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Read It First! Oscars Edition

Christa Deitrick, Librarian, Literature & Fiction Department,
cover of three of the books featured on the blog posts

Fictional characters, run for the hills! Or better yet, stay home. Oscar is falling all over himself to fawn on biopics. The biopic (a biographical film based on the life of a public or historical figure) has always been Oscar bait. Biopics have netted numerous awards in the Academy’s 92-year history, with 21 wins for acting in the past 18 years alone! Many of those statuettes were very well deserved. My personal favorite is Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner’s Daughter. And who can forget Robert De Niro in Raging Bull or Anne Bancroft in The Miracle Worker? On the other hand, was Jennifer Jones really all that in The Song of Bernadette? And is anybody binge-watching Paul Muni in The Story of Louis Pasteur?

All of which hints at a sinister aspect of the biopic. They tend to infect Academy members with one of the following syndromes when it comes to selecting winners: Fake Nose/Uglification Syndrome (see: Kidman, Nicole and Theron, Charlize); Hey, I Recognize That Guy! Syndrome (see: Redmayne, Eddie as Stephen Hawking; Kingsley, Ben as Gandhi; Mirren, Helen as QEII); Feel-Good Syndrome (see: Bullock, Sandra and Hanks, Tom); S/he Did Their Own Singing! Syndrome (see: Witherspoon, Reese; Foxx, Jamie; Malek, Rami; Spacek, Sissy). Not that they didn’t deserve to win! I’m just sayin’.

This year’s crop of acting noms is crammed to the gills with biopics. Ten of the twenty nominated performances are based on real people. You’ve got the titular Two Popes, Tom Hanks as Mister Rogers, Cynthia Erivo as Harriet Tubman, Kathy Bates in Richard Jewell, the Bombshell girls, the Irishman guys, and Renee Zellweger as Judy Garland. People always get upset when someone they feel deserves to be nominated fails to get a nod. So is it weird that I’m upset about someone who was nominated and is the favorite to win?

I may be the voice in the wilderness here, but I’m talking about Renee Zellweger. Most critics agree that her performance in Judy has the Oscar locked up. If you ask me, they should be locked up because her portrayal was meh.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m fond of Renee. That first Bridget Jones movie earned her a place in my heart forever. But her performance as Judy Garland is a total misfire. There are a few brief moments where she gives us a glimpse of Garland--a gesture here, a facial expression or line delivery there. But by and large, it is Renee in Judy drag with her usual squints and pouts. And as unconvincing as the acting is, the singing is even worse. Why did Renee do the vocals herself when she sings in a different key than Judy and does not have a powerful voice? The answer is Biopic Syndrome #4—She Did Her Own Singing! This is an unworthy Oscar grab and I do not like it.

Okay, end of rant. Now let’s have some fun! Who do you think deserves to win in the acting categories this year? Vote for your picks below. And don’t miss out on the Bonus Question at the very end!

For those of you who have seen Judy, here’s the Bonus Question!

Read It First! Oscars Edition

The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers
King, Maxwell

Movie: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

End of the Rainbow
Quilter, Peter

Movie: Judy