Sunday, February 20, 2011

30 Days of Oscar Day 24: Leaving Las Vegas

Movie: Leaving Las Vegas
Year: 1996
Nominations: Best Director (Mike Figgis), Best Actor (Nicholas Cage), Best Actress (Elisabeth Shue), Adapted Screenplay
Wins/Snubs: The first nomination and only win for Nicholas Cage (and so far the world hasn't come to an end, but perhaps we'll find out this was the actual cause for global warming).  This was also one of those movies that got a directing nomination without a Best Picture nomination, though it wasn't the only one - Dead Man Walking  also got a directing nomination for Tim Robbins but not a Best Picture nomination, though Susan Sarandon took Best Actress.  Apollo 13 and Sense and Sensibility got the Best Picture nominations, and Emma Thompson took the Adapted Screenplay Oscar for her troubles. 

Wow, whatever happened to Elisabeth Shue?  She was terrific in this crazy sad story about a "hardened hooker with a heart of gold" who falls in love with a serious alcoholic whose only goal is to die drinking.  Given how unbelievably sad this movie is, I'm having trouble figuring out why I liked it so much.   Because I did, and I realize how unbelievable the following statements might seem, but I assure you they're true.  Nicholas Cage was terrific - his crazy ability to act normal one minute and explode the next fit his alcoholic character with a death plan really well.  He didn't have to make sense when he suddenly tipped over the table - as long as he'd been drinking it made sense and increased the oddness of his character.  And Elisabeth Shue, as a high price hooker, with a crazy pimp, seems to be extremely wounded given the perverse things she's willing to do, but yet still wants to be with and take care of Nicholas Cage - though perhaps that's just more of what makes her character, she's willing to find anyone worse off than she is so she can take care of them. 

The other big thing that struck me about the movie was it's soundtrack.  It was so many old standards (probably being sung all over Vegas as we speak), but many done with a new twist, either sped up or slowed down to create something new.  I'll admit I only realized this was what was going on when I was singing along to a song, but kept trying to speed it up when I realized I knew all the words.  And it brought out the ups and downs of the movie - the two main characters fall in love, but it was always doomed (a death plan does that, even when one of the couple is a prostitute) and the music added just a bit levity to a very dark story with a particularly unhappy ending.  Totally not the kind of movie I usually enjoy, but I gotta say I really liked it.  4.5 of 5 stars/lambs

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