Thursday, January 12, 2017

Theory Thursday: John Goodman Deserves an Oscar Nomination for "10 Cloverfield Lane"

John Goodman in 10 Cloverfield Lane
Welcome to a weekly column called Theory Thursdays, which will be released every Thursday and discuss my "controversial opinion" related to something relative to the week of release. Sometimes it will be birthdays while others is current events or a new film release. Whatever the case may be, this is a personal defense for why I disagree with the general opinion and hope to convince you of the same. While I don't expect you to be on my side, I do hope for a rational argument. After all, film is a subjective medium and this is merely just a theory that can be proven either way. 

Subject: Patriots Day opens in theaters nationwide this Friday.
Theory: John Goodman deserves an Oscar nomination for 10 Cloverfield Lane

It is pretty likely that John Goodman is one of the most likable actors of the past 30 years. He is one of those character actors who has made an impressive run, often making whatever movie or TV series he is in better. It is hard to ignore him in any of The Coen Brothers' many movies, or his various cameos on Saturday Night Live. He is charismatic and manages to play characters ranging from lovable to downright despicable. He is one of those on reliable talents alongside J.K. Simmons who maybe gets taken a bit too much for granted. Ironically, both of them star together in director Peter Berg's Patriots Day, which turns the Boston Marathon Bombing into its own triumphant story. With many giving it positive reviews, it looks to be a hit in the making. However, it does raise one question: Why hasn't Goodman ever gotten an Oscar nomination?

One could look back at 2014 with Whiplash and see the same argument being made for Simmons. He has done phenomenal work for decades and was finally awarded Best Supporting Actor for his work in Whiplash. Anyone who has seen it cannot deny the ferocity and immediacy that made this character so magnetic. It reminded you of every last ounce of talent that man has. It makes you sweat just thinking about how he threw chairs, scathingly criticized young musicians, and created a character who felt real as well as cartoonish. It wasn't his first evil character (Oz maybe is more demented in this department), but it was the first to latch on and connect with voters who had seen him for decades do work worthy of awards, but didn't have the platform.

The issue for me is that Goodman has been doing this for longer and has even less to show for it. I guarantee that anyone reading this can name far more memorable Goodman performances than Simmons. Goodman even starred in two back-to-back Best Picture winners with The Artist and Argo (admittedly in a limited role). Yet this is only one of the most recent examples of him being overlooked for his work. Maybe it's because his most iconic work is in cult films, but he still has shown up time and again to make any film he's in a bit better. He is rarely, if ever, a detriment to the work he's in. He probably will stay this way until his retirement.

It is why I must back those who are suggesting that Goodman deserves an Oscar nomination for director Dan Trachtenberg's 10 Cloverfield Lane. It is true that as a horror film it has an uphill battle with prestigious voters, but it may be his most engaging performance in years. He plays a man who's paranoid due to an alien invasion that isn't seen, choosing to exude confidence in loving manners until he doesn't get his way. For a certain facet, this is against type for Goodman, producing a role that is haunting and scarring. If the only thing you remember about this film is Goodman, then you'll be fine. He won't let you forget his role, and his countless memorable moments back up that logic.

It does make sense why this film has largely been ignored by awards season. It doesn't fit neatly into a box, instead looking more like an ambitious horror film whose third act is itself divisive. One could look into the reviews of fans claiming that the simple appearance of Cloverfield in the title is a pathetic giveaway of what's to come (I don't think this way). The film's writing is too strong to just be a chintzy alien movie. It has deeper themes and conflicts that make even Mary Elizabeth Winstead's scream queen performance worthy of recognition. While it also suffers from being released earlier in the year, it also will likely be overshadowed by director Denis Villeneuve's alien movie Arrival - which has gotten a tad more favorable reviews and has seen star Amy Adams pop up in more awards circles. Still, I personally think that there's room for both films.

For years, I have proposed that Goodman is deserving of some Oscar love. I initially wrote that this would be an Honorary Oscar for his years of work. It feels wrong to look at a man with such an iconic body of work and not see at least a nomination to his credit. I know that 10 Cloverfield Lane isn't going to change this, even if I equate Simmons and Whiplash as an adequate comparison. Both feature these actors doing what they do best, which is bringing cinema to life in mesmerizing ways. The only difference is that voters latched on to Whiplash (which still surprises me) and made the legacy nomination, and eventual win, a reality that justified as a symbol for Simmons' career.

So the question now becomes: what type of movie in a perfect world would symbolize Goodman's eventual Oscar nomination. Think for a moment that it will happen, and speculate what needs to be done to achieve this state. Considering the unfortunate reality that Tom Hanks hasn't been nominated since Cast Away for possibly being seen as playing the same role over and over (which is a little false), it  does seem like a curse that Goodman will be seen as someone playing Goodman-type roles for the rest of his life, which is always the thankless supporting role. I think he is above this type of scrutiny, and I believe that he should get a nomination. I feel like 10 Cloverfield Lane is different enough to justify this in a significant way. I know it won't, but I still hope it happens one of these days in some form.

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