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Oscar Watch: "La Vie en Rose"

By admin Published: February 15, 2008


Three nominations: Best actress (Marion Cotillard, above), costume design, makeup.

In "The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract," James faces the question of whether Joe Jackson should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

"When every honest ballplayer who has ever played the game, at any level from Babe Ruth ball through the majors, when every coach, writer, umpire and organist ... has been given his due, then I think we should hold our noses and make room for Joe Jackson to join the Hall of Fame."

The screed is longer than that, and more filled with rage. But it gives you an idea of how I feel about Marion Cotillard's Oscar nomination. ...

Yes, there may be worse performances than Cotillard's, although I did not see a Jessica Simpson movie on the eligible-films list. (The complete list of eligible films is here. Feel free to offer your own suggestions about nominees in the comments section.)

Still, the worse performances do not include Cate Blanchett in "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," Ellen Page in "Juno" and Julie Christie in "Away From Her," three of the other best-actress nominees. They probably do not include Laura Linney in "The Savages," the fifth nominee in this category, and the one I have not seen.

They do not include Halle Berry in "Things We Lost in the Fire," or Jodie Foster in "The Brave One," both Oscar-eligible but neither nominated. I could also mention Christina Ricci's bold work in "Black Snake Moan" or Amy Adams's daring, hinting-madness way in "Enchanted," or perky Nikki Blonsky in "Hairspray," and there were those who thought Angelina Jolie was due for "A Mighty Heart." (Haven't seen that, either.) And I liked Molly Shannon's work in "Year of the Dog." Perhaps not enough to give her an Oscar nomination, but well enough to give her one before Cotillard.

So what on earth is she doing with a nomination?

For those of you tuning in late, "La Vie en Rose" is a French biopic about the legendary singer Edith Piaf (played by Cotillard), moving back and forth in time across her sad, often self-destructive life. As movies go, it's rather slow, although the songs -- sung by by Jil Aigrot and lip-synched by Cotillard -- can be effective.

But where Cotillard may be a capable actress in other work, I found her performance here repeatedly brought down by an expression that made her look less like the singer in the throes of emotion than Emmett Kelly posing for a clown painting. The movie as a whole is not very good, either, but it would have been better with a powerful central performance. Cotillard does not have that power; she's a caricature, her nomination suggesting that the movie voters can still be taken in by big gestures, foreign languages and a sense of culture.

And what does that lead to? Best actor Roberto Benighni.

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