We’re all familiar with the argument–how it’s not fair when hetero stars go gay-for-pay and hog up all the juicy gay roles and then walk away with acting awards because going gay is a big stretch and gay takes bigger balls to play (think Brokeback Mountain and Harvey Milk). however, real live gays playing gay characters or gays playing it straight–well, that’s not really the same, now is it (think Tom Cruise playing a big bad gun-toting, fist-flying macho man)?
I finally saw the movie The Impossible last night and I got to thinking about how juicy Hispanic roles don’t always land on the laps of capable and talented Hispanic actors. (Imagine Mel Gibson playing Pancho Villa).
The films The Impossible and Argo are probably two of my favorite movies of 2012 and they both have some interesting things in common. Both movies give you so much suspense that you practically leave claw marks on your armrest. They both give you powerful performances. Both are up for some awards which include Academy Awards; they are both based on true stories, based on real events. AND both of these movies are about the real lives of Hispanic folks … that are being portrayed by white folks.
In the movie The Impossible–which I seriously LOVED–you have the true story of Maria Alverez, her husband Enrique, and their three children Lucas, Simon and Tomas who survived the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. The movie stayed true to the catastrophe in that the media mainly focused on the blond-blue-eyed human interest. However, the Alvarez last name was changed to the more Anglo friendly Bennet, turning Maria Belon Alvarez to Maria Bennet, which was played by a blonde blue-eyed Naomi Watts, while Enrique’s name was changed to Henry Bennet, played by blond blue-eyed Ewan McGregor, who managed to maintain his pale skin-tone throughout the entire movie at a tropical island. The Alverez kids got to keep their first names on the big screen, but they lost all traces of a brown human stain. Their movie versions lean more towards cute cherubs from the UK than from Spain. I understand that the director and crew are Spanish themselves. I read somewhere that Maria Alvarez personally picked Naomi to play her, which is totally redic. That’s like me getting Zac Efron to play my life—I don’t care what you say, Naomi is no Maria. I also get that Spain is a special branch in the Hispanic family tree, but clearly the Powers That Be felt the selling of the “Alverez” name in the box office was muy imposible. Pity (que pena).
Then you have the film Argo where you get white boy Ben Affleck playing CIA operative Antonio Mendez, the Latin/American unsung hero who concocted the plot to infiltrate Iran and help rescue six U.S. diplomats from Tehran, during the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis. Ben directed the film and cast himself as Mendez…which is self-serving to say the least, but then you hear Affleck answer to the Latino name and you get distracted, thinking why does he have a Spanish last name? Was he adopted? Is he supposed to be Latino? Why is a white boy playing a Latino? Then you lean forward every time Ben has a closeup on the big screen for the wrong reasons. However, to Ben’s credit, he at least gave us some brown face, meaning he had the decency to get a tan and hide inside an inconspicuous and rather bushy beard that’s is a SCRUFF wet dream.
Now let me digress. I reckon erasing this minor brownish detail from the big screen does not change the fact that these are two great movies. Both films will surely walk away with more than their share of gold by the end of awards season, regardless of the nationality of the actor making the acceptance speech. The question, remains if that gold will come in the shape of an Oscar for these two films.
Oh Hollywood. How can it hurt you when it looks so good?
That is all.