SBIFF'S Virtuoso Awards honor artists who have exhibited impressive work during the preceding year, those who are lesser known with particular promise. 2012 gave favor to actors Demian Birchir, Rooney Mara, Melissa McCarthy, Patton Oswalt, Andy Serkis, and Shailene Woodley, all of whom, at the very least, created some degree of Oscar buzz.
The night began with a disappointment for the Melissa McCarthy fans in attendance. The Bridesmaids actress was stricken with laryngitis and apologized for her absence in a letter, citing her fellow honorees' talents as the cause. "They literally leave me speechless."
Moving forward, moderator, Dave Carter, Senior Writer for Entertainment Weekly brought out the actors in alphabetical order, beginning, of course, with Demian Birchir. This year, the actor has been nominated for an Academy Award for his lead role in A Better Life.A year after being connected with Twilight director, Chris Weitz, Mexico-born Birchir found himself in the role of a poor migrant worker toiling in the gardens of the affluent by day, and returning to his tumbledown rental in South Central LA by night. Birchir did a great deal of method work to prepare for his role, including purchasing a car, amassing pounds of weight, and spending time with real migrant gardeners in Los Angeles. The film is so authentic that it resounds and resonates with those that Birchir studied in order to imbue his character with reality. "And now what they're saying is, I saw your film, that's my story. That's my father's story. That's my uncle's story." How remarkable to gain such approval from those who inspire you.
Next, both in alphabet and in presence was Rooney Mara, the wildly brave actress who took on the profoundly challenging role of Lisabeth Salander in David Fincher's American incarnation of Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (for which she is nominated). Mara's appearance was a far bellow from tattoos and mohawks. She was polished and beautiful in, what deemed I to be, the best outfit of SBIFF 2012. In a structured, kelly-green shift with firmly parted chignon and pale skin, Mara was stunning. The severity of her coiffure mimicked her serious and focused nature, as she provided short, brusque answers. Mara said, "Beaches and romantic-comedies aren't really my thing." One can imagine that a role such as Lisabeth Salander would call for a a sober temperament. Though Mara's interview was less than bubbly, it was, nonetheless absorbing.
Patton Oswalt showed thereafter. He appears this year alongside Charlize Theron in Young Adult, a film that Oswalt called "A symphony of awkwardness." Patton Oswalt moved through the interview with hearty humor explaining the woes of a standup comedian cum film actor (how to ignore the camera), and his relationship with Adult co-star Charlize Theron.
Andy Serkis subsequently took the stage, to the giggly bemusement of the crowd, bare torso-ed, sitting down for a legitimate, serious interview. As of late, Serkis has played the role of Caesar, a CG ape. There was debate as to whether or not Serkis' performance capture work should be considered legitimate enough to garner him an Oscar nomination. Some even went so far as to suggest that his nomination would devalue the honor of the award. Serkis said, "I've never drawn any distinction between playing a performance capture role and a live action role." It becomes clear, particularly after watching the actor at work without CG effects, exactly how transcendent he is, how radically transformative he is. Gollum, anyone?!
Shailene Woodley was last on the interview roster and immediately shared her dulcet humility with the audience, explaining how she was notified of her role in The Descendants when she was working at American Apparel. She spoke also of Clooney's support as a cast-mate and the differences between television and motion picture acting.
All of the actors were then summoned onstage together and each asked to relay a fond memory of the awards season. Andy Serkis' story was most definitely a highlight: At the Golden Globe Awards, Morgan Freeman's son insisted on introducing Serkis to his father. Freeman Sr. met Serkis with an honest "And what do you do?" One can't blame Morgan Freeman for the blunder as Serkis is constantly shrouded in CG, as an ape or a cave dwelling subhuman of sorts.
Finally awards were presented, (Chris Weitz, director of A Better Life, presented Birchir with his) and the night came to a close. Though there was an absent, laryngitis afflicted cog, the night went off without a hitch, with even enough comedy and levity to fill the Arlington.