Thursday, 23 February 2012

Incoherent Oscar: Actor

So, the final acting category – and also, the category that’s considered to be the most uncertain, but I wonder if it really is.

The Nominees: Demian Bichir in A Better Life; George Clooney in The Descendants; Jean Dujardin in The Artist; Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy; Brad Pitt in Moneyball

Really, it’s not a terrible batch of nominees. Granted, I don’t think that this category has managed to get a near faultless slate of nominees over the last decade with the exception of 2003; but this slate of leading actors is particularly interesting because they’re all the complete leads of their films. Even if you think Bejo is a lead performer in The Artist, all five men are responsible for all the emotional cruxes and decisive climaxes in their category. We’ve got three of them coming from Best Picture nominees (last year we had four). And, maybe or maybe not incidentally, those three are the ones who seem to have the most heat.

Demian Bichir in A Better Life
I think the shock of Bichir’s nomination is being a little overplayed considering that he managed to earn a nomination from the Screen Actors’ Guild all the way back in December, so it’s not as if it was a complete jolt of an inclusion. Still, good for him either way. I’m not much fond of A Better Life (which does have a heart-warming premise) but it’s not difficult to discern that Bichir gives the film’s finest performance – he’s responsible for any emotional gut punch the narrative manages to deliver, and when it comes to Leading actors voters love when the actors are carrying whole narratives on their shoulders . Bichir may not be a threat for the prize, but he can enjoy his first Oscar nomination.

George Clooney in The Descendants
Clooney is celebrating his fourth acting nomination with this citation for The Descendants (useless fact: this is his third Actor nod, all of them coming from Best Picture nominees). With its peaks and valleys coming from Clooney’s Mike and his relations with his family it’s the sort of sympathetic role which works in the way of being attractive to voters and audiences. The emotional undertone tying the piece together, I imagine, does much in contributing to the “career-best” laurels being heaped at the performance. And, sure, losses at the SAG and BAFTA suggest more than a chink in his armour, it’s understandable (if only in theory, to me) why this is a threat for the prize.

Jean Dujardin in The Artist
In the last 30 years 8 Best Actors have come from Best Picture winners, and Dujardin could, conceivably, become the ninth. Like three of the nominated performers, he wins the honours of being best-in-show in his respective films and that’s always helpful for an actor – regardless of category. There’s the fact that he’s starring in the Best Picture frontrunner which gives him a significant one-up, he’s been solidly campaigning over the past few weeks and managed a SAG and BAFTA wins. The performance is one which exudes charm and affability, and he thrives with the film’s silent gag. It would seem race is already over, right?

Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
This was the surprise of the acting nominations for me, yes Oldman had managed some love from the BAFTA but nothing is definitive and it’s nice that a performance I love managed to sneak in – even if it’s not Michael Shannon. Even though Smiley commands the narrative of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, it’s such a low key performance especially in relation to his counterparts. It’s something of a career nomination for Oldman, who’s celebrating his first nomination from the Academy, and it also manages to be a nomination worthy of him too, since the performance is actually a good one. If the race were a bit more open he might have been a bigger threat, but he’ll have to content – I suppose – with the nomination.

Brad Pitt in Moneyball
Can you believe that this is Pitt’s third nomination only? I don’t know; I find it all so bizarre… and I assume many feel so, too which is why the one-two punch of The Tree of Life and Moneyball seemed like a sure-fire way to make him the top contender in the category. But, although nominations have streamed in steadily for his work in Moneyball no major awards’ body has given him a prize, which means he shall probably be relegated to also-ran status once again; which is hardly an inauspicious existence (considering the fine actors who didn’t manage a nod), but starring in two Best Picture nominees you’d think he’d have a better shot. The last truly surprising win in this category was Adrien Brody…, but I don’t see that happening again.

Prediction: Jean Dujardin
Alternate: Brad Pitt

I still don’t quite think Jean will win, and yet none of the others seem to be likely winners. It is what is.

What do you think? Dujardin or bust?


Ryan T. said...

I'm a fan of Clooney, but I'm finding myself more and more in the Team Anyone But Clooney. Dujardin has my vote though.

Amir said...

for my personal vote, it's a toss up between Pitt and Dujardin. and my prediction is Dujardin, as well.
But isn't it interesting how Clooney went all the way from undisputed front-runner to also-ran on everyone's perdictions?

Chip Lary said...

I think Dujardin will win as part of the coattails of The Artist winning Best Picture.