Monday, 9 February 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #227: Rourke VS Penn

An interesting debate has popped up over at Nikki Finke's blog over who should win the Best Actor Award, and that the top contenders are Sean Penn for Milk, and Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler. So I've decided, as an outsider, to offer my services as a neutral voice and look at the reasons why and why not.


SEAN PENN: Just about everyone agrees that his performance in
Milk was a startling transformation. And not just for playing a gay character, hundreds have done it before, but for Penn's ability to play Harvey Milk as witty, charming, and lively, something Penn has not been able to do in a very, very, long time. Plus, playing a gay character gives him a political edge, allowing Hollywood to ensure their gay-friendly bona-fides in the aftermath of losing the Prop 8 vote.

MICKEY ROURKE: Just about everyone agrees that Rourke's performance as a washed up wrestler struggling to reconnect with not only his family, but normalcy in general, was a gut wrenchingly honest performance full of real emotion. Plus, he's already won the Golden Globe and the BAFTA award, and his performance is more than just a comeback, it's a re-invention of his entire career.


SEAN PENN: Penn's role in Milk was Oscar-bait, pure and simple. Because Penn needs the Oscars to maintain his status as a movie "star" and keep working at the level, and salary, that he does. Without regular nominations Penn would be forced to do things to prove his box office worth, and he doesn't really have much box office worth,* and he doesn't have much, if any good-will with the American audience. If Milk had been an HBO TV movie, with no hope for Oscar qualification, I doubt Penn would have taken the role, because he doesn't strike me as someone who would settle for an Emmy.

MICKEY ROURKE: Rourke had a shot at stardom in the 80s, but lost it, and spent a long period in the comparable wilderness by Hollywood standards. After winning the Golden Globe and the BAFTA, many Academy voters figure he doesn't really
need the Oscar to revive his career as much as Sean Penn does to maintain his. Plus, there was also a recent incident where Rourke made, by Hollywood standards, a shocking political statement. He refused to criticize former President George W. Bush. He didn't openly support the former president, he just refused to criticize him the way about 90% of Hollywood regularly criticizes him. That probably killed his chance with Oscar as much as anything.

Of course all this could be moot, and Richard Jenkins could be the upset winner for
The Visitor.

Milk has made about $25 million domestically, with a $20 million production budget, if they're lucky they might break even after a $15+ million post-Oscar boost to cover their prints, advertising, and publicity costs.

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