Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Oscars 06: Strathairn, a dry, full vintage
Suddenly, we all know who David Strathairn is, or at least what he looks like, that he's a living person, even though we're not sure how to pronounce his name (it's stra-THAY-urn). He's of the John Sayles school, a 25-year vet of movies, has never sought the spotlight, an actor's actor, etcetera, and now he's up for an Oscar for his performance as Ed Murrow in Good Night, and Good Luck. It's a great turn galvanized in one great moment, when Murrow finishes a fluff interview with Liberace. The studio camera cuts away from Murrow, and the fleeting, stifled look of disgust Strathairn evinces is an instant summary of everything about the character -- how he's frustrated at the dumb things a respectable news show must do to retain its viewership, and how the people in charge perpetuate it. Let's turn now to Limbo, a Sayles film released in '99 starring Strathairn and every marquee manager's nightmare, Mary Elizabeth Mastrontonio. This is a great overlooked movie, a wrought, beautifully photographed parable set in the remoteness of Alaska. This is vintage Strathairn -- distant, troubled, vulnerable and mysterious about it all.