Is there “Magic” in McConaughey’s Oscar Campaign?

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Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike received some of the most surprising and welcoming reviews of 2012 so far.  At first, the film emotes a trashy, boy-stripper film with no brains and the distant cousin of Paul Verhhoeven’s Showgirls (1995).  However, this sensitive and smartly written film has been one of the most profitable films of the year based on its mere $7 million budget.  The film raked in over $112 million and with a well-placed DVD release, the film can only add to its domestic total.

E-mails, comments, and badgering from some of my colleagues have brought the prospect of Matthew McConaughey sneaking in, and being named among the Best Supporting Actor nominees this year.  Along with Soderbergh’s film, McConaughey also had roles in Richard Linkater’s Bernie and William Freidkin’s Killer Joe.  The presumed narrative being discussed is that McConaughey has finally transitioned himself from a supposed eye-candy lunk that “al-right’s” himself through all of his movies into a respected, character actor.  Is the proposal a stretch?  To some it may.  On top of the three performances delivered thus far, he also has roles in Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy and Jeff Nichols’ Mud later this year.  The latter is said to be his best turn yet but no release date or distributor has come to fruition as of yet.  In a crowded Best Actor field already, a career-defining turn in Nichols’ film would only highlight and add to the campaign for his supporting turn in Mike, if, this possibility is in fact, a feasible possibility.

McConaughey has not had an impressive resume up until the now.  His best work has arguably been discussed as his breakout role in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused (1993), a performance that many may not even remember.  He’s attempted the drama genre before in Joel Schumacher’s A Time to Kill (1996), Steven Spielberg’s Amistad (1997), and last year’s The Lincoln Lawyer (2011), attempts that have not been widely appreciated or well-received.   His turns in comedy have not been any kinder.  Failure to Launch (2006) and Two for the Money (2005) were some of his worst films that were by panned by critics.

Once in a while, the Oscars do surprise the general public.  The idea of expanding to ten Best Picture nominees is often credited to Christopher Nolan and The Dark Knight being left off the lineup in the 2009 ceremony.  While the Academy can make some questionable choices (*cough The Reader cough*), they have shown signs of accepting more mainstream films and brilliant performances.  The same year as The Dark Knight snub came about, they embraced the work of Robert Downey, Jr. in Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder (2008).  A turn I fully believe, if Ledger’s work was out of the equation, Downey Jr. would and should have won the Oscar.

I bring this up because I recognize that it is possible for a performance like “Dallas” in Magic Mike to be recognized by the Academy.  Is it likely?  I highly doubt it.  I struggle with the notion of even placing him on the Oscar Tracker today given the opportunity.  I believe he’ll need some real standout notices as the critics’ awards come out.  Golden Globe and SAG mentions would be essential as well as a big notice from something like Los Angeles or New York Film Critics.  Then, and only then, do I see McConaughey as a dark horse at best.  It’ll be interesting to see how the PR companies and studios handle him throughout the season.

For now, I’m operating on skeptical.

Comment and discuss!