But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
(Christian Bale as Dicky Eklund in The Fighter)
(Disclaimer: If you don't care about movies or celebrities or the Academy Awards, you'll probably want to skip this post. Apologies for my shallow, superficial interest in pop culture.)
(Secondary disclaimer: This post does not constitute an endorsement by the author for the film in general, particularly for conservative audiences. Although it is an amazing movie, the language is pretty rough, plus the drug use, the violence... Let's just say it definitely earned its R rating. Consider yourself warned.)
Last night I dragged my husband (drug? drugged? nah, that sounds like a precursor to foul play)... Anyway, last night my husband and I went to the movies to see The Fighter, starring Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale. It was his first time seeing it and my second time, and let me just say that a second viewing only cemented my feeling that Bale deserves some major recognition for this role.
Now, you may have heard that this boxing flick is up for several Oscar nominations, including best supporting actor for the phenomenally talented Bale. So, without further ado, here are 3 solid reasons why Christian Bale should win the Oscar:
- He's just that good—You know how when you were a kid and you watched movies with impossibly unrealistic stunts (i.e. Indiana Jones jumping from a plane with an inflatable raft and riding it down a snow-covered mountain... or pretty much any other Indy stunt) and you were so blissfully naive you just accepted it? Without even having to try and convince yourself? Without even employing that mental technique known (to lit nerds) as the "willing suspension of disbelief"? Ok, when you're watching Christian Bale in The Fighter, it's exactly like that. Just like when you're a kid and you don't have the commonsense to doubt that what you're seeing is real, Bale makes you forget it's only a movie. You're totally swept up in story... the character... the sheer power of the performance. Very few actors can transcend our desensitized minds and our jaded perspective on the stories we see play out on-screen. Bale is the exception. He breaks through and to such an extent that I found myself having difficulty even picturing him in his other roles. He is a force of nature in this film. He inhabits his character completely. Yes, he is that good.
- Physical transformation—For his role as Dicky Eklund, Bale dropped a significant amount of weight, roughly 30 pounds. The best part is that when asked how much he lost for the role, he replied that he didn't know, that he was "just going for a certain look." Now, you can't give a guy an Oscar solely for his physical transformation. (Case in point: Bale's 125-pound performance in The Machinist—not that I'm recommending it; very dark and disturbing. But just Google his name and that movie, and check out how much he looks like a concentration camp survivor. Scary.) So, losing or gaining weight alone does not merit an Oscar. But there has got to be some recognition of the ability to so immerse yourself as an actor in your character that you substantially alter your physicality for the role.
- Redemptive role—We need more movies that provide stories depicting true redemption, which I will define as someone in dire straits doing an about-face, turning his back on his problems and righting the wrongs in his life. You might think of it as the Zacchaeus Effect: a selfish, corrupt tax collector who undergoes a salvation experience—and proceeds to donate half his money to the poor and pay back quadruple whatever he'd extorted over the years. Similarly, Dicky Eklund's character in The Fighter leaves behind his crack-smoking, crime-addled days in favor of helping his kid brother make a final push to become a boxing champ, essentially helping his brother eclipse Dicky's own boxing legacy. While Dicky doesn't profess an overt statement of faith after his change of heart, there are several poignant moments showing him kneeling, with his head bowed, his eyes closed—a classic, childlike posture of prayer. And the change in his behavior is evidence enough that something (or Someone) saved him, redeemed him, from his addiction. Is he perfectly reformed? No. But he does make the changes that matter most, all in the spirit of (as he puts it) "trying to do something better" with his life. It's a practical, realistic show of redemption. And like I said, Hollywood needs more movies that portray that kind of change.
But, if justice does not prevail and if Bale does not win an Oscar this coming Sunday, I—to quote one of my favorite movies—shall be very put out.