The Rise of Oscar Nudity
This month’s Shame has sparked a whole series of debates. Ruffling the feathers of conservative America (and, it should be said, some not so conservatives) it is a stark portrayal of sex addiction that has, spoiler alert, bags of nudity. Not just sexy Harold and Kumar nudity but proper full on, slightly grim, Oscar nudity.
Michael Fassbender (yep, a bloke) strips of and audience’s get an eyeful of his wang whilst his co-star, Drive and An Education’s Carey Mulligan, also wears nothing but…well, nothing. In a Stanislavskian sense this would be seen as stripping back their performances to the bare essentials (or is that more Artuad?) but it also represents a developing trend in ‘serious movies’ of Oscar baiting roles containing frank and unsexualised nudity.
To my untrained eye this started with Halle Berry’s difficult and demanding role in Monster’s Ball that scooped her an Oscar but at the expense of being fucked from behind by Billy Bob Thornton (no small price). A scene that lacks any semblance of the glamour normally associated by Halle Berry it marked a tectonic shift for her from Bond girl pin-up most famous for plunging necklines, to serious actor and, ultimately, Oscar winner.
So this year has seen Kirsten Dunst bare it all in Melancholia and, guess what, she won Best Actress at Cannes and will, possibly, scoop an Oscar nomination as well. Rooney Mara in Girl With a Dragon Tattoo and Tilda Swinton in We Need to Talk About Kevin are both on course for Oscar noms (having seen success at the Golden Globes) in roles that see them strip down. Apparently it’s a sign of great acting that you’re willing to get naked onscreen.
Whilst Michael Fassbender might not be the first guy to get naked onscreen he’s following in the proud footsteps of Viggo Mortensen whose very naked turn in Eastern Promises earned him his only Oscar nomination. For a man, it seems, it’s even braver than a woman and it can make or break your career. Ewan MacGregor’s propensity to whip our Ewan Jr has seen him slip down the ranks of ‘serious actors’ whereas Fassbender’s emotional honesty (and penis) are likely to see him accelerate up the A List.
Whether it’s a worrying trend is easy to dispute, especially in a world so captivated by the sight of famous people naked. But the Oscar bating naked scene is an increasingly key component of turning your film into a challenging work of drama. All you need to do is persuade Meryl Streep to nude up and the Best Film Oscar is in the bag.