Sunday, February 27, 2011

Geoffrey Rush, Kirk Gibson and Terry Pendleton

One foregone conclusion about tonight's Oscars is that Christian Bale is going to win the Best Supporting Actor award for his performance in The Fighter.

He's terrific in the film and he does everything you'd expect in an Oscar performance.

He is electric when he is on screen, stealing the spotlight from the star (the underrated performance by Mark Wahlberg.)

He does an accent. (A flawless Mass-Hole voice!)
He plays an addict. (Always Oscar bait.)
He does a physical transformantion. (He looks like he should play The Riddler, not Batman.)

All of the stats are there for him.

While I would not be upset if Bale wins (as I said before, he IS marvelous in the film) I would argue that the award should go to Geoffrey Rush for The King's Speech. Seeing that this is Sully Baseball and not Sully Oscars, I will make my case with a baseball analogy.

Rush, who already has an Oscar on his mantle for Shine, brought the quality of The King's Speech up merely by his presence. Without his performance as Lionel Logue, that movie is just a made for TV movie with compressed history and a lot of people saying expositional dialogue.

But Rush turns what could have been a big pile of nothing (a spoiled man stutters... I hope he doesn't!) into a funny, engaging drama.

It's kind of like the season that Kirk Gibson had with the 1988 Dodgers. Or Terry Pendleton's season for Atlanta in 1991. Both players joined a team that looked rudderless and a mess the year before. They both brought a sense of professionalism to the clubhouse.

The entire team raised the level of their game. Improbably the Dodgers won it all with Gibson getting big hit after big hit (including the greatest home run in World Series history.)

Pendleton's Braves went from last to first and took Game 7 of the World Series to extra innings. (If Lonne Smith hadn't falled for a decoy play, Pendleton would have driven in the go ahead run.

Both players won the MVP even though they didn't have the flashiest stats. Darryl Strawberry or Kevin McReynolds put up gaudier numbers than Gibson in 1988. And Barry Bonds on paper looked like the winner over Pendleton in 1991.

And both players had lots of help from their teammates. Orel Hershiser had one of the great pitching seasons of all time in '88. And Tom Glevine was the 1991 Cy Young winner.

But the Award looked justified because of the clear influence those two players had on their entire team.

Kind of like Geoffrey Rush. Of course he had help. There were great performances by Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce and Michael Gambon among others. And the techincal qualities of the film were fine, if not spectacular.

But the film has become an unlikely box office hit and will probably win the big prize. And I think that Rush, like Gibson and Pendleton, raised the quality in ways that is greater than the stats.

Cristian Bale is like Strawberry, McReynolds and Bonds. He has the stats and I understand why he'll probably get the award. But Rush? He's got the intangibles.

He gets his uniform dirty.
And if he wins the Oscar, lots of people will say "I can't believe what I just saw."
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