Critical Confabulations

a theatre, film & pop culture review

Oscars 2011: Best Actor in a Leading Role

Note: This is my personal ranking, listed in order from best to worst, with #1 being my favorite. Prediction for the actual winner is in orange.


1. Jesse Eisenberg
The Social Network

2. Colin Firth
The King’s Speech

3. Javier Bardem

4. James Franco
127 Hours

5. Jeff Bridges
True Grit

Missing: Ryan Gosling, Blue Valentine

I’m only being slightly contentious by selecting Jesse Eisenberg as my top choice. The folks behind The Social Network couldn’t have cast this role more perfectly: to portray the ambitious, seemingly indifferent Facebook founder, Eiesenberg physicalizes bravado, severe intelligence, insecurity, and self-loathing with every awkward twitch and all that self-aware, ceaseless, witty chatter. As one of the most interesting actors of our generation (another is Ryan Gosling, whose absence here is truly puzzling), his receiving this award would not be an upset; it would be deserved.

Not that Colin Firth doesn’t deserve it. But if it wasn’t for Jeff Bridge’s genius last year, he would already have a shiny gold statue on his mantle for his heart-wrenching performance in A Single Man (a much better film, and yes, a better performance too). Firth’s win for the stammering, self-conscious, sad king-to-be is entirely inevitable, but it’s his quiet, thinking-man way of letting glimpses of vulnerability flash from beneath that hard, royal exterior that is indelible.

In Biutiful, Javier Bardem offers a performance that is both tender and rough; exuding sorrow, gravity, and grace in equal measures, he brings an incredible amount of warmth to a role that, in less capable hands, could have easily become one-note in its desperation. One of those remarkable actors whose performances are always intricately layered with complexities, he is delicate and gritty and always palpably charming, even when portraying the most chilling of killers as in No Country for Old Men.

Always the multitasker, James Franco is not just a nominee, he’s also the co -host of this year’s Oscars. And much like his real-life inspiration Aron Ralston, he’s on a natural high, free-wheeling through life (or the desert, as the case may be) with genuine humor and spirit. Franco imbues Ralston with a goofball energy that immediately captivates and connects the audience to Ralston and his eventual plight. But with such strong competition this year, Franco’s free-spirit gets buried underneath all the stammering, desperation, and posturing of his fellow nominees. Not to mention the incoherent grumblings of one Jeff Bridges. I’m positive the performance is witty and brilliant (everyone says it, so it must be so), but as I can’t comprehend even one-half of his lines in True Grit, Bridges bottoms out my list. Sorry, Jeff, but you did win last year, after all.


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This entry was posted on February 24, 2011 by in Award Predictions, Oscar-Nominated.



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