Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Penn Family

The Oscar nominations are out and, of course, Sean Penn got a Best Actor nod for Milk. I haven't seen the movie--maybe it's great--but I did get a funny email over the weekend from Galley Brother B.J., who exited the theater wondering whether or not Harvey Milk was mentally handicapped. I assured him that the real Milk was not.

His reply:

So why does Penn have his Magic Retard FaceTM on the whole movie? Was he just trying to stack the deck for the Academy, worried that playing gay and martyred wasn't enough?

Maybe. Sean Penn seems to get a lot more credit than he deserves as an actor. How many good performances has he given over the last decade? But sadly, his brother Michael Penn seems to get almost no credit at all for being one of the better singer/songwriters of his generation.

I'll grant that Penn's stuff (Michael, I mean) isn't designed to be hugely commercial. But, to my ears it's incredibly catchy and smart; pop music for people who read. And I'd argue that what he does--finding new and clever and beautiful ways of saying things which have been said millions of times--is harder than putting on a Magic Retard FaceTM by an order of magnitude.

But to restore your faith in the Academy, how great is it that Melissa Leo got a nomination? She's a total stud.


Anonymous said...

Kirk Lazarus: Everybody knows you never go full retard.

Tugg Speedman: What do you mean?

Kirk Lazarus: Check it out. Dustin Hoffman, 'Rain Man,' look retarded, act retarded, not retarded. Counted toothpicks, cheated cards. Autistic, sho'. Not retarded. You know Tom Hanks, 'Forrest Gump.' Slow, yes. Retarded, maybe. Braces on his legs. But he charmed the pants off Nixon and won a ping-pong competition. That ain't retarded. Peter Sellers, "Being There." Infantile, yes. Retarded, no. You went full retard, man. Never go full retard. You don't buy that? Ask Sean Penn, 2001, "I Am Sam." Remember? Went full retard, went home empty handed...

Can't believe that nobody beat me to the wisdom of Tropic Thunder!

Anonymous said...

When the Merchant/Ivory adaptation of E.M. Forster's Maurice came out, Pauline Kael said that James Wilby (in the title role) acted so slow that one might think everyone involved in the film believed being gay was the same as being retarded.