When It Comes to Oscar-Baiting, MTV Beats the NYT


Regular readers of the New York Times (s nyt) may be familiar with a phenomenon that begins right about now in the movie calendar year, when long, intimate profiles of famous actors begin appearing in the Arts section on an almost-daily basis. And, by pure coincidence, all of these famous actors are starring in films that are up for Oscar consideration! Fancy that!

I don’t begrudge the NYT for this — even though it’s obviously the Hollywood publicity machine at work, the interviews are usually pretty interesting, and every once in a while, they try something new. Like this week’s video feature 14 Actors Acting, which exhibits stars like Matt Damon, Natalie Portman, James Franco, Noomi Rapace and Javier Bardem in classy, silent black and white.

Since launching earlier this week, I’ve seen plenty of people declare their favorites — personally, I’m a big fan of Vincent Cassel dancing with his chair, as well as Jesse Eisenberg and his gun — and it’s an artful approach to showcasing the individual qualities of each actor. (No one cries like Tilda Swinton cries.) However, it’s hard to escape the sense that you’re watching a very fancy version of a For Your Consideration ad. The sense of being sold something.

(I mean, you didn’t have to sell me on James Franco, guys, I was there a long time ago.)

Meanwhile, MTV has recently taken a somewhat different approach to the act of showcasing celebrities, thanks largely to MTV Movies’s Josh Horowitz. It takes a special something, after all, to use your time at a Harry Potter junket to test the cast’s American accents, and Horowitz has that something.

Horowitz brings that sense of levity even when dealing with actors on the Oscar circuit. Today’s example? Horowitz took a few minutes to present Blue Valentine star Ryan Gosling with printed-out evidence of his “Hey Girl” meme, even getting Gosling to read them out loud. It’s just hilarious.

It’s not a competition; there’s room for both approaches. But promoting the image of an actor as a serious, thoughtful artist is, frankly, a bit tired now. Pushing actors out of their comfort zones, getting them to reveal a bit of genuine personality? That truly highlights what kind of transformation an actor undergoes in playing a role. That’s what really proves their talent.

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