Wednesday, February 25, 2004

The Passion of The Bill Murray

Okay people, the horizon is now in view, and everything, even the Gainsborough clouds, are irradiated by a haunting reddish-bronze sunset. The quest is almost over, fellow pilgrims. Our ship has broken it's last wine-dark swell before the docking, and we are nearly hugging the shore. The Oscars are upon us, people. And now, more than ever, we must motivate to make sure that Bill Murray wins Best Actor.

So, what about Bill? What about his oft-spoken of "nuanced irony"? Will it be enought to top Sean Penn's over the top superemotional performance? Will emo beat nuance?

Will someone just give the Oscar to Bill Murray already? Just give-it-to-him. Now: shnell. His performance in Sophia Copolla's Lost In Translation was one of subtraction, not addition -- continuous over the top gambits, or screaming, or crying like a pussy every frame of the film.

Imagine a Best Oscar going to an underplayed performance, a bittersweetly comic performance, the gentle man going through the inevitable motions of decline. Bill here is playing a style of self, a mode of being. And Bill Murray -- for lack of Oscar nominations -- is an actor in decline yet at his peak, adding irony on to sublety. How better to reward irony than with irony? Give the subtly-nuanced rendering of decline a thumbs up, Hollywood. Give Bill Murray an Oscar for portraying "Bill Murray."

Denzel Washington's dirty cop in Training Day was the most powerful and full-on, cut all the stops, performance in recent years. Septemeber 11th, to a degree, fueled our need for that kind of catharsis: a big evil wolfish lead villain devoured by his own excess. Denzel's evil cop was a big fat Osama Bin Laden effigy. In contradistinction to that performance (pats himself on the back for finding a use for "contradistinction"), wouldn't it be wonderful to have Bill Murray's muted Hollywood actor jetlagged in a foreign land win it this time around? Why? Because we, like Bill, are older; we've been languishing in the stream of time just a little bit longer than we were when we saw the world in terms of black and white. Now we want to examine the varieties of gray.

Murray has been snubbed by Oscar before (The Corsair shakes his head balefully at man's base nature). The fact that Murray has never been nominated is a crime. Murray was straightforward and emotionally rich in Rushmore. He created a multi-layered, if conflicted and earnest personality in The Razor's Edge. And Murray was overlooked as the subtle (there's that word again) but funny cuckolded psychiatrist in The Mighty Tennenbaum's. Murray is all about rendering different shades of beige. Some people believe acting is screaming and crying, Murray is not of that school. Besides, doing that kind of shit will drive you mad.

My favorite Bill Murray flic is Meatballs, which is also the first film I ever saw, so take my suggestion with a grain of salt ("spazz ... spazz ... spazz"). There will never be a time quite like the 70s, in Canada, no less: Canada is a nation obsessed with folksy humanitarianism, think Pierre Trudeau and their relationship to the Native Americans. And the 70s were a decade of Aquarian folksy humanitarianism. Now top that off with a summer camp, Camp Mohawk, of Meatballs.

There was an innocence (notwithstanding Murray's very un-PC manhandling of fellow counselor Roxanne, played a bit on the butch side, by the unforgettable Kate Lynch). And for the kids who don't get the ad-libbed sex jokes(I was, like 5yrs old at the time, and devoid of irony or snark or smarm, all of which flooded forth, with torrential velocity, in high school years), there is the cockles-warming relationship between Murray and the affable Chris Makepeace's character, Rudy the Rabbit. That relationship would never happen today as a result of the cynicism arising from the Catholic Church and internet sex fiends and Jacko. If Bill Murray showed that much interest in a camper nowadays, he'd be washing the laundry of Chuck Zito and Addabezi.

Anyhoo: To me, Bill Murray is the coolest man on the planet earth, Oscar or not. But boy will I be happy if Bill Murray wins this year. The Cutty Sark will flow in triumph. (And, of course, if he loses The Cutty Sark will flow in defeat). So the reddish-bronze sunset gives way to purple twilight, and Bill Murray is very much our Oscar hopes.

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