Sunday, February 26, 2012

Beginners (2010)

1 Nomination, 1 Win

Win: Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Christopher Plummer

The Academy is well known for giving de facto "lifetime achievement awards," in which an older performer is thought to have received an award more for his or her career body of work than a particular role. This usually happens in a year when there is no clear cut winner in a category, and popular sentiment shifts behind a nominee whose "time has come." This year's example of this phenomenon is Christopher Plummer, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Beginners.

Beginners tells the dual stories of a man (played by Ewan McGregor) dealing with his father's transition to living openly as a homosexual and coping with his father's death. The man is emotionally stunted, and his father's newfound acceptance of himself leaves him lost as he struggles to figure out who he is. The film avoids the easy cliches associated with such a story, and I was glad to see that McGregor's character had little if any problem with his father's homosexuality; rather, he seems perplexed that his father is now showing emotions and happiness that he can barely understand.

Where the film struggles is the coping plotline. These scenes are robbed of the vibrancy of Plummer's character, and McGregor walks around with a blank look on his face. I spent most of these scenes waiting for the narrative to shift back to Plummer's scenes.

Plummer turns in a nice performance in Beginners, and it is easy to see why he attracted the attention of the Academy. He's a living legend, and in Beginners he shows a side of himself unseen in previous roles. Yet I thought the screenplay did not give Plummer the opportunity to create a multifaceted character, and thus his performance feels a bit shallow. His Oscar win was by no means an outrage, but my vote would have gone to Nick Nolte's scene-stealing turn in Warrior or Jonah Hill's breakout role in Moneyball.

Beginners is a film worth watching, but I suspect I will have forgotten about it almost entirely within a few months. Plummer's performance is the highlight, and even though he likely won the award for his body of work more than this particular performance, I'm glad that he will add Oscar gold to his mantle.

Remaining: 3168 films, 874 Oscars, 5446 nominations


  1. Shawn Goldwater, MontrealMarch 7, 2012 at 8:47 PM

    Just found this site! (And fwiw I shared it on Roger Ebert's Facebook page).

    Anyway, the National Film Board of Canada has 72 Oscar-winning and nominated films, and there's a whack of them available for free HD screening at

    You can start their special Oscars playlist,

    Happy viewing!

    1. Thanks so much for the post Shawn, and thanks for your support with Roger Ebert's page. Can I ask how you found the site? I'm trying to figure out where people are coming from so I know who to reach out to.

      The National Film Board of Canada is a wonderful resource for the project, and I've seen many films there over the years. I'll check out the page again and see what they have that I haven't seen yet.

      Thanks again for the recommendation and support.

    2. Shawn Goldwater, MontrealMarch 14, 2012 at 2:12 PM

      Hi. Sorry I missed this reply. I can't remember now how I found your site, sorry. Have you noticed a spike in traffic from any other sites?

      Also, sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings, but I'm concerned your reproduction of the Oscar my violate their guidelines, per:

      Have you obtained permission to display the statuette in this way?

    3. Shawn Goldwater, MontrealMarch 14, 2012 at 3:42 PM

      Oh, I remember now how I found this blog. I do quite a bit of work on documentary films on Wikipedia, and a Google search for a short doc I was trying to reference brought me here, to one of your reviews.