There were precious few of us who thought Michael Haneke’s brilliant “Amour” had the proper support to show up in the major categories at the Academy Awards. At the end of the day, it was faith well-placed, as the film was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Original Screenplay (though I still wonder why Jean-Louis Trintignant was lost in the shuffle).
That is, in some ways, a win in and of itself. It’s huge, really. But I’m troubled in my calls and conversations lately: many members, despite this strong showing, still haven’t seen the film. And I would like to implore them now: watch the movie. It’s not as much of a downer as you think it is. It’s a beautiful exploration of its namesake. Actors in particular, it’s a stunning display of your craft. And with a Best Actress race that has some excitement to it, it behooves you to make an educated pick.
See all the movies, actually. What do you think all this extra time is good for? And if “Amour” has been lying near the bottom of your stack, move it up a bit, if only to give Emmanuelle Riva’s work a long, hard look. Because she deserves your attention. If you don’t think she deserves your vote after that, fine. But at least you’ll know and it won’t have been this nebulous thing that you never got to.
Allow me, though, to explain why I think Riva does deserve your vote. It’s in the physicality of the performance. Discussing Helen Hunt’s work in “The Sessions” earlier this year, John Hawkes told me that “brave” is a word that gets tossed around a lot, and that it applied to his co-star. He was right. It also applies to Riva, perhaps more than any other actor or actress in the race. It takes something to stare down the brutal truths of this film and to lay yourself bare as Riva does in the latter portions of “Amour.” It’s more lived-in than any other piece of work in the category. There is zero artifice. It’s not a movie star turn. It’s not a firecracker starlet lighting up the screen. It’s a drilled down examination of character. I ask you, what other definition would you apply to “acting?”
It’s your vote. I implore you to do with it what you want. I just want to give you my perspective. And no other performance touched Riva’s in my opinion this year. Denis Lavant came close in “Holy Motors,” but he didn’t make the Oscar cut. It’s a miracle enough that Riva did.
The race itself has boiled down to Jennifer Lawrence’s to lose. This is her second trip to the Oscars and we all know she’ll be back. You do have three other areas to recognize the acting in “Silver Linings Playbook,” and others besides if you’re really in love with it. Jessica Chastain fell off her perch somewhere along the way. Naomi Watts has her industry supporters. Quvenzhané Wallis is a lovely time capsule story for the year. But Emmanuelle Riva gave us one for the ages.
And you wouldn’t just be throwing your vote away, mind. I have a hunch there will be a lot of voters right there with you. Because when you have the chance to recognize someone like this, it’s hard not to take it.
But again, if you’ve been holding out on watching the movie, give it a go and just see if you feel similarly. You just might.