A Long Belated, Long Deserved Award
The common wisdom is that Eddie Murphy got robbed, and perhaps he did--I haven't seen "Dreamgirls" yet. I myself, however, couldn't suppress a little yelp of triumph when, last Sunday, the name of Alan Arkin was read as the winner of this year's Best Supporting Actor Oscar. I'm not sure that many moviegoers under the age of 50 had a very clear idea before this year of the depth and range of Arkin's talents (though my friend Jon Gardner, a mere broth of a boy at 38, cherishes Arkin's performances in "Catch-22" and "So I Married An Axe Murderer"). Filmgoers of my age, however, can remember the incredible star run Arkin had in the late 1960s and early 1970s, in a bewildering range of roles in which he was never less than perfect. Arkin had us rolling in the aisles as the befuddled Russian U-boat commander in "The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming;" gripping our seats in terror as the psychotic murderer who doused Audrey Hepburn with gasoline in "Wait Until Dark;" and using up box after box of Kleenex as the tragic deaf-mute in "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter" (still one of my all-time favorite screen performances). And that isn't even mentioning "Popi," "Last of the Red Hot Lovers," "Freebie and the Bean," "The Seven-Per-Cent Solution," "The In-Laws," "Grosse Pointe Blank," and of course the aforementioned "Catch-22." Arkin has continued to work steadily throughout the decades, but mostly in low-budget independent films that few people saw. "Little Miss Sunshine," which at first glance seemed like just another one of those indies, unexpectedly turned out to be one of the most beloved films of 2006, earning Arkin a Screen Actors Guild award, a BAFTA award, and the Oscar. Not only do I applaud these awards, but I sincerely hope they will send audiences back to Blockbuster and Netflix to check out Arkin's earlier films. How many living actors could make us believe in and love a dirty old man who snorts heroin, advises his grandson to "fuck a lot of women," and teaches his seven-year-old granddaughter a strip-tease routine? There's only one, and his name is Arkin.