It was a cold winter’s morning on what was the eve of the eve of Christmas, rather bored with the usual TV Christmas offerings, especially after seeing Wizard of OZ and It’s a Wonderful Life for the billionth year running. I fancied a change so I decided to rent a DVD from the library. Upon arriving I was surprised to find that it was just about to close earlier than usual on account of Christmas, but as I was just about to turn around and walk back home, suddenly just pass the right shoulder of the rather pretty 20 something librarian (not at all like the stereotype) a golden halo engulfed a particular film on the top row, Kramer vs. Kramer starring Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep, and slowly like a mouth attracted to a flame, I was sucked in. So after using my award winning charm to convince the librarian to let me in for a couple of seconds just to burrow the film, I returned home with the DVD. Then all most like a scene from a Harry Potter, it practically flew out of my arms, straight into my computer and begin playing almost by magic. What follows was an unforgettable whirl wind of a roller coaster of emotions and a sublime demonstration of actors at their very prime, who had visibly spent all most of their lives carefully developing their craft, dedicating themselves to the work and doing the best with their natural talents. Making for one of the best ensemble performances I have seen in a very long while.
Kramer vs. Kramer was an absolutely delightful piece of cinema, thanks mostly to the phenomenal work of Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep, who coincidently went on to both receive Oscars for each of their individual genius. But suddenly from liker a bolt from the blue, man kinds ultimate question dawned on got me, it wasn’t “who came first the chicken of the egg?” or even “what is the meaning of life?” no it was much greater then even those. If Meryl streep and Dustin Hoffman were to be put into the exact same category for an Oscar, who would come out on top? Who was truly the better actor? Actually to make things even spicier! Who’s not only the better actor, but who has had the better career? Clearly they are both very talented, so it will be difficult to choose, but if we break it down to three categories; Oscars, who was in the better movies? And who has delivered the better performance, maybe we can eventually find the light at the end of this conundrum, which will eventually lead us to the final answer we have been seeking.
Brain child of Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer studio executive Louis b. Mayer, the Academy Awards were conceived with the sole intention of improving the image of the film business as well as solving labour disputes, by creating a award system to honour the hard work of those behind the camera, and in front of it. The very first Oscars were held in 1929 at a ceremony created for the awards, at the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel, on May the 16th. The first Best Actor award went to Emil Jannings, for his performance in the last command and The Way of All Flesh. Whilst the best actress award went to Janet Gaynor for seven heaven, street angel and sunrise; a song of two humans, but of course soon the awards were changed for an Oscar per one picture. But ever since that day, from mid January when nominees are announced to the early march when the ceremony is held (exact dates do alternate), award season flushes both public and industry insider with a great deal of excitement, for an award can either be a great career boost, or a confirmation of your place on top of the pantheon of acting talent. And it is this very reason why the awards are so fiercely contested, but truly the king, or should I say queen who rules the domain with an iron fist (reference to her role as Margret Thatcher) is none other than Meryl Streep, with 17 nomination coming from a whole host of film genres, from The Devil Wears Prada to Out of Africa, surpassing even the likes of Jack Nicholson and Katherine Hepburn. The Academy Awards are truly her element, but don’t worry she’s not always the bridesmaid and never the bride, she as one the golden statuette a staggering three times, placing her just behind Katherine on overall wins, having the likes of; Kramer vs. Kramer, the Iron Lady and Sophie’s Choice to thank for such an impressive feat, especially for a performer who only really got her first big break in Hollywood at the age of 29. But with 7 nomination and just the two wins for Rain Man and Kramer vs. Kramer, Hoffman appear as a mere Pluto, bathed in the glowing light of the sun that Is Meryl Streep, but don’t feel too sorry for him, up against anyone else his award exploits would actually appear quiet impressive, but against Meryl there is simply no contest.
Once a friend asked me quite flatly, what makes a great film? Of course at first on the surface it may seem like a simple answer to a simple question, you would probably use the likes of the Godfather and Casablanca to support any answers. You may even say that a good film can be measured on the total quality of the various aspects of film making such as; directing, acting, cinematography, writing or even special effects to name a few, and if all these aspects are great individually, the sum product would also be great. I personally wouldn’t disregard such a statement; truly some may say it is both accurate and correct, but for me a great film is a little harder to define. It’s like asking how much does water weigh? or even how big is space? Because for me great film can’t be described with words, or defined with numbers. A great film is based on how successful it is at engaging you emotionally to the characters or the situation being played out, for cinema is a magic, yet personal journey that takes us all on a different trip to a completely unique world. So for me the Dustin Hoffman wins this one, here’s why; All through Meryl has been in such sensational films as The Deer Hunter a phenomenal of the personal study of war on the perspective of the individual, Out of Africa a griping tale of a Danish women’s passionate affair and even the hugely successful fantastically whimsical Mamma Mia. I simply feel Hoffman’s; The Graduate, Midnight Cowboy and Tootsies trump hers, purely on film to film bases. You look at The Graduate which is an absolutely masterful piece of cinema, that give us an interesting insight in middle America and their scandalous life’s portrayed through articulate social commentary. Then you have Midnight Cowboy, which has painful inevitability of lost at its very centre, if not the loss of a dream, and then you have the loss of a best friend. Every last minute of Midnight Cowboy was both captivating as well as heart wrenching. Finally you have Tootsies a fine film about a actor who adopts an identity of a women to gain a role, clearly in the same mould as Some Like it Hot, were cross dressing is involved. Both films have their unique qualities, but each offer laughter garlour. So it’s the share brilliance of all these film that are able to transport me to a new world and engage every last one of my emotions, anytime I watch any of these Hoffman films.
In the sea of the likes of the likes of Paris Hilton and Megan Fox, there lie the few actors and actresses who value the craft of acting, not just a means of adding momentum to their thirst for fame or adding another millionaire dollar mansion to their property portfolio, but as an actual exercise of their passion for acting or as a ideal artistic expression. The latter is where you would find the likes of Hoffman and Streep, each year they constantly sort to improve on their talent, seeing acting as a perpetual learning curve, and with this desire for perfection that mean their performance greatly benefit from. But who has delivered the better performance? It’s not secret, that Dustin prefers his flawed anti hero types, one of life’s nice guys wrapped up in an awkward exterior, but as accustomed to this role lovable roles, I feel even though he so adept to playing the likes of; Benjamin Braddock a confused graduate, who doesn’t know what he wants for dinner, let alone what he wants out of life, then you have Ratso Rizzo a larger than life character trapped in continual poverty and sickness and finally Ted Kramer whose obsession with work costs him his marriage. it’s the very reason that all the character are so similar why Meryl wins this rounds, because simply she has demonstrated a lot of range in her career, that Hoffman failed to do. All her character is inherently different, they say you can find a connection between anyone in the world through just 6 people, but can you ever conceive away of connecting Miranda Priestly to a Susan Orlea, or even a Sophie Zawiskawsi. It’s not just her range that has allowed her to so vehemently chock hold the very top of Hollywood elite; I feel that it’s her dedication to each individual role. May it be learning Danish for role in Out of Africa or German for Sophie’s Choice and even learning to sing for Mamma Mia, it’s this very desire for producing honest endearing work that has left her almost unrivalled during her whole career, and even the likes of Dustin Hoffman with the tremendous talent that he is, it will be Meryl that is held up against the likes of Katherine Hepburn, Marlon Brando and Marylyn Monroe, as one of the defining talents of our generation.