As we’ve all been reading all over the internet, the Academy Award nominations were announced this morning at the crack of dawn in L.A. And as usual, there were gasps of joy and mutters of “What the fuck?” not just from the Gershwin Theater but from fans and the media alike.
Not only does the Best Lead Actor category not include Michael Fassbender, who played his role of an emotionally wounded sex addict perfectly in Shame, but the Academy also failed to recognize one of the best films of the year, Beginners.
Written and directed by Mike Mills, the film is based on his real-life experience with his father, (played impeccably by Christopher Plummer and who received a nomination for the role), and his coming out at the age of 75. The character, Oliver, who is portrayed by the always near-perfect Ewan McGregor, is forced to not only deal with his mother’s recent death and his father’s coming out, but the fact that his father, Hal, although in denial about it, has terminal cancer.
Beginners is interconnected by a series of flashbacks where Oliver is trying to remember moments as they actually were, as opposed to how his memory has filed them away. It’s a poignant example of how when our lives are truly in emotional turmoil our brain shuts off as a coping mechanism and it chooses to conjure up the past on a level with which is easier to deal.
After Hal’s death, Oliver becomes the owner of Hal’s dog, Arthur, who like Oliver is equally heartbroken and confused by the events that have occurred. Because of this pain on the part of Arthur, he can’t be left alone without crying and yelping. In turn, this leads to one of the most endearing aspects of the film – Oliver having to take Arthur with him everywhere.
A few months after the loss of his father and with Arthur in tow, Oliver meets Anna, a beautiful French actress played by the beautiful French actress, Mélanie Laurent, at a costume party. Their relationship evolves quite quickly and it’s almost too-real to witness just how much of yourself you can see in these characters who grapple at the strings of potential love all while dealing with their own emotional baggage.
Beginners is not a happy movie; and its ending, just like with love in real life, does not offer something definitive. In other words, there is no sunset in which Oliver and Anna ride off into as the credits begin to roll. Instead, it’s a film about love in all its forms. It’s about love for family, friends and if you’re willing to risk it and put yourself out there, love for another person who, like you, is willing to risk something in the hopes of getting that often elusive ending — that which being ‘forever.’
The poster for Beginners includes the tagline “This is what love feels like,” and it honestly summarizes the film perfectly in just those few words. Love hurts like hell sometimes, but when it comes down to it, you don’t want it any other way. If you’ve never known the anguish that comes with loving someone more than you love yourself, then you can’t fully appreciate when that agony passes and the elation begins.
Why the Academy didn’t understand all that and give Beginners a nomination is mind boggling.