Sunday, September 18, 2011

Best Actor Contenders

Serious Contenders:

George Clooney - The Descendants
George Clooney has been on fine form since winning his Oscar for Syriana, turning in one grippingly understated performance after the other. The Descendants is the latest from dramedy legend Alexander Payne (About Schmidt, Sideways), and Clooney's performance as suddenly-single dad Matt King, trying to connect with his daughters and confront the news of his wife's affair, while taking a trip through Hawaii, is said to be one of his best and most heartbreaking. Oscar nomination assured.

Leonardo DiCaprio - J Edgar
No-one has seen Clint Eastwood's J Edgar Hoover biopic, but based solely on the strong reputation of its Director and Star, as well as the persona and reportedly sordid private life of the famous FBI Director, as penned by Oscar-winner Dustin Lance Black (Milk), the Best Actor Oscar is already considered his to lose. Of course its far too early to make such predictions, performance unseen, and early hype can be difficult to live up to, but provided the film delivers, the match of character and actor should play right into Oscar's hands.

Jean Dujardin -The Artist
The Cannes Best Actor winner is the charming centre of a film the Academy is sure to love - a sweet, old-school black-&-white silent film about show business & movie making. He won over the french and, unless the film flops in the States, is sure to charm his way onto many Academy voters' ballots.

Gary Oldman - Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Simply because George Smiley is such an intriguing literary character, Cold War espionage dramas are so easy to like and because Gary Oldman, despite shifting from raging psychos (Leon) to gentle law-enforcers (The Dark Knight), has never been an Oscar nominee. Not once. Not even for Sid & NancyPrick Up Your EarsJFK or The Contender, not to mention his long-list of iconic crazies & oddballs. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy gives him the chance to lead a large, fantastic cast with a subtle complex performance. Time will tell if it will be enough.

Brad Pitt - Moneyball
I frankly don't know why Brad Pitt's performance in Moneyball is being considered Oscar-potential. He has made good movies post-Troy, and has stretched himself as an actor, but this true story of a Baseball manager's apparently revolutionary endeavor to select players based on computer-generated statistics, and upset the order of the Baseball world, seems highly underwhelming. The only things backing up the excitement is the involvement of Capote director Bennet Miller and last year's Oscar-winner Aaron Sorkin, as co-writer. Pitt will, of course, bring on the charm, the winning determination & the legendary smile and Terrence Mallick's Tree of Life will ensure he is already on everyone's radar, but I still don't see it being one of the year's strongest performances.

Ryan Gosling - Drive / The Ides of March

Gosling's intense, understated & largely silent performance in Drive seems destined to be an iconic standout in his already-impressive resume, but it could be too edgy / subtle / cool for Academy voters. His lead performance in George Clooney's political thriller Ides of March is yet to be seen but has all the makings of an Oscar-friendly journey from idealism to compromise. Gosling is an exceptional young actor who was overlooked for his astonishing performance in last year's Blue Valentine but is fast becoming impossible to ignore.

Michael Fassbender - Shame / Dangerous Method / Jane Eyre

Michael Fassbender burned his way to critical acclaim as Bobby Sands in Steve McQueen's 2008 hunger strike drama, Hunger, and into the public consciousness as slick, doomed Lt Archie Hicox in Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds. And he has been very busy since. Just this year, he has impressed critics as the bitter man who becomes Magneto in X-Men: First Class, an intense and untamed Rochester in Jane Eyre, and groundbreaking psychoanalyst Carl Jung in David
Cronenberg's psychological drama,
A Dangerous Method. But it was his turn as Brandon, a troubled sex addict negotiating endless sexual escapades & his complicated relationship with his troubled sister (Carey Mulligan) in Steve McQueen's latest, Shame, that saw him win Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival and step into the Oscar golden circle. Provided voters can stomach the edgy subject matter, his performance in Shame is sure to put him on the map.   

Maybe Contenders:

Thomas Horn - Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
A 9-year-old amateur inventor, jewelry designer, astrophysicist, tambourine player, pacifist and all-round lovable eccentric searches New York for the lock that matches the mysterious key left by his father who died in the World Trade Center attacks.

Christopher Plummer - Barrymore
Larger than life biopic of John Barrymore.

Joseph Gordon Levitt - 50 / 50
20-something finds the courage & humour to fight his cancer diagnosis.

Johnny Depp - The Rum Diary
Johnny Depp is back in the world of Hunter S Thompson's eccentricities & drinks lots of rum.

Rhys Ifans - Anonymous 
Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford, claims to be the true writer of Shakespeare's plays in Elizabethan England.

Gerard Butler - Machine Gun Preacher
A former drug-addict biker finds God, moves to Africa and becomes a crusader for Sudanese child soldiers.

Ralph Fiennes - Coriolanus
Ralph Fiennes directs himself in a modern Shakespeare adaptation of power, politics and revenge.

Should be Contenders, but Won't Be:

Andy Serkis - Rise of the Planet of the Apes
The special effects, not the motion-capture performance, will get the credit, but Caesar is a thrilling creating and a stirring, complex character.

Paul Giamatti - Win Win
Paul Giamatti fully inhabits an everyday suburban guy who stresses out trying to do everything right, and steers his life into shambles when he grows weary and bends the rules just once.  

John Boyega - Attack the Block
London gang leader turns earth defender.