Monday, January 18, 2016

2001: Halle Berry for Monster's Ball

Berry plays a woman who is at the end of her rope until she becomes involved with a corrections officer, who happens to have helped execute her husband.

Honestly, I was rather disappointed in this movie. The premise is promising, but the story is rather thin. There is very little character development, and apart from a couple of marginally interesting twists, nothing much happens. Halle Berry does as much as she can with her underdeveloped character. She conveys her distress and confusion very effectively, and though at times I couldn't quite understand her, I think she was intentionally enigmatic. Not much of her backstory is revealed. We don't know why her husband was on death row, and we also don't really know exactly what happens to her son. Yet I have no doubt that Berry knew. She clearly understood everything about this character, and thus did a tremendous job portraying her. I just wish, and I feel like I've been saying this about a lot of these performances, but I really wish she had more to do. Way too much of her performance consists of miming sex with Billy Bob Thornton, which was admittedly very convincing, but it got rather old after a while. To a certain extent, the sex was necessary to the story, but couldn't they have cut some of it in favor of more interesting scenes? I get that she was holding in her emotions, but some sort of confrontation or resolution would have been nice. I don't know. This was my first time watching this movie, and I'm sure I'm missing something, but I just really felt like the film was trying to be more profound than it was. Anyway, there isn't much to the role, but her performance is almost certainly the best it could possibly be, so I think the Oscar was deserved.

Even if it wasn't an extraordinarily great performance, no one could begrudge her this win. This was the 74th Academy Awards ceremony, and the very first time that not only an African-American woman, but any woman of color ever won this award. (To be fair, some of the previous winners were of mixed heritage, but all of their characters were either explicitly supposed to be white, or at least passed for white. And yes, Berry is half white, but her character is clearly a person of color.) About darn time, right? But what I find even more disturbing is the fact that we've now had 13 ceremonies since then, and Halle Berry is still the only woman of color to win this award (with the possible exception of Natalie Portman, but I'm not sure what race she identifies as). And this distinction will continue for at least another ceremony, since all the 2015 nominees are, once again, white. I know race shouldn't be a factor, it should just be whoever gave the best performance, but when all the nominees in this category are white for three years in a row, there's a problem. And it's not a lack of talent among women of color. So it's either a lack of good roles for women of color, a lack of recognition for their performances, or a combination of both. This is ridiculous and disgusting and should be fixed. That's all. Rant over.

To further demonstrate my point, this is Berry's only Oscar nomination so far. But we'll see what happens in the future.

Coming up next: Nicole Kidman

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