there to hear all about it.


  1. Anonymous3:53 PM

    I wanted Micky Rourke to win soooo bad. In my opinion, he's always been an underrated actor. I think he really deserved this win. He really fought his way back from the bottom of the barrel to get to The Wrestler and I think he should be recognized for it.

    And of course, anyone who loves his dog like he did...well, let's just say that his speech had me sobbing.

  2. It's not a loss. For him, just having a career again is a big win. Having to make a speech probably wouldn't have helped him. Just think of what he might have said.

  3. YOU are making me cry.

    I also wanted Mickey to win, but I'm so glad that he's winning respect again and we'll be able to see his fine acting in good movies for years to come.

    This is the best comeback story I know.

  4. You are breaking my heart the way you wrote this! Unfortunately, I have not seen either movie, but I had been pulling for Rourke.

  5. MAB, I think the entire academy was thinking just the way you are. That his performance was good and deserved recognition but that he shouldn't need the big one because he somehow doesn't deserve it since he shunned them. They (and you) might be right but the way it played out with him being far and away the favorite at all the other awards ceremonies (and apparently giving wonderful but totally nutty speeches, as you fear) and then decisively not winning the Oscar smacks of the rope-a-dope and I just feel for him. Didn't he get enough of that when he was actually boxing?

    There's no right or wrong answer for this. I don't begrudge anyone a different opinion. I just really felt for the guy last night for a lot of reasons and it made me kind of sad.

  6. I have to admit I have had no love for Mickey Rourke.

    BUT.....seeing that ad for fixing your dog has certainly made me feel a lot more positive toward him. That's a GREAT ad, and it's true that he really is a lover of animals.

  7. The thing I liked most about Sean's win is how he used the bully pulpit, as it were, to talk about WHY the movie was important. How, my God, are we NOT all equal and what a horrible shame that was. To have been able to make that speech in front of a gazillion people was, I think, more important than Mickey talking about his dog.

    I am happy for Rourke -- I really am. I do hope that the loss doesn't bring sadness.

  8. I'm over here from Please Pass the Popcorn...

    I, too, saw both movies and think both actors did a tremendous job. I fully supported the nominations of Rourke and Penn; however, I gave a slight edge to Penn. Maybe part of it is because the issues behind Milk are so personal to me.

    More than that, though, I feel like Rourke was essentially playing himself. Again, he did an amazing job at it and his journey is a tremendous one...but if we're awarding the performance, I believe that Penn had to make the bigger leap.

    I wouldn't have been upset if Rourke had won, but I'm glad that Penn did.