Oscar Awards Season is On: Angsty American Masculinity is On Display, by Melena Ryzik


Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor in "Beginners." (Andrew Tepper/Focus Features)

Many of the films that have begun to rack up statuettes and nominations on the sometimes gilded, sometimes barbed path to the Oscars deal with the existential crises of men. There are real-life figures grappling with their place in history (Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role of Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar”), fictional figures contending with the weight of their cultural forebears (Owen Wilson as a dissatisfied screenwriter in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris”) or classic archetypes facing an uncertain future (the silent screen actor at the advent of sound in “The Artist”). Guyish morality (and mortality) tales like “The Descendants,” Alexander Payne’s bittersweet family drama, and “50/50,” a comic bromance about a young man with cancer, have been rewarded with good notices from critics and precursor trophy givers, like the Film Independent Spirit Awards.

Other Oscar watchers… have noted that there’s a preponderance of struggling (but hot) single fathers in this year’s crop of hopefuls: the “sexiest men alive” troika of George Clooney in “The Descendants,” who describes himself as the “backup parent” to two daughters; Brad Pitt in “Moneyball,” who tries to fit his child into his shuffling career as general manager of the Oakland A’s; and Matt Damon as the economically floundering but devoted dad in “We Bought a Zoo.” Even the nameless hipster-lust object played by Ryan Gosling in “Drive,” Nicolas Winding Refn’s stylish ode to Los Angeles noir, becomes a father figure to a neighbor’s little boy…

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