“Everything is there on the screen.”
With those six words, Mo’Nique (who I’ve always admired), the odds-on favorite to win in her category for Best Supporting Actress at this year’s Academy Awards long before the nominees were announced yesterday, also became the actor I most want to see take home a statue on March 7. Not because I loved the movie, Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire-- I didn’t, not by a long shot. (By the way, has there ever been a more annoying or pretentious official title to a movie?) I want to see her win because of her absolutely refreshing refusal to partake in all the requisite Oscar campaigning and glad-handing, her insistence that the only thing that matters is the work, that the performance should be eloquent evidence enough as to whether or not she deserves Oscar’s recognition, that, yes, “everything is there on the screen.” She is damned good in a thankless, difficult-to-watch role, the central on-screen monster in a movie that has as many problems as its absurdly set-upon protagonist, and if she deserves the award then it should be because the voters think what she did in that movie is worthy, not because she’s out there shouting up her own achievement or cajoling her peers with lively banter aimed at focusing on her likable personality.
Betsy Sharkey reported in this morning's Los Angeles Times on Mo’Nique taking herself out of the competitive tussle leading up to March’s award ceremony, which I had not heard about until I read the article—it’s a very good piece that shines light on why Mo’Nique’s position is not, in the end, just another wily wrinkle on the same old Weinstein-inspired grandstanding. If the actress stays true to her conviction—and nothing I’ve ever seen her do in public makes me suspect she’s a shrinking violet at heart—then a win for her might just suggest that it is the work that’s most important, that actors and other nominees don’t have to jump through the increasingly acrobatic and embarrassing hoops to convince voters that they want the big moment on the Oscar stage more than the other nominees do, and maybe--- just maybe—some measure of dignity might be restored to the whole back-slapping megillah known as Oscar season. And leave it to the woman who has fashioned a career around her irrepressibly coarse personality, who stands this month in representation of a performance in a role that many people can barely stand to watch (for reasons having as much to do with the way it is modulated, let’s be honest, as for its pain and anger and whatever other truth the viewer might ascribe to it), to lead the hike up the high road to inevitable Oscar glory. Mo'Nique, I cannot wait to see you walk up on that stage and hear your acceptance speech.