OSCARS DEATH RACE: Surveying the race for Best Actor

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by Sarah D. Bunting
February 8, 2012 5:21 AM
4 Comments
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[EDITOR'S NOTE: Sarah D. Bunting of Tomatonation.com is watching every single film nominated for an Oscar before the Academy Awards Ceremony on February 26, 2012. She is calling this journey her Oscars Death Race. She has completed the category for Best Actor and now surveys the competition. For more on how the Oscars Death Race began, click here. And you can follow Sarah through this quixotic journey here.]

The Best Actor category is more interesting, to my mind, for who didn't get a nomination than for who did, although I guess the actual nominations are interesting. "Baffling" counts as interesting, right?

Let's get to it.

The nominees

Demián Bichir (A Better Life): The performance looked better than it was thanks to subpar acting by his castmates. A solid outing, no more.

George Clooney (The Descendants): The Cloon did his best under the circumstances, and I acknowledge that the performance proceeds from the script, but I hated the script and the performance is not very good in the second place. It's not Keanu, but it's not very good. The blocking is lazy; a lot of the scenes land like first rehearsals, or he's letting the ugly shirts craft the character beats. From a craft standpoint, I don't get this nom at all. From a "sometimes, the universe wants -- nay, needs -- to remind the Cloon that he is loved" standpoint, it makes more sense and I can mostly live with it. A win would kind of gross me out, though -- and Vegas has him sitting at short odds…

Jean Dujardin (The Artist): …but SAG went for Gallic charisma, and that award is a pretty reliable indicator. Dujardin is very good, and while this isn't my favorite performance nominated, I won't mind if it wins, and it probably will.

Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy): Initially, I had a "wait, seriously?" reaction to this nod, but much like the movie itself, the idea grew on me. But he's good here because he's so quiet in the role…and he might be too quiet. Should win for something one of these days; probably not for this.

Brad Pitt (Moneyball): Great, welcoming, confident performance by an actor who has finally grown all the way into his face. Born to play the role; hit all the notes in it. He'll likely have to content himself with a job well done, though.

Who shouldn't be here: Bichir and Clooney don't rate, given the talent that got passed over entirely.

Who should be here, but isn't: Hope you packed a lunch: Woody Harrelson in Rampart, Tom Hardy and/or Joel Edgerton in Warrior, Michael Fassbender in Shame, and Ralph Fiennes in Coriolanus. You could make an argument for Paul Giamatti in Win Win; you could also argue that you've seen that work from him before.

Who should win: Pitt.

Who will win: Dujardin, I'd say, but Clooney isn't a waste of your money.

Sarah D. Bunting co-founded Television Without Pity.com, and has written for Seventeen, New York Magazine, MSNBC.com, Salon, Yahoo!, and others. She's the chief cook and bottle-washer at TomatoNation.comFor more on how the Oscars Death Race began, click here.

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4 Comments

  • Juliet | February 14, 2012 7:53 PMReply

    Clooney has become the male Meryl Streep--if he's in something, he's going to get an Oscar nom even if the movie and/or performance wasn't very good. The Academy just likes him. (This is not a comment on the relative talent of Clooney or Streep--just a comment on some of the crappy films they've been nominated for.)

  • Sarah D. Bunting | February 10, 2012 8:32 AMReply

    Thanks for your comments -- keep reading!

  • Andrew Davies | February 9, 2012 2:34 PMReply

    I haven't seen Demian Bichir's performance but I think it's very condescending to belittle an actor's performance, particularly since you probably don't understand how difficult it is to be an actor. I'm sorry if I offend you but I feel the words "no more" should be banned or eliminated from every critic's vocabulary.

  • Monty | February 8, 2012 12:34 PMReply

    I won't be mad if Gary Oldman someday gets an Oscar for a role that isn't his best, just because he's been so good for so long. And this is somehow his first nomination, which seems crazy.

    This year is going to Dujardin, though.

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