And the nominees are:
- Kenny Rogers in Whatever Happened to Kenny Rogers Roasters?
- Cary Grant in Dear God, I Will Serve You Until Death if You Promise to Keep Me From Ever Again Having to Listen to that Self-Serious Bloviator Jason Reitman
- Mark Darcy in Two-Hour Cologne Ad
- Don King in Only Ol' Man Eastwood Could Make Nelson Mandela Boring
- Jeremy Renner in Pig Pen Joins the Army
And the Oscar SHOULD go to...
SHOULD WIN:This is almost as difficult as Best Actress. I need to start a process of elimination.
Morgan Freeman found a way to perfectly match the cadence of Nelson Mandela's speech and body language that gave the onscreen rendering a ringing sense of familiarity, an achievement that is especially noteworthy given the fact that, until the final half-hour, this is one of the dullest films I've seen in a long, long time--and when we're talking about a Nelson Mandela biopic, boredom is a pretty spectacular achievement. AT FAILING.
Anyway. He's mostly terrific, but what cannot be overlooked--because it's so distracting--is his accent, or lack thereof. In a New York Times article about his performance, the writer was told that Mr. Freeman, "doesn't do accents." Oh really? The end result is a Mandela who sounds like an expat in his own country, which is frankly offensive. Then, we have Freeman on Oprah earlier this week, talking about how he was handpicked years ago by Mandela himself to eventually play him, so Invictus was the natural conclusion of something he was tapped long, long ago to fulfill and not all that surprising. Now I love Morgan Freeman--hi, Shawshank Redemption--but that is some pompous, self-aggrandizing, disrespectful bullshit. My ass is excruciatingly chapped. NEXT.
Jeremy Renner's work in The Hurt Locker is the kind of visceral, plain-spoken acting that is precisely what a film like this needs. The Hurt Locker is not so much about Renner's character, but rather Renner's character is the conduit through which the film flows. Renner blessedly, has the good sense to get the hell out of the way and let the film be the film. He gives a performance that--in contrast to *ahem* certain others on this list--is humble and giving. Consequently, the film is the star here--which is as it was intended to be--and Renner's nomination is its wholly deserved award.
Here's where it gets tough.
George Clooney can do no wrong. I can't think of a single performance of his that didn't make a bad movie bearable at worst (See: Intolerable Cruelty), or make a good movie truly magnificent at best. The man is simply one of our greatest living actors, and I would like to run away with him. In Up in the Air, we get to see him toe the line between his handsome lothario stock-in-trade and the good guy with a heart of gold. The subtlety with which he bounces between these, and eventually sews them together, is satisfying like a filling, delicious Thanksgiving feast.
What I love about Mark Darcy's Colin Firth's acting, generally, is that it's so cerebral--it's like watching a mathematician fill a blackboard with the deconstruction of a theorem. In A Single Man though, we're given a chance to see something we're not used to seeing from Firth--raw emotion. Never has watching a man cry been so thrilling, and when Firth's character gets the call that his partner has died, the authenticity of his reaction, the visible ping-pong match between brain and heart...well I can't think of any words for it.
Jeff Bridges, by contrast, gives a performance of deceptive simplicity in Crazy Heart. It's work that's so lived in, that it can almost slip right by you without noticing--and that's a high compliment, not a criticism. It's restrained, measured and subtle. It's also a character with an arc tailor-made for Oscar glory, so it's unsurprising that everyone has rallied behind him. Luckily, this is a case where the plaudits are still richly deserved.
To a point, I feel like we've arrived at a three-way tie. For me, the tie breaker is the politics. Perhaps that's unfair, but it's also an unavoidable reality about the Oscars.
Clooney's performance wasn't any more extraordinary that any of the other nominated--and winning--work he's done recently; he's reached an almost Streepian point where he can simply show up on a set and blow his nose and it will likely be considered, fairly for the most part, nomination worthy. Colin Firth's and Jeff Bridges's respective performances are both incredible and flawless, both equally Oscar-worthy in their own opposing-poles-of-the-same-thing way.
I'm appealing to the politics of the situation and saying, SHOULD WIN:
Bridges is an actor that Hollywood has for so, so long seemed to not quite know what to do with. Finally, Baby Hollywood Jesus brought along Jeff's moment of perfect role/actor synergy. I hate this saying and the spirit that comes along with it, but it's Jeff's "time". Thankfully, he's worthy of it.
If you think anyone else has even the tiniest shred of a prayer of winning this, you belong in a mental institution. You have a better chance of hearing your doorbell ring, answering it, and seeing Clooney standing there nude with a big red bow bearing your name tied around him than anybody in this category has of besting Jeffy Bridges.