Paging the Academy: Where’s Darren Aronofsky?

Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight

Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight

“The Wrestler” is one of the years best films, with quite possibly the years best performance, helmed by one of the most interesting directors working today. The Academy Awards took notice of Mickey Rourke’s career defining performance of Randy “The Ram” Robinson and I have a good feeling he’ll take home the award for best actor. With that said, I would like to see the man who made this all possible get a little recognition as well.

At first “The Wrestler” feels like a total departure for director Darren Aronofsky. His first film, the arty “Pi” established him as an original and confident director, but it wasn’t until his 2000 film “Requiem for a Dream” that he started to gain attention.

“Dream” showed the director as a master of visual styles, using repeating motifs, rapid editing and elegant tracking shots to create the quickly draining world of a drug user. His talent was noticed in Hollywood, in a big way. For a brief period he was getting very close to helming the reboot of the “Batman” franchise and/or bring the acclaimed graphic novel “Watchmen”, which had been in development hell since the 80’s, to the big screen. On a side note, “Watchmen” will finally be released on March 6, directed by Zack Snyder. I’m not alone when I say I have extremely high expectations for this film, but that is another conversation altogether.

With his take on the vigilante never coming to fruition, Aronofsky set his sights on a script he had been working on for years: “The Fountain”. An epic love story dealing with the Tree of Life in three distinct time periods, the picture was set to star Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, with a budget of $70 million. When Pitt dropped out due to time constraints the budget was slashed in half and the film was recast with Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz.

Hugh Jackman in "The Fountain", Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Hugh Jackman in “The Fountain”, Courtesy of Warner Bros.

It was around the time that he was filming “The Fountain” that he came across the script for “The Wrestler”. At this time Nicholas Cage was signed up to star, but Aronofsky had Mickey Rourke in mind since he read the script. He was insistent that the film star Rourke, and being old friends, Cage opted out, leaving the role open.

Aronofsky’s dedication to bringing Rourke back in the limelight, which subsequently has garnered him numerous awards and nominations, is just one of the reasons why I believe he should have been nominated for Best Director. Nevermind that the film should be nominated for Best Picture.

“The Wrestler” is a departure for the director, yet it’s not suprising. Even at his most chaotic, you could always sense restraint: in lesser hands all three of his previous films would be embarassing.

Like his other films, there is a visual motif. Tracking shots following Rourke’s upper back are a repeating theme, he tells more with his back than most actors can with an entire film. His visual flourishes are toned way down for the film, though a tracking shot of The Ram through a grocery store to the sound of an audience cheering was a nice touch.

What Darren Aronofsky has made with “The Wrestler” is another testament to his abilities. It’s a showcase for Mickey Rourke’s great performance, but it’s also proof that Aronofsky is one of the most versatile and talented directors working today.

Next up he’s working on a reboot of the “Robo Cop” franchise and a film called “The Fighter” starring Brad Pitt and Mark Whalberg.

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~ by rozco on February 4, 2009.

One Response to “Paging the Academy: Where’s Darren Aronofsky?”

  1. […] that Aronofsky hasn’t been nominated, or the film for that matter, but i’ve voiced my opinion on this already. What can’t be praised enough is the chemistry  between a great actor getting a second […]

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