Oscars, please choose any ‘Best Actor’ nominee over Gary Oldman

Focus Features/Courtesy
Focus Features/Courtesy
Focus Features/Courtesy

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There are some truly provocative, personal and excellent films on the academy’s docket of nominees this year. In a race filled with worthy winners — from Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird” and Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” to Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” and Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread” — it’s almost surprising that Joe Wright’s “Darkest Hour” made the cut in several categories.

Perhaps the most shocking is Gary Oldman’s “Best Actor” nomination for his performance as the famed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in the aforementioned biopic.

Oldman finds himself surrounded by worthy competitors in the category.

Daniel Day Lewis’ performance as a controlling and idiosyncratic dress designer in “Phantom Thread” is dazzlingly romantic, even when disturbing. Daniel Kaluuya shines in “Get Out” as he transforms from cool and collected to manic and terrified for his life; his performance externalizes fear in ways that are as unclichéd as the film itself. In “Call Me By Your Name,” Timotheé Chalamet delivers a devastating portrayal of a young man in love, with refreshing vulnerability, intimacy and a method of expression that is anything but obvious. Denzel Washington’s performance as the titular character of “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” is quirky and endearing — no doubt the most effective part of the film.

These three men’s performances are leaps and bounds ahead of Oldman’s in “Darkest Hour” — and they did it without the heaps of makeup that does most of the work in convincing viewers that Oldman is Winston Churchill.

Sure, it’s very common for actors to require prosthetics in order to physically transform into the real-life figures they portray in biopics such as “Darkest Hour.” Oldman captures Churchill’s bullheadedness and blatant misogyny, as well as an apparent softness in the character’s vulnerable moments — but ultimately, his performance is unexceptional, certainly not one of his best, with his own mannerisms frequently distracting from his portrayal of Churchill. If the most persuasive aspect of Oldman’s character is his makeup, rather than his performance, then it’s makeup artist Kazuhiro Tsuji who deserves the award, not Oldman.

But his comparatively lackluster performance isn’t the only reason Oldman shouldn’t win the “Best Actor” Oscar — it’s also his former misdeeds, which include alleged domestic abuse and defense of another actor’s racist comments.

In 2001, while Oldman and his former wife, Donya Fiorentino, with whom he has two children, were filing for divorce, Fiorentino accused him of choking her and hitting her with a telephone in front of their children, according to The Independent. Although Fiorentino hadn’t come forward publicly about the alleged abuse until recently, it’s described in the paperwork filed for their divorce nearly two decades ago.

More recently, during an interview with Playboy in 2014, Oldman defended actor-director Mel Gibson’s use of racial slurs, according to The Guardian. In the same interview, he also defended Alec Baldwin’s use of a homophobic slur — and then later tried to have much of his defense of these men removed from the record.

As Ira Madison III of The Daily Beast points out, Oldman has a shady past when it comes to abuses: He’s not only been accused of abuse himself, but he seems to think it’s acceptable to throw around homophobic and racial slurs. He didn’t just defend Gibson’s and Baldwin’s bigoted language, he himself used several slurs throughout the interview, throwing them around flippantly as if to make a disturbing point about his privilege.

“It’s not just that Oldman makes excuses for bad behavior in Hollywood,” Madison writes, “It’s that he’s been accused of engaging in bad behavior himself and called others hypocritical for being offended.”

The reality is that Oldman clearly isn’t citizen of the year. His performance was decent, but hardly compares to those with whom he shares a nomination.

Some have argued that a celebration of Oldman’s decades-long career is overdue — but this isn’t the performance to commemorate and Oldman doesn’t seem like the type of man worth celebrating, either. Additionally, actors shouldn’t only be awarded for their career-long achievements, but the merits of the performance for which they are nominated.

It’s as much a question of whether Oldman “deserves” the win as it is a question of whether Oscar voters will continue to celebrate abusive men simply because they are “talented.”

The “Best Actor” Oscar is centrally about a performance, yes, but after the Weinstein revelations, the continuing reach of the #MeToo movement and the global adoption of Time’s Up, it’s clear that awards aren’t simply about celebrating portrayals of characters, but the moral character of the media-makers and artists as well.

If the academy votes for Oldman’s performance, it will reveal how little it has learned this past year and re-expose the industry’s continued erasure of artists’ problematic behavior, simply because it is inconvenient or complicated to address the issues of abuse within the Hollywood institution.

Sophie-Marie Prime covers television. Contact her at [email protected].

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  • Lana Mail

    The media deliberately create an aggression around Oldman. Because they want to promote their favorites on the Oscar, it’s easy to slander a person now, just write a tweet. But Gary, your fans will fight for you in the fields, on the beach, in the seas, in any pease of land and on the Internet, too, we will never give up!

  • Yrah

    If he was violent against her, why would he given FULL CUSTODY of the boys??!! HE DIDN’T DO IT! It may seem impossible for you, but women can lie! And some does! There was found NO evidence for that he was violent! He is a good human being! SO LEAVE HIM ALONE! Yes, he had said some ridiculous things – but who haven’t done that??!! It’s part of being human! Making mistakes and apologize for that, that’s being human – and he have done that! Perhaps you should drop this piece of evil, manipulated piece of LIES!

  • Joel P147

    What a disgusting article, The author should be ashamed. Gary Oldman earned an Oscar and not only through make-up. He lived this role. He was never formally accused of anything, unlike his ex-wife who had been deprived of children from two marriages. In addition, she had a transfer drugs in front of children. Such behavior you do not blame? Gary Oldman is a chic actor and I believe he’s a good man, we all make mistakes in our lives, nobody is perfect. He is not racist, he spoke about double standards in Hollywood, about hypocrisy. And then he apologized, in his place I would not do it. Freedom of speech does not exist anymore. Gary actor is a legend, he gave the world a lot of chic films and great images, people will remember him and will learn, and you will remain an evil hypocrite! Write better the article about the parade of black dresses that have trailed badges Time up after they slept and worked with Weinstein, not Gary Oldman your problem …

  • Zay 123

    Why people allow politics and scandals to get in the way of anything regarding how good any actor is is beyond me. James Franco was snubbed for Best Actor and Gary Oldman deserves the win regardless.

    SImply put, justice must be made. But that doesn’t change how good someone’s performance was in a film

  • jcd

    How is this this person a “senior” staff member? I heard she beat her husband. Fire her

    • Jon Fearnley

      The paper must value those who specialise in total BS.

  • Nancy Cassady

    Don’t be shy, what do you really think? The “beating his wife” story was part of a smear campaign. It was proven to have never occurred. It was investigated by the LAPD, the district attorney, and many others, and it was shown at the time to be a complete lie. The wife was a drug addict with other problems. She had previously made accusations against her former husband, and she also lost custody of that child as well. The result of her Oldman fabrications had a conclusion: Oldman was granted full and complete legal and physical custody of their two sons. She was never allowed to see them alone and could only have short visits with a state appointed monitor present. It is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that a false accusation is made against a father in a bitter custody battle. But it is a rare occurrence that the accused father gets full custody of the children in question and the mother is completely removed. On top of which, Oldman has no pattern of abusing anyone. Almost everyone who has ever worked with or for him describes him as a genuinely kind gentleman. The Awards season is a tough place. And people will spread and plant stories for all kinds of reasons. Anyone can see that this is what happened here. You should have too.

    Please reconsider this article. It is unforgivably wrong, damaging to an innocent man, and completely untrue. Please do the right thing.

    • Jon Fearnley

      I don’t think the author cares about the truth. Anyone with a functioning brain can do the slightest bit of research into the case and see that Oldman was never convicted, or even charged, and that Fiorentino was twice laughed out of court as her husbands walked away with the kids. The author hasn’t fallen for the smear campaign: she’s part of it.

      • Nancy Cassady

        And if he hit her with a phone, wouldn’t there have been marks on her face that the police would have taken pictures of? I don’t recall that at all. Total BS. But who cares, right? GARY JUST WON THE BEST ACTOR OSCAR AND I’M AS HAPPY FOR HIM AS IF I WAS HIS MOTHER!

  • HelloWorld

    Considering the obvious manipulations and distortions, this article could very well be used for a single, murky, purpose. I do not say what purpose only by behavior.

    For the rest, if I were you, I would pay attention to “paint” as guilty of domestic abuse a person who has juridically won a trial and who got the total custody of his children. You know, it’s called “defamation” and is a crime. Fortunately for you, I’m not Oldman’s lawyer, but I swear to you that, if I were, I would not hesitate for a moment to report you because there would be all the trappings to do it.

    You are young journalists, but you must understand that the problem of fake and manipulated news is one of the most tragic problems today. Do not contribute to spread it, because in this way you also pollute the battles for which you are struggling.

    • Nancy Cassady

      Thank you!

  • Jon Fearnley

    Lol, what a hopelessly biased piece. You cover his ex-wife’s position in detail, but neglect to re-print Oldman’s statements, or mention the fact that he was awarded FULL CUSTODY of the pair’s children (as was Fiorentino’s first husband, BTW). You then talk about the infamous Playboy interview, and say that he “tried to have much of his defense of these men removed from the record”. What exactly does that mean? That he gave multiple apologies for it, yet far-left SJWs want to eternally chastise him instead of forgiving and moving on like rational human beings after four years? His enduring friendships with Denzel Washington and Daniel Radcliffe hardly paint the picture of someone who is racist/anti-semitic. His admiration for and BAFTA-nominated portrayal of Joe Orton (in which he is intimate with another man) reeeaaally screams “homophobic”.

    We get it: you just ADORE Timothee Chalamet and his film’s LGBT heroism, like everyone else on the left. But to frame Oldman as someone who should be a target of MeToo and Time’s Up in 2018 is beyond contempt, and borderline libellous. Awful article.

    • jcd

      just garbage. Sad this came up on a feed. pathetic prattling masked as journalism.