Cleansing the doors of cinematic perception... for a better now

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Great 70s Dads: Roger Winslet at 2008 Oscars

Of all the key moments at the 2008 Oscars, who could forget the single shot of Kate Winslet's pa, way way back in the mezzanine, his big black slouch hat on, rosy cheeks, as cheery and unshowy about it as you could ask. A bit reminiscent of Jack Nicholson, whose easygoing rapscallion charm usually fills the front row (was he there that night? Who remembers!), without saying a word or even being seen clearly, Winslet's dad bested in the supporting imp category. Winslet won for THE READER, a film that to me epitomizes all  that's wrong with craftsmanship Oscarbait (see my Oscarbait checklist for the Reader here) but she deserved to win for her very first film, Peter Jackson's HEAVENLY CREATURES, a debut still as fresh as auld Auckland to this old codger's eyes, and for past life karmic merits earning her a salty dog of a 70s dad like Roger.

From the site Free Frank Warner 2-23-09

Winslet father whistling Kate Winslet sees Dad  Kate Winslet accepting the best actress Academy Award and wondering aloud where he father was in the audience.
"Dad, whistle or something ’cause then I’ll know where you are."
Roger Winslet whistled so loud everyone in the world heard him. (Dad is an actor, too, appearing in several television productions. Kate is 33. Dad is 69.)
The UK's Daily Mail ran a thing about Kate's childhood where she talked of being poor, fat and bullied, which proved in the face of it to be exaggeration:
Kate Winslet never seems to tire of repeating the story of her miserable adolescence. She says that she was fat, weighing 13 stone when she was 15 years old and nicknamed-Blubber' at school. She was picked on and bullied, mentally and physically, and even locked in a cupboard; or so she says. 'I was bullied for being chubby. Where are they now!' she tells this month's Marie Claire.
Winslet family
Class act: Kate Winslet who grew up in a working class family in Reading, Berks., pictured with her sister Beth and father Roger.
It is interesting that, now that she has won an Oscar as Best Actress, Kate feels that she wants to talk about her past misfortunes.

It rather gives a different dimension to her current achievements and acknowledged beauty: that she has suffered in earlier life makes her seem, perhaps, all the more likeable (sic).

But speaking to some of the friends from those early days, one can't help but become a little suspicious about just how very miserable it all was.

It is true that the Winslet family did indeed live in a small terrace house, and she shared a bedroom with her sister Anna while her father, Roger, took on all kinds of part-time work to supplement his faltering acting career.

And yet, despite a lack of ready cash Roger to this day drives an ancient Vauxhall car, the fact is that money was found to send both Kate and Anna to a private theatre school. Kate went aged ten to Redroofs, then based in Reading, at a cost of £1,000 a term. (more)
Still in a punk band and it's not weird? Yep, 70s dad
Now, why would such a childhood indicate a 70s dad? It's not the childhood, it's the remembrance and the freedom to talk about it. Were her childhood truly dismal, I don't think she would remember it the way she does, or feel so free to talk about it with journalists. Joan Crawford, on the other hand, is an example of the opposite -she has etched into her face, but Winslet's face beams. A great 70s dad, as I've discussed in past 70s dad entries, is a master of indirectly (but intentionally, on some deep grand, unconscious level) inspiring rebellion against himself; he provides for his kids while seeming to be louche and undisciplined; he frees the child from any neurosis that might be caused by parental expectations, anxieties and insecurities, as is so common today. If Kate knew their lives were semi-impoverished JUST SO she could go to a tony drama school, she might have decided not to go. Instead she seems to not make the connection at all, all the more power to the mighty Winslets!

Great 70s dads preach vice but practice virtue; they roll their eyes at the self-sacrificing martyr while doing them one better. Looking at those pics above. The truth is all there in the casual smiles, the relaxed atmosphere. At the Oscar podium Winslet didn't need to paint her father in noble colors; she just spake directly to him, "Whistle!" and he whistled immediately. He was right there, like a faithful steed. He seemed to be having a great old time, way the hell back in the audience but completely relaxed and needing no validation for raising an Oscar winner. He needed no 'credit' for her win the way micro-managing parents would. Not worrying if he would be thanked or not is why he deserves it. In that winning sense, he's a cross between Stella Dallas and Andrew Undershaft in Major Barbara.

Lastly, you can tell he's a 70s dad by the persona of Winslet herself. Her keen thrilling sense of gravitas and lack of self-serious sanctimony? Only a real 70s dad can only be behind that, the kind of dad who gives his daughter even the space to freely criticize the way he brought her up. He doesn't measure himself by his parenting; he pursues his own (mostly TV) acting and music careers and isn't afraid to take a tumbler or two. In the process of being Roger, he created the space for a truly great actress to thrive, for children are like plants: you water them, give them access to sun, transplant as needed, and then step back and let them figure it out on their own, maybe prune back if they grow in bad directions, but otherwise go on about your business. Most stage parents prune and fuss and overfeed until the plant's a leafless wreck of DSM-IV shakes and TIN DRUM-style stunted growth (hence all those baby faces and eating disorders). Not the 70s dad. He leaves an invisible signature. You'd never guess he was even there - until it's time for him to whistle, and show an entire Academy audience the definition of ballsy 70s dadness. Bid them heed!

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