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Murray's merry melancholia - Zach Porter

After delivering thousands of deadpan lines in a voice that's overconfident with a hint of depression comfortably worn-in like an old shoe, Bill Murray has finally received recognition for emoting his subtle pains on the silver screen. He has been nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Actor category for the film "Lost in Translation." Fans felt he got snubbed in 1999 for his turn as rich but disappointed steel tycoon Herman Blume in "Rushmore." In "Lost in Translation," Murray plays an aging actor much like himself who is out of his element in a foreign land. The film was written (and directed) by Sofia Coppola, no doubt, with Murray in mind.

Murray has always been a great actor, even in bad films. If you go back to some earlier films such as "Scrooged," you can see the same world-weary delivery give life to even the flattest of lines.

The best work from Murray's portfolio seems to center around successful middle-aged men who still feel incomplete despite the earthly possessions they have acquired. Men who have arrived at the top of the ladder, scratching their heads.

Murray has broad appeal because he uses comedy to hide a thinly veiled melancholy underneath. Unlike peers such as Nick Nolte, or Ed Harris, Murray approaches the tormented soul with comic bliss, and without compromising the integrity of the performance.

On Feb. 29, the 76th Annual Academy Awards will commence and Bill will be up against the likes of Johnny Depp, Ben Kingsley, Jude Law, and Sean Penn for the Best Actor category. In the case of "Cold Mountain," the sum of the parts was better than the parts. That is to say the film was enjoyable but Jude Law affecting a Southern accent was hard to stomach. Ben Kingsley has already won an Oscar for Gandhi in 1982 and had two supporting actor nods from the academy. Sean Penn, he's in an acting universe all his own, too big for a little Oscar. Johnny Depp was great, but there have been at least half a dozen other performances he should have been nominated for already. Like Depp, Murray has never been nominated for either and one might think he is as deserving as the former 21 Jump Street teen dream. But not so, "Lost in Translation" is the pinnacle of Murray's comedic sadness. The way in which Murray's "lost" character Bob responds with resignation to Japan is the way in which Murray himself responds to the world. This is the film in which his demeanor is the film's focus, without any silly plots involving large elephants.

Zach Porter is a photographer with the News Daily. He can be reached at zporter@news-daily.com.