Sunday, April 24, 2011

Oscar Casualties - Best Actor

These guys coulda been contenders:

Ryan Gosling - Blue Valentine

One of the best actors currently working, super talented Ryan Gosling deserved a nomination for his raw & uncompromising performance as Dean - showing all his potential & creative charm but never shying away from the volatile, self-indulgent nature that will drive his wife to desperation. It seemed that Gosling & Michelle Williams would either be nominated together or over-looked together. As it turns out, she made it in, he didn't. The movie is very much about both of them, but perhaps Michelle Williams has the more sympathetic character arc, and more heartbreaking moments. Williams' nomination has put the film on the map, but both performances will go down as classics. 

Robert DuVall - Get Low

The other actor who seemed to battling it out with Ryan Gosling for the 5th slot was veteran Robert DuVall, as Felix Bush, an eccentric, difficult old man planning to attend his own wake in bittersweet period fable Get Low. DuVall has legendary performances to his credit in Apocalypse Now, The Godfather, Tender Mercies & The Apostle, to name just a few, and hasn't been nominated since 1998's A Civil Action. At the start of the season, he was considered Colin Firth's only real competition to win Best Actor, but the film didn't do as well as hoped, and DuVall soon fell off the radar. Hope he finds another baity role soon.

Leonardo DiCaprio - Inception & Shutter Island

Leonardo DiCaprio had quite year playing tortured men getting lost in the maze of their own subconscious, and picked up quite a hefty portion of the year’s Box Office between Shutter Island and Inception. Shutter Island is, arguably, the more complex performance, while Inception is perhaps the more understated & quietly effective. Either way, he was a key actor of 2010, but not a nominee this time round.

Paul Giamatti - Barney's Version

The great Paul Giamatti finally won a Comedy Golden Globe for Barney’s Version, but unfortunately didn’t get much attention beyond that. Not often taken seriously enough, he is brilliant in everything he touches, but has really made his name in a series of weighty / hilarious losers that no-one else could have brought to life more effectively - American Splendor, Sideways, Cold Souls. At some point, Oscar will give him his due recognition, but not for this classy, well-written literary drama. Mind you, if his performance in Sideways didn't do it for them, I don't know what will. (This year's Win Win, maybe? Maybe not).

Ben Affleck - The Town

After a strong start & a slow, painful career disintegration, Ben Affleck has finally cemented his comeback. As a director, with 2007's Gone Baby Gone and last year's The Town, but he also finally delivered on his talent as an actor as The Town's smart, sympathetic bank robber with a chance to make it. His film narrowly missed out on the Top 10, and his excellent ensemble cast resulted in a Supporting Actor nomination for Jeremy Renner. 


Michael Douglas - Solitary Man 
& Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps

At the start of 2010, Michael Douglas was big news with two acclaimed performances - first as aging, womanising a-hole learning life lessons in Solitary Man, and then as aging 80s icon & a-hole, Gordon Gecko, going soft in Oliver Stone’s missed opportunity sequel, Wall Street 2Solitary Man had little impact as a film, but gained good word of mouth for Douglas’ performance. Wall Street 2 was criticised for a sell-out ending and for shifting the focus from Gecko to its two young stars (Shia LeBoeuff and Carey Mulligan). Douglas landed a supporting actor nomination for Wall Street 2 at the Golden Globes, but didn't get any further than that.

Not a contender: Ronald Bronstein - Daddy Long Legs

Daddy Long Legs is not a film that many are likely to see. For the small circulation that it did get, Ronald Bronstein ended up on a fair number of indie-inclined year-end best-of lists. It is a complex, remarkably restrained and honest performance that allows the audience to draw their own conclusions - some hailed his artistically-inclined, down-and-out, irresponsible dad as a counter-culture hero, while others saw a man who senses but can’t quite face how washed-up he is while he wreaks quiet havoc on his unassuming boys’ lives. Quietly brilliant. He is matched by Eleonore Hendricks’s perfect supporting turn as his quirky, emotionally stunted on/off girlfriend.

Supporting Actor:

Andrew Garfield in The Social Network

Sam Rockwell in Conviction

Sean Penn in Fair Game

Bill Murray in Get Low

Ed Harris in The Way Back