Monday, June 14, 2010

Sarah Polly for best actress (Oscar and Golden Globe)

I've been thinking about splice on and off all day long. I made an interesting Paella today, and each time I took a break to let it bubble, my thoughts seemed to return to this movie. It's that brilliant.

In particular, the character of Elsa Kast has intrigued me. Women critics and lots of actresses complain relentlessly about the lack of good quality female roles. Women seldom drive the action in movies. They are seldom the central figures outside chick-flicks and romances (which are themselves chick flicks). Numberous attempts to cast women in guy roles have produced stinkers. Witness the horror of Jessica Biel in the A-Team.

Well, here you go. This movie is what you've been waiting around for. Elsa is the character you've been pining away for. Sarah Polley got it done big time.

After 24 hours, I have come to the considered opinion that Splice is entirely driven by the character of Elsa Kast, and the performance of Sarah Polley. It is incredibly subtle how they get that across to you also. It's unstated. You must derive that by considering the way the plot develops.

When the movie begins, we automatically begin with the notion that Adrien Brody's character, Clive, is the key scientist in this operation. We presume that Elsa is Clive's sidekick. Like his brother, Gavin, Elsa is just along for a ride on Clive's wagon. She's there because she is his girlfriend.

That's just not true. Clive is a brilliant scientist, but he is no genius. Frankly, he is too bound by ethics and convention to be a genius. All geniuses are unconventional. Many are quasi-sociopaths. All you have to do is listen to Edward Teller speak during Trinity and Beyond, and you get that impression. Elsa is the genius. Clive and Gavin are riding her coat-tales.

So is Elsa a sociopath? Yep. She is all that and more, but you would never believe that upon first, second or even third meeting with her. She surprises even Clive, who is her mate in this life. This is where we get to the genius of her character design. Elsa's character is a composite of some of the most fascinating knowledge we have compiled in personality research.

What are those tidbits of knowledge?
  1. That there is no line between genius and madness. Rather, there is an intimate connection between these two. Just about every genius has been cracked in more than one way.
  2. Madness is often genetic. We discover gradually through the course of this movie that Elsa isn't kidding when she says her late mother was crazy. We see subtle facts that clearly point out that Elsa's mother was clinically insane. Unfortunately, we see plenty of little things that indicate Elsa may well have inherited a good chunk of those genes.
  3. All geniuses are unconventional... unconventional to the point of being antinomian. Antinomian to the point of being sociopathic.
  4. Most intriguingly, Elsa is a great example of the banality of evil. She fearlessly engages in incredibly dangerous things, without worry, without care, without concern for greater world consequences. However, she seems otherwise normal and brilliant. It is far too late in the game we finally come to a full realization that she is really dangerous in a really subtle way.
To make this character real and believable, you need one hell of a performance from a very good actress. Well, they got it, and I think she should be rewarded. I think Sarah Polly should win both Oscar and the Golden Globe awards. If SAG wants to give her the Actor, I am totally down with that.