The McConaissance has reached its pinnacle. Matthew McConaughey, star of such throwaway rom-com fare as “Failure to Launch,” “Fool’s Gold” and “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” is now the proud owner of one heck of a hard-won Best Actor Oscar for his full-bodied turn in “Dallas Buyers Club.”
McConaughey’s steady rise to awards-season glory has been years in the making, as the continued king of thrice-repeated “alrights” and persistent preacher of the “just keep livin’” mode of, well, living, has worked hard to round out his once-throwaway résumé with daring parts. Otherwise ignored by the Academy for such films as “Killer Joe,” “Mud” and “Magic Mike,” McConaughey’s stirring portrayal of a tough-talking good old boy who discovers he has HIV in Jean-Marc Vallee’s fact-based film was instantly hard to ignore.
The actor already made the awards-season rounds before grabbing his Oscar, including wins at the Screen Actors Guild Awards and last night’s Independent Spirit Awards, both times winning alongside co-star Jared Leto as Best Supporting Actor, who picked up his very own Oscar earlier in the show (also his first).
McConaughey had plenty of competition in the category — facing off with four-time nominee Leonardo DiCaprio, rising star Chiwetel Ejiofor, twice-nominated Bruce Dern, and one-time winner Christian Bale — but the continued heat on his performance and the inevitability that he would eventually snag his own Oscar proved to be hard to match.
The actor’s acceptance speech didn’t disappoint, as the clearly overjoyed (and obviously a touch overwhelmed) winner took to the stage to dole out the usual thanks — the Academy, the other nominees (all “impeccable,” by his approximation), director Vallee, co-stars Leto and Jennifer Garner — before launching into a moving and memorable bit about the three things he needs each day.
As he told it, “one of them is something to look up to, another is something to look forward to and another is someone to chase.” McConaughey then broke it down with some serious grace and gravitas. Who does he look up to? God himself, who has shown him that “it’s a scientific fact that gratitude reciprocates.” What does he look forward to? His family, including his deceased father, whom he quite colorfully pictures up in heaven with “a big pot of gumbo, he’s got a lemon meringue pie over there, he’s probably in his underwear, and he’s got a cold can of Miller Lite, and he’s dancing right now.”
And who does McConaughey chase? His very own hero: himself, just ten years down the line, an ideal that he’s “never gonna beat.”
The newly minted Oscar winner closed out his speech the only way he could, with one last impassioned “alright, alright, alright” from his debut film “Dazed and Confused.” It’s more than alright tonight.