400 Screens, 400 Blows is a weekly column that takes an in-depth look at the films playing below the radar, beneath the top ten, and on 400 screens or less.
The Oscars are history now and soon people won't even be able to remember the winners. But I keep thinking about that Best Actor race that came down to a near-draw between Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler (291 screens) and Sean Penn for Milk (111 screens). My group, the San Francisco Film Critics Circle, simply called it a tie. We agreed that both men gave the performance of their lifetimes. Other critics groups and other year-end awards also split between them; there was no clear consensus. For my annual predictions, I went with my gut on this one: I got the vague impression that, just from the cultural temperature, people were really into Rourke. But Penn won. And now that it's over -- with some hindsight -- it makes perfect sense. The Oscars didn't want to ruin The Wrestler for us.