Is Marion Cotillard a Shoe-In for 'Rust and Bone'?

Why do you think people think of Marion Cotillard as such an awards magnet?

There is a moment in Rust and Bone that’s so unique and unexpected it even makes you wish Katy Perry had written “Firework” for the movie, just so it had a chance at winning the Best Original Song Oscar.

This movie is a success on so many surprising levels and the scene in question is a meditative one that focuses on former whale trainer, Stephanie (Marion Cotillard) as she finds what looks like hope after a terrible accident leaves her without her legs. The moment, as unfathomably simple as it sounds, doesn’t have dialogue, isn’t exceptionally long and lacks an orthodox sense of coherence. It merely has Stephanie practice her old training commands as she sits on her wheelchair looking at the horizon. Set to Perry’s ubiquitous hit, the moment should feel less soulful, perhaps even vulgar; yet it doesn’t, instead it haunts you for weeks after you’ve seen the movie. The reason for this is of course Cotillard's exquisitely detailed performance. In this scene, more than in any other moment in the movie, she allows her luminous face to serve as a blank screen where we can project our emotions. We feel empathy and a deep sense of connection with this woman, even if at some level we’re still fighting our mixed feelings about her. Should we like her? Are we allowed to judge her? Yes, she lost her legs in a terrible accident, but she didn’t seem like such a nice person before that. Yes, she’s looking for love after losing what once made her extremely desirable, but then again she’s still breaking bottles on guys in clubs.

On an Oscar level of Best Actress-ing, Stephanie is more akin to Marlee Matlin’s complex character in Children of a Lesser God than the saintly Maggie Fitzgerald from Boys Don’t Cry. Cotillard allows Stephanie to be who she is, to have kinky sexual needs, to drink and party without a hint of remorse. What does it say about her lack of vanity as an actress, that she lets this woman have an extremely sharp, unlikable edge rather than playing her as a martyr? That would be far too expected and Cotillard is not a performer who traffics in those terms.

Based purely on the merits of her performance, Cotillard should be a shoe-in for any awards. Back in 2007 she became only the second performer to win the Best Actress award for a non-English speaking role in La vie en rose (she ended up winning Best Actress from a historic four international film academies including France, England and the Czech Republic), yet in movie after movie she’s made since, her awards magnetism seems to have vanished. A shame really, considering that she’s spent these five years proving she’s one of the most remarkable working actresses becoming a bona fide scene stealer in films as varied as Public Enemies and Inception as well as the much maligned Nine(where she gave a performance much worthier than the one that eventually won the Oscar that year).

Going back through her awards track record we realize that other than La vie en rose and a few scattered mentions for Nine, Cotillard hasn’t really scored much love from award groups. Yet many people have decided that it is precisely based on her “impeccable” track record that she will be a slam dunk for this. Cotillard has more than a few things in her favor, first and foremost the notion that this is yet another so-called “weak” Best Actress year where her status as a previous winner automatically puts her name into the discourse. She’s also already won a Best Actress award from the Hollywood Film Festival for Rust and Bone, which might sound curious but actually has an impressive record when it comes to predicting future Oscar nominees (in their 17-year history, they’ve only missed on Best Actress nominees five times).

There’s also several factors that seem to go against her chances, beginning with the ridiculous idea that only three actresses in the past have been nominated more than once for starring in foreign language movies (Sophia Loren, Isabelle Adjani and Liv Ullman, all nominated twice). Simply put, there is a widespread misconception that subtitles kill your chances, especially when you take into consideration that Sony Pictures Classics might also be looking to get a nomination for Amour’s Emmanuelle Riva. Never before have two foreign language actresses been nominated for the same award in the same language, will voters choose one or the other or break the precedent finally?

Marion’s performance might be hard to categorize which might also present a challenge for some voters. After being touted to win Best Actress in Cannes (where the Oscar buzz started) and then losing to two unknowns, she was also snubbed at the European Film Awards, where both she and the movie were eligible, yet both came out with zero nods. Stranger things have happened before and Cotillard’s performance in Audiard's stylish, fresh film just might be the one to finally overcome all the bad omens and statistics from years past. Regardless of what awards say, her Stephanie is the most dazzling star turn of 2012 and with Cate Blanchett (who recently wrote about her work for Variety) among fans of your work as the campaign mounts, who knows what will happen...

With that said, why do you think people think of Cotillard as such an awards magnet?


The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

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White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

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The Dear Hunter: All Is As All Should Be EP

Jordan Blum
Publicity photo via Bandcamp

Although All Is As All Should Be is a tad too brief to match its precursors, it's still a masterful blend of songwriting, arrangements, and singing that satisfies the Dear Hunter anticipation.

The Dear Hunter is undoubtedly one of the best—and consequently, most egregiously underappreciated—bands of the last decade or so. Aside from 2013's Migrant LP, every one of their major releases featured an ambitious hook; for example, 2011's The Color Spectrum presented nine EPs (consisting of four songs each) that individually represented a different sonic tone (in order: Black, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet, and White), whereas the five-part (so far) Act saga, with its genre-shifting arrangements, superlative songwriting, narrative complexity, and extraordinary conceptual continuity, is a cumulative work of genius, plain and simple.

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