A big Hoo-Rah goes out to Richard Jenkins for his Best Actor Oscar nomination for his excellent work in The Visitor. And while, for a small film like The Visitor, one large nomination appears to be more than enough kudos via the Academy (a la Melissa Leo shout-out for Frozen River), let us  not forget a large reason why Jenkins was nominated: Thomas McCarthy.

McCarthy, who wrote and directed The Visitor, has been a character actor in the business for well over a decade now, appearing in such films as Meet the Parents (he was the  “just call me Bob…M.D!” guy) and Good Night, and Good Luck, not to mention Tony Gilroy’s upcoming Duplicity and Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones.

Like his acting, McCarthy’s writing and directing are subtle and effective, never overbearing and always purposeful. His directorial debut, The Station Agent, took Sundance by storm a few years ago, featuring a tragically sweet performance by Peter Dinklage, not to mention acknowledging Michelle Williams’ abilities as an actress and putting Bobby Cannavale’s natural charm to pitch-perfect use. McCarthy does much of the same in The Visitor, once again offering characters whose motivations are both accessible and believable.

It appears that the guy knows actors and how to talk to them, which makes sense considering his background. He allows his actors to work with the frame rather than distract the viewer from the performance with tilted camera angles and extreme close-ups that play with focus. There are films that allow for that kind of style. McCarthy’s films find style in straight shots and medium close-ups, in frames that, at first glance feel empty and distance but soon become dense with meaning (see long shots of Jenkins sitting at the piano towards the beginning of The Visitor).

The narrative is calm in McCarthy’s films, not determined to win over the viewer but rather sure that it will in time. Patience is a virtue in McCarthy’s world. In the case of The Visitor, a poignant portrait of U.S. Government-allowed racial prejudice (via detention centers) is painted slowly and steadily with every passing moment of the film, the brush strokes slicing hard into the canvas as Jenkins reprimands with teared eyes a immigration officer for taking his Syrian friend from him without reason.

The moment is so powerful you might not know it until it’s over. But it is most certainly that well-made and that effective. And, for that, Jenkins most certainly deserved his Oscar nomination. And while Tom McCarthy cannot enjoy a chance at his own golden statue, he can find comfort in the fact that a Jenkins win will be a win for himself and his seasoned ability as an artist.

Keep making those small films Tom, and we’ll keep loving them, whether the Academy does or not.

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