Sunday, January 06, 2008

Oh Tilda, My Tilda

I've been in the trenches working on my End of 2007 mega-post - dude, it's turning out much more complicated than I thought it was gonna be - but I took a brief break a few minutes ago and went scanning the interwebs and had the "Oh shit!" moment I warned y'all I was gonna have when I realized that today is StinkyLulu's Supporting Actress Blog-a-thon and sure enough here I am with nothing prepared. I'm one of those bastard people. You know the ones.

But then I notice - I did a lot of noticing - as I scanned through all the entries so far that as of right now, 4:41pm, nowhere in the list of terrific actresses is this year's very best Supporting Actress turn, from my point of view, and I just can't fathom it. How could this be? Have I gone blind? Deranged? Is this a Twilight Zone episode where suddenly everybody's a pig-person and my beauty queen crown is worthless?

What I'm saying here is, where the heck is the Tilda Swinton in Michael Clayton love?

Perhaps someone posted it and it hasn't been linked yet. That's what's going on. I see Margo Martindale covered, and Jennifer Garner, my two other favorites of the year. But... Tilda!

So I'll take it upon myself, I suppose. All of that preamble is also my way of putting it up front that this isn't prepared, and will probably be terrifically scattered. You're forewarned. And, if you've visited this blog before, you're probably fully aware that my thoughts are almost always scattered. Anyway, thankfully I saw the film just two weeks ago so it's pretty fresh.

In Michael Clayton Tilda plays Karen Crowder, litigator for UNorth, this agriculture-behemoth with its eyes set on poisoning little girls as long as they can keep making money off of it. Billions of dollars lay on Karen's ability to stop the bad word on their product from spreading, and keeping the entire thing tangled up in the courts until nobody stands to make any money off of suing. It's... a high pressure position, basically. And with the terrifying efficiency I so love Tilda for, she lays out her entire character's frazzled existence in a series of almost lyrical scenes, cutting back and forth (obviously some of the credit for how well these moments work has to go to the director, Tony Gilroy) between her to-the-correct-inflection preparation for the day - lay out a dress just so, snap a stocking just right, find a new euphemism for how cold my home life is, check - and her actual work.

Tilda makes it so clear how over-her-head Karen's feeling that, as we see her choices becoming more and more desperate, I never found myself hating her character who could've been an easy villain, but instead wanting to reach through the screen and shake her and tell her to stop what she's doing and pull herself together. The final confrontation between Clayton and Karen could've gone for that easy, triumph-over-evil-corporation feeling (think Erin Brockovich), but because of the depths Tilda had revealed in Karen it played much more complicated than that and, to me, terrifically sad. She'd driven herself - and yes, an Evil Monolith on her back - into a corner with no escape, and instead of feeling celebratory I felt Karen's desperation, and as she crumpled to the floor it took my breath away. I should hate Karen! Evil lady with little girls under her feet! But no, thank goodness for Tilda Swinton, nothing's ever that simple.


El Gigante said...

You don't often get to see the "villain" of the film go through their morning routine. Swinton brought tremendous vulnerability and humanity to this character and the film was richer for her work in it. Thanks for covering this performance, I guess I (like everyone) figured that it being so talked about everyone else would claim it.

JA said...

I figured that's probably what happened. When I was thinking about doing the blogathon earlier this week I was preemptively disappointed that I wouldn't be able to do Tilda because I figured she'd be done by a bunch of people already. And then, apparently, everyone else thought that! Heh. So I snatched my chance, which only presented itself because I procrastinated so terribly. Hear that kids? Procrastination works! ;-)

Brooke Cloudbuster said...

I did my entire shortlist; except for Swinton, because I assumed that everybody would have done her. Then I come online to find that nobody had done her, so I just -had- to do a post on her. Nice to know you did one as well!

DL said...

Thank you for this, JA. I was starting to get worried that Tilda wasn't gonna get any love thrown her way...

Anyway, it's my favourite performance of the year, bar none. Hopefully Oscar takes notice and rewards her instead of blah Blanchett, but that's probably way too much to ask.

ModFab said...

So glad you did this JA; I was one of the people who got faked out, thinking everyone would do Swinton...and so I did someone else. (Even though I did start my piece with a Swinton shout-out, so that's something, right?)