This year’s Oscars has been shrouded in all kinds of controversies – from a missing host to the running time of the show, the list seems to be never-ending. But all that has not been able to dampen the spirit and excitement to know who will be the ones honoured this year with the golden statue.
In the Best Supporting Actor category, Mahershala Ali (Green Book), Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman), Sam Elliott (A Star is Born), Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me) and Sam Rockwell (Vice) are contesting for the coveted trophy. Like all years, it’s tough to pick just one actor for the prize. While all have contributed beautifully to the movies they have been a part of, Green Book’s Mahershala Ali seems like the one who will whisk away the statuette this year.
Mahershala has already won a Golden Globe for his performance in the film. And therefore, it would be no surprise if the versatile actor gets to walk away with the statuette this time as well. As musician Don Shirley, Mahershala was both charismatic and compelling.
Saying that portraying the angst of a gay black man living in 1960s America can be challenging is an understatement. Add to that layer the complexity of a genius, musical mind and the equation seems to get messier. But if you have watched Green Book, you would know that the gifted actor has not let that get in the way of his job.
In the road trip movie about an unlikely friendship, Mahershala wears Don Shirley like a skin. He walks differently, with a grace and charm that is hard to miss and when he speaks, he speaks with poise. Befitting a man who is caught in a world where his talent is put to test every day because of who he is as a human being.
Towards the latter half of the film, there is a huge dramatic scene where Don Shirley asks of Viggo Mortensen’s Tony Vallelonga, “So if I’m not black enough, and if I’m not white enough, and if I’m not man enough, then tell me Tony, what am I?” And there is pain and confusion etched all over the actor’s face. And it looks real, because it is a reality that Mahershala admittedly has had to deal with in some parts, especially at the start of his career.
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Now compare ‘that’ with the equanimity that Mahershala exudes when, for instance, he is helping Viggo’s character write a letter to his wife. Smooth like butter, it is hard to believe that it is the same Don Shirley that moments ago was having an identity crisis.
Mahershala Ali has previously won an Oscar in the same category for his breakout performance in 2016’s Moonlight.