WILL THE IRON MAN TAKE HOME A GOLDEN STATUETTE? Well, why not?
Downey is one of the Greatest Actors of All Time (Fact). And ENDGAME just passed TITANIC’s 22 year record at the Box Office, via rave reviews. Does this mean an Oscar is on the horizon?
THREE key criteria at work here.
One: Bigger Picture (this is NOT just one role but a brand /legacy); at same time this MUST standalone, somehow, as a performance in itself.
Two: Downey must somehow satisfy/navigate/evade a sea of electoral style politics that govern the voting processes at the Academy.
Finally, Three: Precedent: Past Winners often settle for a statuette that rewards their work, perhaps in supporting capacity; implicitly a consolation prize for a previous (or indeed future) masterpiece.
Let’s consider the evidence / case, stage by stage. We are the Perry Mason (soon to be adapted by ‘Team Downey’ as a tv remake, incidentally) of the Oscar Baiting Community:
Exhibit 1: The Stark LEGACY..
I have said all I can about ENDGAME. Fine film.
But I did not ‘like‘, let alone love the movie experience, because it left me feeling a bit down(ey); rather than exiting the Cinema with a spring in step (for that kind of optimistic glow, one must revisit the first Iron Man and Avengers movies).
Still no spoilers. But: the movie does not end with a Tony/Pepper wedding, officiated by Stan Lee and Dr Strange and set to a final flourish of Silvestri’s majestic musical score, as fellow Avengers look on, in joy and readied for X Men and Fantastic 4 joining the club.
Instead? Well, let’s just say that Stark/Iron Man get a tough time in this latest onscreen adventure. And, if one has lived that world, vicariously this past decade? It’s like having an escapist life raft taken away. Over-dramatic? Maybe. As in ‘James: you need a kick in the arse‘, territory.
And yet, this movie mythology has been an inescapably cherished part of my extra curricular life, work and love. For ten years.
I christened an adorable muse / beloved friend ‘Pepper’. My tea/coffee sometimes arrives in a ‘Stark Industries’ mug. I have a Vicar best mate who looks like Dr Strange!
I had the honour and privilege of working in research and development and attended a MILIPOL demo, in Paris. That lovely day finished in a meeting with a Grace Kelly lookalike who agreed to an interview for MovieViral about her Hollywood class handbags. One could not help but think ‘Stark’ on the plane back home!
Iron Man and Avengers movie phrases are also great teaching tools too, especially with kids on the cusp of a high grade who just need a light push. ‘there’s no version of this where…(you get an A without more revision?)’.
You get the message: I am so (not) Iron Man. Just vicariously, occasionally..when nobody is looking. Same way guys, worldwide, if they’re honest, will admit to an occasional ‘Bond, James Bond’ in the shaving mirror morning routine. No? Just me again..ok. Sorry. I digress. 😉
Thing is, though? It’s not just me. Multiply my reflective memory there by ‘infinity’ (war) and you just scratch the surface of kids and grown ups, worldwide and the KIND Of fun and inspiration they have enjoyed these past ten years: thanks, in large part, to Downey’s Stark/Iron Man.
Like the ‘ I wannabe James Bond’ phenomenon I cited; I think we all wanted to be Tony Stark? Surely, therefore, on back of that, Marvel could (as, incidentally, initially mooted?) have kept the character running forever, with recasts where needed? One might have thought lifestyle, adventure, vicarious power and fantasy package were ‘USP’ here. Then try and picture any other actor playing Tony Stark. It’s impossible.
This is an entire sub-genre and time capsule of feeling, harnessed in one character, via one actor’s performance. The fact that Marvel did NOT simply regenerate/replace their jewel in the crown actor speaks volumes.
Downey carried a brand, a part, a regime, relentlessly and with good grace. It’s about a prolonged effort and the legacy that just happened to culminate in the (albeit bittersweet?) epoch of acting excellence on display in ENDGAME.
He’s not just Iron Man. He is MARVEL. That accomplishment is unique and award worthy in itself.
Not sold yet? Ok: ask whether his acting in ENDGAME is award worthy? In and of itself? Self contained, as a role/turn? Hell YES! Downey is great in it. As in yep: Oscar winning stuff.
THAT scene in the kitchen. Could be taken from The Godfather, just with super-heroes attached. ENDGAME Downey stands amidst the very best in a catalogue of great work, whilst happening to exist as a blockbuster. It’s why I say, justifiably, that he’s already up there in the ‘pantheon’ of greatest actors. Olivier, Brando, Pacino, Nicholson, Hackman, Duvall ..Downey is in that club, right there.
In ENDGAME, we get a Tony Stark that manages to age, in front of us. Weakened, vulnerable, desperate, angry. And then, sage, settled, serene. Finally, a foreshadowing, via flourish of the wit, adventure, fun and devil may care dangerous endeavour that defined the character we all admired. All tempered slightly by a lasting love with Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow: #Gwynnniee #Goop #specialgirl).
So it is right, just and logical (rather than merely token sentiment) then, that fans and indeed trade papers are mounting Oscar campaigns.
That said? You are STILL up against it. Oscars are never solely about citing the best work or talent. Many factors come into play here. It’s no different for Downey, even if he is Iron Man. He’s of course seen it all before. CHAPLIN was his masterpiece. He was nominated for Best Actor yet somehow, inexplicably, did not win. More on that in a sec.
So what are the politics at play here? And can it be navigated, manipulated, even, to favour our hero? At a Glance:
- The Academy of Voters contains a number of older folk who do not care for, rate, approve of or even watch ‘super-hero’ / ‘comic-book’ movies.
- ‘Very rare that a blockbusting hero gets an award.
- But Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar. Daniel Craig won a BAFTA nomination for Casino Royale. It can be done!
- Tony Stark/Iron Man is not a true life story worthy biopic with ‘message’. There is a template for the movies that win and, sadly, ENDGAME is not a natural fit, even if trends are shifting slightly and snobbery is abating.
- Downey’s own mentor of sorts (Mel Gibson) won Best Director and Picture Oscars for BRAVEHEART and was nominated in same categories with HACKSAW RIDGE. Yet his turn as Martin Riggs in Lethal Weapon (the role that inspired Zeffirelli to cast him as Hamlet..) never got a look-in for the acting categories. Mel should prep his protégé for a possibly similar, frustrating fate?
- Hollywood, and indeed, Downey sort of know all of this already. The politics. The need to play something ‘worthy’ for the Academy to take note.
- They satirise it, themselves. CF: TROPIC THUNDER (And yes, Downey got a nomination for that, too).
Eventually, though? Justice and honour and luck coincide / coalesce and certain names just HAVE to WIN. A body of work has been nominated repeatedly and just missed out, to the extent that, snubbing the talent again would seem cruel. That’s not to say that inferior or undeserving work is rewarded, just that, frequently, and especially with actors, it is not necessarily the definitive or best role of their career that takes home a gong.
That brings us to the third criteria. The final hurdle. If this falls on Downey’s side (and I think it could), then yes..Oscar can be his in 2020. Just Follow Precedents.
The Pacino Precedent:
- Al Pacino won for Scent of a Woman in ’93 for Best Actor. Fine performance, fine film. He even beat Denzel Washington’s Malcolm X (hypnotic, go see) and yes, a talented young chap playing Charlie Chaplin (him again..let’s just call the man ‘Bob’..you can figure it out).
- Pacino’s BEST work was Godfather 2. It’s genius. Faust, Richard III: all ‘there’ and quietly so. No Pacino 90s era SHOUTING. THAT tableau at the end: a man who was won and lost everything and is dead, already: a living ghost, contemplating a silent fate, hand on head. Recent nominee (for BIRDMAN rather than BATMAN, alas) Michael Keaton cited Pacino as a hero and channelled that very shot in Batman Returns.
- But Scent of a Woman is still a great performance and was just Pacino’s ‘time’. No other way of saying it. His turn to win. So he did. The fact that Godfather/Donnie Brasco et al are prima facie ‘better’ is beside the point.
PRECEDENT 2: Tommy Lee Jones
- Tommy Lee Jones won Best Supporting actor in 1994 for The Fugitive. Some were confused by how/why he won where Ralph Fiennes had gone away empty handed for Schindler’s List.
- Well, simply put? The clue is in the award’s title. Best SUPPORTING actor.
- Your actual character work and craft might be the most refined, hypnotic, incredible thing ever (Fiennes never topped that imho: a personification of pure evil but with just hints of humanity and a first rate German accent) but you must also, in ‘supporting’, somehow, help define a movie’s very dynamic?
- Besides, Jones was due a nod and a long overdue career boost to Box Office ‘star’, whereas Fiennes was just starting out. Same way Sean Connery won for The Untouchables in ’88: yes a solid performance but also a way of rewarding past hits and relaunching a career, afresh (Sir Sean went onto enjoy a decade of mentor parts in action movies: arguably topping his 007 tenure fame?).
There is no doubting that The Fugitive (a great film AND a decent, commercial, blockbusting thriller) deserved a nomination for Best Picture, but was never going to beat Schindler’s List! Equally, had they rewarded Fiennes and not Liam Neeson (equally good as Schindler himself), it’d be unfair, though Tom Hanks kind of HAD to take home the Oscar for Best Actor in Philadelphia.
Playing a GAY man with AIDS? Back then? Helluva risk for a movie star like Hanks. That said? Yet again..similar role..done better just 3 years later by..yep..him again..Downey (One Night Stand; 1997: no Oscar; no justice!).
Back to Tommy Lee Jones: he was funny, compelling, charismatic and convincing as a lawman whose ruthless determination makes him a quasi antagonist/villain for half the movie, before he begins to decode the innocence of Harrison Ford’s ‘DOCTOR Richard Kimble: Go get him!’. ‘I don’t care‘: a simple line but timed and delivered to perfection. So yes, BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Jones reset that mould and Downey now fits it.
Calling it now. BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR, 2020: ROBERT DOWNEY JUNIOR, for ENDGAME. A nomination, at least? Go on..
- Rewards the movie without elevating it TOO much?
- Recognises Downey’s talent and the Iron Man legacy whilst motivating him to KEEP pushing for a leading man Oscar a few years later.
- Pleases everyone, justly and sensibly. Also keeps Oscar policy decision process relatively un-disrupted.
- A win/win situation, in the truest of senses.
FOR YOUR (CONSIDERABLE) CONSIDERATION..
‘ONE LAST ACT OF DEFIANCE FROM THE GREAT TONY STARK’
‘GET THIS MAN A SHIELD! AND GET THAT MAN AN OSCAR. WITH BELLS ATTACHED’ 😉