a theatre, film & pop culture review
Suffice it to say that my two personal favorites in this category have zero chance of winning. Jonah Hill does his best work to date as as a Polo-clad New Yawker with one hand on his dick and the other constantly counting his growing wad of cash in The Wolf of Wall Street. As man-child misfit-sidekick Donnie Azoff to DiCpario’s Wolf, Hill, who was nominated two years ago for Moneyball, gives a wonderfully schlubby, cracked-out performance, but did not receive a single other award nomination, so he’s just ecstatic to be here.
Then there’s Barkhad Abdi who was a limo driver just directing his own movies on the side when director Paul Greengrass recruited him to portray the Somali pirate who takes Tom Hanks hostage in Captain Phillips. With a piercing gaze and machine gun-toting, bony frame, Abdi’s performance is one of absolute authoritative control, even as he shades it with slivers of sympathy and moments of genial inquisitiveness. He also owns everyone’s favorite movie line of the year — “I’m the captain now” — and, remarkably, he snagged the BAFTA. As a first-time performance, it’s a knockout.
Bradley Cooper continues to receive an abundance of love from the industry, though it’s not clear why. He was perfectly fine in Silver Linings Playbook, and he’s perfectly fine in American Hustle, in which he plays FBI agent Richie DiMaso, attempting to boost his career with the Abscam sting operation. Sporting an intense ’70s perm, Cooper nicely plays a decent guy whose ambitions nearly get the better of himself, but it’s not Oscar-worthy acting.
Michael Fassbender, on the other hand, clearly had a ball playing the sadistic slaveowner William Epps in 12 Years a Slave. Just as DiCaprio is Scorcese’s current muse, Fassbender is McQueen’s, having also starred in the director’s Hunger and Shame. This is is his first nomination, and if any of these gentleman can spoil on March 2, it’s him, especially considering Oscar’s penchant for awarding villainous supporting turns (Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men; Christoph Waltz, Inglorious Basterds). Fassbender’s Epps is a quintessential baddie with little psychological shading beyond Drunken Devil. His constant agitation — physically, he looks as though he may jump out of his skin at any given moment — escalates to violence on a dime, with a smoldering, madmen’s glare. It’s a striking performance to be sure, but it’s a stereotype, and, by the looks of it, one that McQueen could just barely keep in check.
Speaking of archetypes, Jared Leto‘s got the troubled queen with self-destructive tendencies down pat in Dallas Buyers Club. As AIDS patient and trans woman Rayon, who industriously partners with the heel Ron Woodruff to earn a buck while saving lives and continuing to shoot up, Leto slips easily into the feminine character with his waif-like frame and soft speech. It’s a nice performance of a sketchily drawn character, and it’s one that has garnered every single acting accolade until this point (though he was not nominated for the BAFTA), so how could we put our money on anyone else?