Thursday, November 27, 2008

We love J-C

There are at least four reasons why Jean-Claude Van Damme will not get an Oscar nomination for his performance in JCVD.

1) He is Jean-Claude Van Damme. There has been no long standing desire in the Hollywood community to present him an award.

2) He is playing "Jean-Claude Van Damme" and even with nominations made by fellow actors, who should know better, the notion that playing a character that is supposed to be, on some level, oneself will always come off as a lesser accomplishment.

3) JCVD is a foreign movie, an action movie, an arthouse movie and a cult movie. None of those thing are likely to garner the kind of attention necessary to build up wide support.

4) JCVD is probably not, as a whole, good enough to warrant a major campaign by critics or the public to bring it the attention it would need.

Those things said. There is one very good reason why he should be nominated.

While I can't speak to the specifics of the competition for this year, it would be a rare and special year that I've seen five better performances. Seriously.

I think that's something that may have to be seen to be believed by many, including me. It's easy to see how he'd be better when given the chance with better material than he generally gets and being able to speak his native language, but this performance goes significantly above and beyond that level.

Now, here I'm sure I've downplayed the quality of the movie to an unfair extent. It is smart, funny, insightful, poignant and suspenseful. There isn't a level of moviemaking on which I don't recommend it.

I think the English title "JCVD" suffers in comparison to the French title, which translates as "King of the Belgians" and actually speaks to the story in a way that "JCVD" simply gives it the air of something like My Name is Bruce, which I haven't seen and don't mean to downplay as a potential source of entertainment, but doesn't seem from anything I've seen or read to aspire to be the kind of movie that JCVD is. A drama, a comment on society, on fame, on humanity.

Unfortunately, "King of the Belgians" doesn't make sense on this side of the Atlantic. Here he's the "The Muscles from Brussels", which sounds frankly even less meaningful than "JCVD" in terms of the movie.

I've seen Charlie Kaufman referenced and I think that could mislead people as much as help, in setting up what to expect from this, but there are a number of useful similarities. Not the least of which is neither are easy to define, and both have a quality where the feeling one has on the movie only grows as they think about it, which I find myself unable to stop doing.

Ultimately, I can only recommend the experience of seeing the movie, but the standout element will always remain the subtle, haunted and thoughtful performance of its lead.


mofoman68 said...

Great review. I thought JCVD was incredible, and Van Damme's performance is one of the best of the year. Everyone I tell about the movie looks at me like I've been smoking crack. But I'm standing by my belief that this is one of the best films of the year, and Van Damme deserves an Oscar.

Neil Sarver said...


And, yes, indeed. It's definitely something that should be seen by more people.

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