There will be no Oscar for Mark Wahlberg’s performance in “The Fighter.” Despite the constant reminder in the film’s television spots that Mark’s character was the one fighting (“Nawt you, nawt you and nawt you!”), the guy playing the role referenced in the film’s very title has been largely overlooked this awards season.
A nomination in the Best Actor category at the Golden Globes and inclusion in the movie’s numerous ensemble nods notwithstanding, the guy who passionately worked to bring the true story of “Irish” Mickey Ward to the screen as producer and star remains empty-handed for his own performance. “The Fighter” was gritty, visceral, funny, heartbreaking and heartwarming, and a lot of that has to do with Wahlberg’s lead role, so what went wrong? Here are a few theories:
He’s Already Been Rewarded
As producer and star of “The Fighter” and champion of the real-life boxers portrayed by him and Bale, Wahlberg has gotten to sit back and enjoy the numerous noms lavished on the rest of the cast and the movie in general. It’s possible that Academy voters figure that since “The Fighter” is such a personal movie for Wahlberg, he’s been rewarded enough through the recognition the flick has gotten in all these other ways. Perhaps folks think a Best Picture nomination for “The Fighter” doubles as love for Wahlberg, as it’s very much his movie in the end.
In its analysis, the “Today” show supported this theory, chalking up Wahlberg’s absence to “dilution” from the expanded Best Picture category. “Christian Bale got nominated for playing Mark Wahlberg’s brother, Amy Adams got nominated for playing his girlfriend, Melissa Leo got nominated for playing his mom, and Wahlberg himself got nominated for… Nothing. As an actor, that is,” Joal Ryan wrote, pointing out, “Wahlberg is up for Best Picture for producing.”
But Movieline’s Alonso Duralde cautioned against the notion that the Oscars set out to shortchange any particular person. “If there’s anything I’ve learned in my years of voting with the L.A. Film Critics Association, [it's that] it’s all random and chaotic,” he told MTV News. “We often attribute things to ‘the Academy likes this, or the Academy likes that’— but it’s all about individuals. It may just be that there were five performances that people liked better. For all we know, [Wahlberg] came in sixth by two votes.”
Christian Bale Got the Juicier Role
“Wahlberg turned in a wicked pissah performance as boxer ‘Irish’ Mickey Ward in ‘The Fighter’ and figured to be a shoo-in for Best Actah, but failed to get an Oscah nawd,” Mark Marino joked over at NextMovie.com. “Meanwhile, as in the film, co-star Christian Bale continues to get all the attention as Dicky Eklund.”
As Mickey’s trainer brother, Bale sinks his teeth into crack addiction, familial strife, greed, despair, empathy and even a few prison scenes in “The Fighter.”
As Bale said so eloquently at the Golden Globes as he accepted the Best Supporting Actor in a Drama prize: “I really gotta give a shout-out to Mark, because he drove this whole movie. And you can only give a loud performance like the one I gave when you have a quiet anchor and a stoic character. I’ve played that one many times, and it never gets any notice.”
FilmDrunk editor in chief/ co-founder Vince Mancini agreed with Bale. “Everybody else has a very showy sort of role,” Mancini told MTV News. “I just don’t think Academy voters necessarily recognize subtlety in acting. Traditionally, they recognize stuff that is big and very obvious. I don’t think Wahlberg’s [performance] was that.”
“I have always said that the Academy likes acting that it can quantify,” Duralde reasoned. “They like to be able to put it on a scale and say, ‘Look at this nose, look at this accent, look at all this weight you lost. You’re pretty, but you did this role without makeup.’ They can put a finger on that. The subtler stuff doesn’t get noticed as much because it’s not as showy.”
How Much Acting Is He Really Doing?
Undeniably, the actor and producer has a strong personal connection with these people and this story. But does that mean he wasn’t acting his ass off? Does everything need to be some big stretch?
“I would say this is closely related to [what Bale said],” Mancini pointed out. “The part that’s acting [for Wahlberg] might not be blatantly obvious to people.”
Duralde likened this theory to some of the talk back in 1997. “You had this great comic performance by Rupert Everett in ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding,’ but I think people were like, ‘He’s playing a gay guy and he’s gay, so how much work could that be?’ ” he lamented, pointing out that Marsha Mason was nominated for 1979′s “Chapter Two” where she played a character based on her own life.
And So …
Whatever the reason, or reasons, for Wahlberg’s notable absence from the acting category at most of the major awards, it’s a safe bet that the reception to the film overall offers some satisfaction.
“It has been such an incredible journey with ‘The Fighter’ and one that I am grateful to share with David O. Russell, Christian, Melissa, Amy, my fellow producers and the Ward and Eklund families, who are the heart and soul of the film,” Wahlberg said in a statement after the Oscar nominations were announced. “Thank you to the Academy for this tremendous honor.”
Check out everything we’ve got on “The Fighter.”
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