Welcome to Season 3 of Oscar Justice, a weekly feature at IceCream4Freaks. It’s a simple concept: I give an Oscar to someone who rightfully deserved it, then I follow the repercussions down the line until I am satisfied.
This week on Oscar Justice: Clive Owen in Closer
2004 Best Supporting Actor – Lost to Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby
Clive Owen began his career in television. Beginning in 1988, Owen bounced around the BBC before landing the lead role in the series Chancer in 1990 at the age of 26. Following a series of television series and films, he appeared in his first Hollywood production in The Rich Man’s Wife in 1996.
Owen’s true breakthrough was in the Channel 4 film Croupier. Following a series of successful and memorable roles in BMW ads, Owen shot to prominence with roles in Robert Altman’s Gosford Park and The Bourne Identity. When Mike Nichols began adapting Patrick Marber’s play Closer for film, he turned to Owen to play the role of Larry, despite playing the role of Dan on the stage. Owen earned Golden Globe and BAFTA awards, but lost out on the Oscar. And just like that, Owen was a star.
Big roles in Sin City, Inside Man, and Children of Men followed, though further Oscar attention eluded him. Owen hasn’t stopped working and has recently received acclaim for his roles in HBO’s The Knick and FX’s Impeachment: American Crime Story.
Clive Owen defeats Morgan Freeman at the 2004 Oscars for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
WHY THIS JUSTICE?
The 2004 Best Supporting Actor category was an embarrassment of riches. Jamie Foxx was nominated for his stellar (through category fraudulent) work in Collateral, but he was already destined for Oscar gold in the Lead Actor category for Ray. Alan Alda received his first Oscar nomination for The Aviator after 32 Emmy nominations. Thomas Hayden Church received his first Oscar nomination for his exemplary work in Sideways. Morgan Freeman was only on his fourth nomination, but the stars aligned and everyone agreed it was time for him to win. Owen was the critical darling all year, winning the BAFTA and Golden Globe over Freeman.
More than anything, this is about the performance. Owen is searing as Larry. He has a standout scene which each of his three co-stars, with each scene leaving a lasting impression. His final scene in his office with Jude Law’s Dan doesn’t get the credit it deserves, but Owen lays on the smarm and controlled sharpness to hurt a man he knows he can hurt. But, his scenes with his female cohorts are the real treat.
The relationship between Larry and Julia Roberts’ Anna is initially sweet and romantic, but when he discovers her infidelity, he turns into a different animal. His anger and righteousness is billowing over, with each word cutting further and further to the core. The scene is written in such a way for Larry to dominate, but the camera can’t pull away from what Owen is accomplishing.
In his strip club scene with Natalie Portman’s Alice, it’s a dance of boundaries. He sees how far he can push, while Alice sees how far he will go before breaking. Larry is a character that feels like he will resort to a violent act at any point, but despite his brutish actions, he never crosses that line. A truly masterful performance, and one that is not easy to pull off.
Owen’s victory leaves a cavernous hole in the career of Morgan Freeman. It’s not that he was bad in Million Dollar Baby, it’s that of all the roles, that feels like one of the lesser attempts at awarding him. It was popular, but how about we change it to something much more populist? That’s right…Freeman gets the Oscar in 1994 for The Shawshank Redemption. The film’s reputation has soured a bit in critical circles, but Freeman’s performance remains impeccable. I like it, I’m doing it.
Giving an Oscar to Freeman in 1994 takes one away from Tom Hanks. I love Hanks as much as everyone else in the world, but that Forrest Gump win has not aged well (nor has the film). He still has the Oscar from the year before (which I won’t take away), so Hanks can hang tight to that one. I have a feeling the Oscars haven’t seen the last of Tom Hanks.
Clive Owen wins Best Supporting Actor in 2004 over Morgan Freeman
Morgan Freeman wins Best Actor in 1994 over Tom Hanks
Next time on Oscar Justice
Daniel Day-Lewis shares the wealth and awards one of the best foreign-language performances in the process