Saturday, February 13, 2010

Shearing the Oscars: Best Actor

This weekend, Black Sheep will be taking a closer look at one of the most exciting categories and one of the most infuriating at this year's Academy Awards. As I figure it best to start my weekend on a positive note, I am going to go with exciting to start. The ladies will wait until tomorrow, where apparently I will begin my day with a coffee and a scowl as I muse on their category. Meanwhile, if we could get to the gentlemen, and they all appear to be folks I could say that about, I describe the Best Actor category as exciting because I genuinely feel that they all deserve to be there. Though Bridges definitely has the edge, it is not a lost cause for the other competitors. And the nominees are ...


I did not get the chance to review Scott Cooper's CRAZY HEART when it came out but if I had I would have called it pretty good but not amazing. I also would have said that Bridge's incredible performance is the only real reason to see this film. To watch him disheveled and barely able to stand up is to understand how heavy life can get for an alcoholic who has no respect for his own self. His expression is restrained and real but his resonance is staggering. Bridges has been nominated for four Oscars already, the first for 1971's THE LAST PICTURE SHOW and the last for 2000's THE CONTENDER, but he has yet to win. After snagging the Golden Globe and the Screen Actors Guild Award for this role, Bridges does seem somewhat destined.


Clooney had the momentum going in. He picked up early kudos from the National Board of Review and the New York Film Critics Circle for his smooth work as Ryan Bingham, in Jason Reitman's UP IN THE AIR. The role almost seems tailor made for Clooney, as art imitates what we think we know about his life. Bingham is unattached and approaching 50. He has no interest in settling in one place in particular or holding any one person's hand for too long. Clooney brings so much more than himself to the role though. He brings class and sophistication and such sympathy that he sets the tone for the film to follow. He has lost his edge though and has already won for a supporting role in SYRIANA. He could turn it around but I fear his plane might be grounded.


I have never really been a big Colin Firth fan. When I caught the North American premiere of Tom Ford's A SINGLE MAN at TIFF this fall though, I was floored by the depth of his range and how much sadness he could carry in his soul. Firth was on hand for the premiere and he could not appear to be more proud of his work and the film itself. The Academy didn't shower A SINGLE MAN with any other love than this nod though so Firth has his work cut out for him. He won awards for his work at the Venice Film Festival as well as from some West Coast critic's associations but so far, he has come up short for anything really big. This is his first nomination and without a major campaign, I can't see this being his first win as well.


I'm happy to say that with Freeman's and Matt Damon's Supporting Actor nods being the only one's awarded to Clint Eastwood's INVICTUS, it would appear that the Academy's unconditional love for all of Eastwood's work is finally falling off. The best thing about INVICTUS is the acting and Freeman certainly deserves to be nominated for his uncanny interpretation of the former President of South Africa. My criticism, and also why I don't feel this fifth nomination will turn into a second win for Freeman, is that his performance often borders more on imitation.

JEREMY RENNER as Staff Sgt. William James in THE HURT LOCKER

Renner's nod is the only one that doesn't match my Top 5 for the year. I enjoyed him. I felt that he brought different layers to a role that could have been very one-dimensional. I just happened to enjoy another performance more (Michael Stuhlbarg in A SERIOUS MAN). Renner is a fairly fresh face and this is his first nomination. My guess is that he got swept up in the enormous support for Kathryn Bigelow's THE HURT LOCKER and that just being honoured among these other veteran actors is his award.

WHO WILL WIN? Jeff Bridges


And so there are the men. Tomorrow, it's the women. I will not be covering the supporting categories as those are pretty much locks already. What do you think? Who do you think will win? And who do you think actually should win? Black Sheep wants to know what you think!

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