a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

captain-fantastic-1As the votes become due for the Oscar Nominations and the voting officially closed Friday, the 13th, the one name that kept appearing on lists of the Top Five Best Actor predictions was unexpectedly Danish-American actor Viggo Mortensen. Then he got nominated for the SAG Best Actor and his film “Captain Fantastic” became unexpectedly nominated for Best Ensemble. Which is the SAG equivalent of best film. For Best Actor he knocked out(probably) Tom Hanks in “Sully” and in Ensemble it replaced shockingly “La La Land.”

Yes, juggernaut “La La Land” did not make the cut with SAG, but “Captain Fantastic” astoundingly did. So I had to check it out. Better late than never. I do admit I had to be dragged kicking and screaming to watch it, but guess what? I totally loved it! And Viggo is at a career-high with this VERY atypical role.

He plays a man who has retreated totally from society as we know it, with his six underage children and lives in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest in and around a battered green bus. Very hippy dippy. Yeah, that’s what I thought before I gave it a chance and it turns out the film is very sweet and Viggo is as warm as a roaring fireplace (that’s refreshing in this chilly, dour year)and it’s all about fatherhood.captain-fantastic-2

This is a side we’ve never seen of Viggo before, his sweetness. And he’s got a lot to share. He excels in the scenes with his children, who are totally dependent on him, yet he wants them to be as independent and anti-social as he is.

Known primarily as a swash-buckler, swaggering his way through centuries, his trademark role is probably Aragorn, the heroic knight of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and is arguably one of the prime reasons for its’ success as a series of well, swash-buckling epics. He’s every Hobbits best friend.

He can go to the Dark Side,  too, as we saw in his Russian gangster, with perfect Russian accent, and multiple tattoos in David Cronenberg’s “Eastern Promises.” His nude fight in a British sauna with thugs who are trying to kill him has been described by the late Roger Ebert as “a benchmark.”

For those who MUST know, he’s also totally nude, briefly, in this film, too. His line is “It’s just a penis.” Every time he takes off all his clothes, it seems he gets Oscar consideration.

But he does more than just strip in “Captain Fantastic.” He lets his soft side show and is just the most admirable pater familias possible. To see the tough-as-nails Mortensen, drop the sword play and guns and,  replace them with hugs and concerned tears, is just, well, kind of Fantastic, as the title says. He does live up to his name.

To say that it’s a change of pace roll in Mortensen’s career is an understatement. It’s more like a total earthquake-like revelation.captain-fantastic-3And he’s surrounded, SAG is right, by an admirable ensemble. Notably the towering rage of Frank Langella as his straight-arrow father-in-law, and nobody less than the redoubtable Anne Dowd as his ultra-maternal mother-in-law. In a few brief scenes that she has the magnificent Dowd shows that there is indeed love to be found in this strangest of family situations.captain-fantastic-4

George MacKay as Bo and Nicholas Hamilton as Rellian, his two oldest sons also stand up to him and challenge him in ways that no ordinary children would. But Captain Fantastic has fashioned nothing that is ordinary. Everything is original and also deeply touching. This is a sweet-natured gem of a film and I’m glad it’s getting the awards attention it deserves.

If you ever wanted to know what it’s like to grow up in a commune, “Captain Fantastic” answers all those complicated life questions. And there are no simple answers.

#Captain Fantastic

# Viggo Mortensen

#fatherhood

# SAG Ensemble Award Nominee

#SAG Best Actor Nominee

# Oscar Nominee

#Eastern Promises

#Male Nude Fight Scene

 

 

 

 

 

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