My Chat With Matthew McConaughey
No, not really, just thinking about Richard Linklater’s current movie Boyhood, his earlier movie Dazed and Confused, which featured McConaughey, and my imagined conversation with Matt about his recent Oscar and the huge u-turn in his career.
For years, McConaughey played the same guy, a surfer dude (even made a movie called Surfer, Dude), beach bum, or boat bum — he was charming and went shirtless a lot, and that was pretty much it. Waste of a lot of talent, but no doubt it kept him in tacos, Cervezas, and BMW’s.
Then the turn-around, recently called a McConnaissance (which I’ve heard is his own coined word). He starred in The Lincoln Lawyer, Killer Joe (directed by The Exorcist and The French Connection genius William Friedkin). Then appeared in Mud, in which he played not a beach bum but a genuine hermit, on the run from the law and living on an island, discovered by curious kids, and which also starred the great Reese Witherspoon. He’s the co-star of the current HBO series True Detective, with Woody Harrelson — two state cops, working on a 15-year-old serial murder and turning up other crimes as they go along. (More on that below.)
The jewel in the crown of the McConnaissance is his Oscar-winning performance last year as real-life AIDS victim ____ in Dallas Buyers Club.
Technically, as I was telling Matt in the conversation I had with him in my head, you win the Oscar for a given performance — but you really win for a series of performances that are notable that your fellow actors shake their heads and say, “gotta give that guy and Oscar soon.” And maybe they’ll just wait until you play a person with a disease or disability, which seems to be a mortal lock on an Oscar nod.
Take Al Pacino — certainly he deserved the Oscar for Best Actor in The Godfather, or Dog Day Afternoon, etc., but didn’t win until Scent of a Woman, in which he played a blind guy. Or Dustin Hoffman — should have won for Tootsie (even Ben Kingsley, that year’s winner for Ghandhi, said so). C’mon, Hoffman played two parts, one of which was a woman (and he’d also won the previous year for Kramer vs.Kramer). The he won again won for Rainman, playing an autistic guy. Tom Cruise should have won — he played the hard part, he was in every scene, and his character has to actually change (I’ll ask Hoffman if he agrees when I have my chat with him).***
About True Detective — it’s pretty great, McConaughey and Harrelson are terrific, and Michelle Monaghan also stars as Harrelson’s much-besieged wife (she can be in everything as far as I’m concerned). But the Louisiana setting and the sort of stuff Rust Cohle and Marty Hart, the two main cop characters pull, is so violent, so degrading, so wrong that I couldn’t watch any more after a couple of DVD’s worth. Felt like I’d been held under some really dirty water, that I had to go wash my hair after watching. (Rust Cohle’s conversations are also so elliptical and philosophical that some Internet clown provided a version with subtitles explaining what he was really ranting on about. And Marty Hart, Harrelson’s character, suggested that the two detectives make the car “a quiet zone.”)
**A old joke about Kramer vs. Kramer and Tootsie, spurred by Hoffman flooding the airwaves with how much insight he’d gained into woman hood by playing Dorothy Michaels in the movie (file under feminist ironic misandry): In Kramer vs. Kramer, Dustin Hoffman showed us how a man could be a better mother than a woman. In Tootsie, Hoffman shows us how a man can be a better woman than a woman.