Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Fantasy Oscars: Edward Norton for Best Supporting Actor in Moonrise Kingdom

I must admit, Moonrise Kingdom comes somewhere between The Life Aquatic and The Fantastic Mr. Fox in my personal Wes Anderson rankings. That is, nowhere near the rarefied air of Darjeeling Limited or (pause to genuflect) Rushmore, which I think is as close to perfect as any movie has a right to be. My relative lack of enthusiasm for Moonrise has to do with what I felt was a bit of discomfort on the part of the child actors with the Andersonian dialogue, which is as precise and intricate as his notoriously detailed sets.

However, I did love what was happening on the edges of Moonrise, both on the level of direction (the background scenes at Camp Lebanon are priceless), and especially in terms of character. Top to bottom, the adult actors (Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Harvey Keitel, and Bill Murray, who should get nominated for every Anderson movie in which he appears) are brilliant. I was particularly taken with Edward Norton's performance as Scout Master Ward. He plays Ward as sincerely and wholeheartedly committed to scout mastering, in a way that doesn't play as silly or pathetic, but rather as admirable and noble. Norton is fantastic when he talks--managing to make lines like "Jiminy Cricket, he flew the coop" not precious but suffused with pathos--but also when he moves. His brisk inspection of Camp Ivanhoe, cigarette in hand, is hilarious, and his crumpled face, when unable to make the day's entry in the Scout Log due to the disappearance of his entire troupe, is almost unbearable to look at.

Edward Norton is not an actor usually associated with guilelessness. Some of his best roles (Primal Fear, American History X, even Fight Club) are enriched by the intelligence, either calculating or world weary, that he projects. All of that is drained in Moonrise Kingdom, to much better effect than a similar character he played in Woody Allen's musical Everyone Says I Love You. Bruce Willis, also playing against type in this movie, doesn't seem to get there as completely and fearlessly as Norton. And really--isn't it about time he won something other than a Boston Society of Film Critics Award?

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