Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Blogathon: Making the Case for Edward Burns


The rules for Stevee Taylor’s new expert blogathon, Making the Case, are simple: pick a film, performance, or aspect of a film that you’d love to see garner awards recognition this year, but know in your heart of hearts that it most likely will not.

Now, given that most of my favorite movies and performances from any given year typically aren’t recognized (To Michael Fass: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times), the possibilities for my contribution to this blogathon really are endless.


Marion Cotillard in Rust and Bone
It’s still a tad early, but I’m positive Rust and Bone will remain my favorite film of 2012. Marion Cotillard will most likely pick up a Best Actress Oscar nomination, but I could easily choose her co-star, Matthias Schoenaerts, to occupy my choice for Making the Case. Or Rust and Bone for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, or really any award it is eligible for.

Same goes for Compliance, a film I have championed since being blown away by it in August. Best Picture, Director, Screenplay – whatever. How about Michael Haneke for Best Director (Amour), or Anders Danielsen Lie for Best Actor (Oslo, August 31st)? Either or, or all.

But when all’s said and done, there is honestly no nomination I would love more than a Best Original Screenplay nod for Edward Burns’ nearly perfect The Fitzgerald Family Christmas.
A still from The Fitzgerald Family Christmas
As recently as, well, a few hours ago, I had a chance to exclaim my steadfast admiration for the often-overlooked work of Edward Burns. My review for his very funny and very serious Fitzgerald Family Christmas is a glowing one, and I am thrilled that the comments I’ve received on it so far are from people who either love the film as much as I do, or are genuinely interested in seeing it.

The film depicts the members of a very large Irish-Catholic family debating whether or not their deadbeat dad should be welcomed home for Christmas. At first glance, the script is a template for clichés most would avoid. But shortly into the picture, we understand that Burns is too good for that. He deals in familiar territory (dysfunctional family, romantic comedy, mumblecore antics), but makes his film anything but. In short, The Fitzgerald Family Christmas is as worthy of a Best Screenplay nomination as damn near any film I can think of this year. Yeah… really.

And it isn’t just his latest that deserves praise. She’s the One, Sidewalks of New York, and especially his 2011 feature, Newlyweds, all contain perfect screenplays, among other things. The only awards recognition Burns has received were Sundance and Indie Spirit props for his debut feature, The Brothers McMullen. And while that praise is just, I’m left wondering: will there ever be something more?
Edward Burns
Because the Academy’s rules seem to change as often as its nominations, I frankly have trouble keeping up. Is a movie that’s released online first, then in theaters (as The Fitzgerald Family Christmas was), deemed ineligible for awards? If so, then I suppose I’ve made the case on a completely moot point. But either way, Burns’ work deserves recognition beyond the steady fanbase he’s amassed since The Brothers McMullen, and harvested since joining Twitter.

Upon further research, I see that Newlyweds was released online in December of 2011, but had a very brief theatrical run in January 2012. Would its screenplay be eligible for an Oscar this year? Shit, now we’re onto something.

21 comments:

  1. Edward Burns is a completely underrated force in film; even if it seems in the indie genre. I've loved his work for a long time. It's a shame he doesn't get more recognition but at least he keeps his presence afloat. :)

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    1. YES! Could not agree more with your comment. Glad you like his work as much as I do!

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  2. Love this man, but I don't think either screenplay (or film) is eligible. :( Unfortunately, Burns is even too indie for the Independent Spirit Awards these days. He hasn't even been nominated there since he won Best First Feature for The Brothers McMullen. (scratches head)

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    1. Yeah, I figured he wouldn't be eligible, but a fella can dream. Ha. I think you're right, he's too indie to attract major awards attention. But hey, so long as he keeps making flicks, that's all that matters!

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    2. Indeed! I've seen 5 of his films, and I'm going to finish his filmography soon. Can't wait to see what he does next.

      Oh, and belated congrats on that tweet man! :)

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    3. Thanks dude! Shit blew me away.

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  3. Excellent post! Eloquent and well argued. This movie sounds right up my alley. I've been trying to remember why I wasn't a fan of The Brothers McMullen, BTW, but it was too long ago. The only thing that sticks in my mind is that the oldest brother cheating on his wife really annoyed me. A fair reaction, but no reason for not liking a movie. :-) Maybe it was just an instance of a film that caught me in the wrong mood.

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    1. Thanks so much! That is a very legitimate reason for being off-put by McMullen. The way in which the husband character handles telling his wife about his cheating (and they way in which his wife receives it) is very nonchalant. I fell like most viewers are ready for that epic screaming match to start, but McMullen doesn't give you that. Very off-putting.

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    2. Interesting. Now that you mention it, I do remember that, and it did bother me for several reasons I won't go into. :-) Good observation!

      Of course, to be fair I assume that, in real life, a major crisis like finding out about a spouse's affair isn't always a loud, dramatic epiphany. People cope with things in various ways. The "blow up" may come hours, days, or years later ... or not at all. Or it may erupt with a whimper rather than a bang.

      One last thought (since I'm the queen of overly long comments, especially when I'm avoiding work). I married into a family with strong Irish Catholic roots, and I vaguely remember feeling there was something rather stereotyped about the portrayal in this movie. But since you mentioned that Burns was drawing on his own Irish Catholic roots, that wasn't a fair call on my part. What do I know? I barely even remember the movie -- just bits and pieces here and there. :-)

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    3. First off, I've said this before and I'm happy to say it again: please feel free to leave any comment of ANY size on this blog. I am so grateful for every comment you leave. Genuinely.

      I'd be so curious to hear your thoughts on this movie (and Fitzgerald Family Christmas, actually) given your husband's family. It'd be cool to hear it from the perspective of a writer watching his films.

      What do you know? Hey, what do ANY of us know :)

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    4. What do any of us know, indeed? It's the ones who think they've got it all figured out who scare the shit out of me.

      I did watch The Newlyweds tonight. I had Edward Burns on my mind after talking to you, and I found it on Netflix Instant. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Very different kind of film, and when it comes to dialogue, the guy knocks it out of the ballpark.

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    5. Nice! Love hearing that you enjoyed it. That movie was a huge influence over Earrings. He shot it with the same camera I have, and the same sized crew. When I saw that, I said to myself, "Okay, maybe this can be done."

      Love that film.

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    6. My daughter and I laughed all the way through The Newlyweds. The dialogue, the petty drama, and all the funny, inappropriate crap people talked about. That's exactly the way people really talk, at least in my experience. ;-) I'd love to see more films like that.

      Thanks for sharing the note about the inspiration for Earrings. One of MANY things I love about low-budget indie movies. They inspire and encourage people with the talent and passion for film-making but not a lot of money.

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    7. Oh, in my experience as well. That's why I love his films so much. (Didn't you love the baseball bat scene, "What. The. Fuuck. is going on here?"

      Thank YOU for listening to my Earrings story. Your support over these past few months has meant the world to me.

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    8. Aw, thanks -- that's nice of you to say.

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  4. I really need to see some of his films! He has a great stance on film-making, and it would be awesome to see him get recognised for that.

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    1. Yes it certainly would! Cannot recommend the majority of his films highly enough.

      Great blogathon by the way. Had a lot of fun writing this one.

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  5. You know come to think of it, I don't believe I saw any of his movies. I think I will try starting with this one, as it's Christmas time after all :)

    Also how awesome that he actually tweeted your article? If one of my favorites ever did that, I'd crap my pants.

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    1. I was and still am genuinely fucking stunned by that. I didn't even notice his tweet at first, it wasn't until my friends started blowing up my timeline that I realized what had happened. Crazy shit. Made my month.

      Burns' films are very sentimental, which I'm typically not a fan of. But there's just something about his style, it just works for me. Always.

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  6. I loved his character's rationale in Saving Private Ryan because it aligns a bit with my own if I was in his situation. The way he tells the story about the woman's breasts before he leaves for basic was pretty great, too. Most of all, I love how some of that kind of seriousness is brought over to his fire marshal character in 15 Minutes, which I find a seriously underrated film. De Niro was great in it too, despite most of his performances of 2000s being quite maligned.

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    1. He was always my favorite character from Saving Private Ryan, for exactly the reason you mentioned. He really is the defiant voice of reason there. Love what he did with that role.

      I've only seen 15 Minutes once, when it first came out. I remember liking it then, but I was what... 15. Either way, there are a lot of films Burns stars in (not counting the ones he makes) that I don't like at all. But I always value his work in them. Besides, he only takes roles in Man on a Ledge, Alex Cross and other nonsense to fund his own flicks, so rock 'n' roll!

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