My interest in the Academy Awards dissipated completely after this ceremony. I confess to always being a nick Nolte fan. His filmography is astonishing in the scope of his roles, and the overall quality of his script choices. It was his performance as Wade Whitehouse in Affliction that garnered him his 2nd best actor nomination in a decade of solid and varied work.
It was the last great bravura performance he has given as the lead actor and anchor of a major picture with a major director. It was some of his best work. It is of not that just a few years earlier Nicholas Cage would win best actor for his energetic boozy performance as an alcoholic writer on a death binge. Compare this scene of levity to this one of agony and rage. Both movies focus on alcoholism, but Affliction does not romanticize the disease in any way. The film is constructed as a mystery but we soon begin to see that Nolte’s character is an unreliable narrator.
The film is powerful, the acting is top notch. Sissy Spacek and James Coburn co star along with Willem Dafoe. The script was written by Paul Schrader based on the Russell Banks novel. James Coburn won for best supporting actor for his work, which is brutal. It was not shocking to me the academy chose Life is Beautiful for best picture and Roberto Benigni as best actor. His acceptance speech was a harbinger of things to come as far as how serious adult dramas would be made for the next 20 years. Now all adult dramas must be told in flashback, or in a dream sequence. Audiences can’t sit through a film like Affliction anymore.
Nolte was nominated for best supporting actor for his work in Warrior which was, quite good. He has a heartbreaking scene with Tom Hardy in a hotel room. I do not go to the movies that often anymore. I will try to catch a few of the nominated pictures, but none of them are of the caliber of Affliction. It is one of the more haunting films on addiction ever made, with one of America’s greatest actors giving his greatest performance.