a theatre, film & pop culture review
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.
Missing: Ryan Gosling, Drive; Michael Fassbender, Shame
All of these men are excellent, and it’s a shame (yeah, I went there) that Gosling and Fassbender couldn’t be nominated as well. Truth be told, I would switch out Mr. Oldman for Mr. Method and Mr. Angelina Jolie would take a hike for Mr. Naked (I apparently respect Mr. Oldman too much to give him a nickname).
Yes, that means I’d leave in Demián Bichir, who you surely have never heard of, nor had you any clue that a little Chis Weitz film called A Better Life existed. But I have a soft spot for über-underdogs, and Bichir’s touching performance as a gardener in East L.A. struggling to put food on the table and simultaneously keep his son out of gangs and away from immigration officials is absolutely lovely. Sure, the film is sentimental and ridden with clichés of the illegal alien experience, but Bichir’s portrayal is decent and honest, and dammit, no other moment in a film this year made me more upset than when his struck was stolen (cursing, I was cursing at the screen), and if you’re a sucker for father-son narratives, the final scene, when Bichir opens up emotionally to his son, will rip your heart out. Feel free to blubber like a baby. I sure did.
No one’s denying the chameleon-like capabilities of Gary Oldman, who is unrecognizable in half the films he graces (or maybe that’s just me…). But his turn in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is so subtle that he doesn’t stand a chance against the tap-dancing Frenchman and two super-movie stars. But hey, at least he finally got a nomination, right?
Some folks actually think the big award could go to one of Hollywood’s golden boys, Brad or George. Two-time nominee Brad Pitt (12 Monkeys, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) does fully and finally shed his movie star skin to cooly slip into the role of Moneyball‘s Billy Beane, the irreverent general manager of the Oakland A’s. Pitt’s relaxed demeanor as Beane has an unsettling edge to it, his every move vibrating with just-below-the-surface fury, and critics are calling this his career-best. No disagreement from me there.
Unfortunately — or fortunately, depending how you look at it — some folks are saying the same about George Clooney for his turn as Hawaiian shirt-clad family man who’s sent into a tailspin with the discovery of his comatose wife’s infidelity. Clooney tunes down his Cary Grant-magneticism to portray an absentee father and husband who frequently and brilliantly makes a mess of things: you can actually see the paralyzing hesitation and feel his inability to trust his own intuition when he’s faced with tough choices. And while Moneyball is Pitt’s film, The Descendants is not solely Clooney’s: instinctually, he knows when to step aside and allow the rest of the stellar ensemble to shine. He may already have one Oscar (Syriana) on his mantle, but it’s about time he added to his collection. But the votes for Pitt and Clooney will probably be split, allowing for an Artist sweep…
Jean Dujardin — who’s already won the Golden Globe, BAFTA and SAG — has pretty much had this race all sewn up since the day the nominations were announced. As the silent film star who is down on his luck, Dujardin, without a word, steals each and every scene with a flirtatious wink or a devilish raise of an eyebrow. “Utterly charming” and “delightful” are phrases overused in describing his performance, but he absolutely is that exuberant and joyful to watch. The only happy contender in a bunch of sad depressives — and don’t get me wrong, I love a good downer of a film — Dujardin stands out in the best possible way. Who can possibly hate on this man for winning?