In all the post-Oscar celebration and hangovers, I would like us all to pause for a moment and remember Viggo Mortensen.
Mortensen was nominated for an Oscar this year and few noticed. It was almost as if the world saw it as a pat on the head, a recognition that Aragorn, son of Arathorn, could act without hobbits. "Oh yeah -- that guy. He was in Lord of the Rings. Huh."
This was an amazing year for dramas -- but perhaps unfortunate for Eastern Promises, which would have screamed Best Picture-Director-Actor in a Coen-less year. Cronenberg delivered a film as haunting and claustrophobic as a Russian novel, and no one even remembered. A year of such incredible films should be celebrated, but how do we manage to lose one by Cronenberg along the way?
And with that film's blink-and-you-miss-it buzz (and it received almost nothing but rave reviews), Mortensen's incredible performance was lost. Mortensen is about as Daniel Day as you can get. To prepare for his role as Nikolai, Mortensen traveled alone to Russia, lost himself up in the Siberian region to learn his character's regional accent, and met real Russian criminals. He studied the vory v zakone, the tattoos, the body language. With his knack for languages, he picked up Russian and Ukrainian. He decorated his trailer with Russian icons and even managed to score a once-in-a-lifetime prop, a set of worry beads made in a Russian prison from melted cigarette lighters. He can be seen flipping them as his vory v zakone stars are tattooed on, as well as his haunting final shot.