Wednesday, January 23, 2008

High Praise But Only "Cult" Status Or: The Oscars, Part 2

Werner Herzog, the last of the great German New Wave directors is often neglected by the Oscars. Last year (or I should say 2006) he gave us Rescue Dawn starring Christian Bale and Steve Zahn. I was watching Zahn in thinking, this guy's a sure thing for at least one Oscar nod. His performance was subtle and heartbreakingly morose. I hadn't experienced such pathos in a character in a very long time (and in terms of a Herzog film, not since The Enigma of Kasper Hauser).

I don't know how his portrayal of a starved Vietnam War POW who withers away during an escape, eventually meeting his fate in a hellish Laosian jungle, was overlooked. Even Christian Bale's cheerful portrayal of Dieter Dengler (who successfully escapes the POW camp) was snubbed. Once again, his performance was forgotten, not only for Rescue Dawn but for his portrayal of Jack Rollins (nee, Bob Dylan) in I'm Not There. And though Herzog is often showered with critical exaltation, it is never an Oscar nod. Maybe when he is 98 years old they will give him a lifetime achievement award (the way they did Kurosawa though he was 87 or 88). Although he is still making movies and documentaries, and is very much a contemporary director, his films continue to garner at best, a "cult" following.
Recommended films:
Even Dwarfs Started Small (1970)
Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes (1972)
The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974)
Woyzeck (1979)
Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979)
Fitzcarraldo (1982)
Little Dieter Needs to Fly (1997) (the documentary on which Rescue Dawn was based)
Grizzly Man (2005)
(really, I can go on and on...)
Tired of Netflix? Try Greencine. They have an incredible collection of indie, foreign and cult films (including a lot of Herzog titles).