The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
on entertainment and media

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Why Sarah Palin deserves an Oscar

October 3, 2008 |  4:09 pm

PalinfrancesYou have to admit that Sarah Palin gave a darned good performance at last night's vice-presidential debate. In fact, she was so good, with her casual winks and down-home north country twang, that I had the nagging suspicion I'd seen that performance somewhere before. It took a blog post from Roger Ebert today to remind me that I'd seen that performance in the movies--Palin was channeling Marge Gunderson, the indefatiguably folksy but dutiful policewoman from the north prairie in "Fargo." It was a performance that won a best actress Oscar for Frances McDormand, so if you're gonna steal, steal from the best.

Amid all the endless chatter that accompanies our presidential-year debates, Ebert's analysis has been a breath of fresh air, since he seems to grasp the art of political theater and image making better than most of our cable TV bloviators. Read him for yourself, but here's a brief excerpt from Ebert of Palin's performance:

"I felt some empathy for her: in university terms, she was being asked to defend her doctoral thesis without having written it...She was undeniably nervous, and you could tell that by her rapid speech, faster than what we've heard before from her. Listening to her voice, you could also sense when she felt she'd survived the deep waters of improvisation and was climbing onto the shore of talking points. When she was on familiar ground, she perked up, winked at the audience two or three times and settled with relief into the folkiness that reminds me strangely of the characters of 'Fargo.' Palin is best in that persona. You want to smile with her and wink back."

Photo of Frances McDormand in "Fargo" from Gramercy Pictures; Sarah Palin by Whitney Curtis/EPA.