Wednesday, October 14, 2009

An Education and Peter Sarsgaard

Lone Scherfig's An Education is strikingly original, very well written and features outstanding performances from Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina and the rest of the very talented cast. I suspect the film will be receive Best Picture, Best Actress (Mulligan) and Best Supporting Actor (Molina) nominations at next year's Academy Awards. The film focuses on sixteen year-old Londoner Jenny (Mulligan, whose talent matches her beauty) who begins an affair with the much older David (Sarsgaard) in the early 1960s. The titular education is provided by David, and the prospect of a future with him and his seemingly cultured friends appears far more exciting to Jenny than a college education at Oxford. An Education wisely explores the idealism of youth and the disillusionment that comes with life experience - it's an excellent film.

I have to pay special attention to one of my favorite working actors, Peter Sarsgaard. When I was thirteen years old, I went to see Shattered Glass (2003, Billy Ray) at Austin's local art house theater, and I was awestruck by Sarsgaard's brilliant and explosive performance as editor Chuck Lane. That he did not receive an Academy Award nomination for the film (much less a deserving win) is a real crime in Academy history.

Since then, Sarsgaard has consistently given superb performances in films as varied as Garden State (2004, Zach Braff), Kinsey (2004, Bill Condon), Jarhead (2005, Sam Mendes), Elegy (2008, Isabel Coixet) and now An Education. Here's hoping that he receives a nomination this year for his great performance (although his work is so brilliantly subtle I suspect the Academy may slight him once again). To the right is a picture of Sarsgaard and me, along with my friend Bolton Eckert and his brother Travis, at the 90th birthday party of Oscar-winning screenwriter Horton Foote in March 2006. I should note that Sarsgaard is truly one of the nicest actors I have ever met in person.

Earlier this week, singer Al Martino passed away at the age of 82. Martino played Sinatra-like singer Johnny Fontane in The Godfather (1972, Francis Ford Coppola) and, according to a fascinating article from Britain's Telegraph, asked his own 'godfather' to convince Coppola to cast him in the Fontane role. May he rest in peace.

On Monday evening, I attended my second plenary session for my class Writing the Essay: Art and the World. Rather than a typical lecture, however, students were treated to a preview performance of The Jackie Look, a performance piece by performance artist Karen Finley, in the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. Finley, who is known for her controversial performances (she was infamously one of the NEA Four - one of four artists whose grant from the National Endowment for the Arts was rejected in 1990 due to the graphic content of the art) 'portrays' Jacqueline Kennedy Onasis in this performance, which opens for the public on January 30th, 2010 at The Laurie Beechman Theatre. It was an interesting way to spend a Monday night, certainly - that's all I'll say.

On Tuesday morning, I took a field trip downtown for my class The Irish and New York. We visited The Irish Hunger Memorial, a fascinating public art piece near Ground Zero honoring those who suffered and died from starvation not just from Ireland's historic potato famine, but from famines and hungers worldwide. As soon I have pictures printed from the memorial, I will post them online.

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