Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Low Res Oscar Ballot: The Acting Categories

[For reference's sake, here's what I didn't or couldn't see before making these lists: Australia, The Class, Let the Right One In, I've Loved You So Long, Waltz with Bashir, The Edge of Heaven, Gran Torino, Hunger, W., Last Chance Harvey, The Secret Life of Bees, Nothing But the Truth, Elegy, Cadillac Records.]

Michael Angarano - Snow Angels
David Kross - The Reader
Charlie McDermott - Frozen River
Amanda Seyfried - Mamma Mia!
Ben Whishaw - Brideshead Revisited

Angarano, Kross, and McDermott are all at some stage of development and should do big things down the line, and we'll all have known them when. Whishaw is my new favorite skinny/ghostly androgynous actor of choice (sorry, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers). And Amanda Seyfried is going to rule the world in about five years, and if you're not on the train by now, I can't really help you.

Happy Go Lucky
Rachel Getting Married
Vicky Christina Barcelona

I probably wouldn't have nominated Doubt here if I didn't have to bump Streep from Best Actress. Happy Go Lucky is here for that flamenco instructor (LOVE!) and other less important reasons. Milk is here because I could find space elsewhere to rave about Josh Brolin and Allison Pill and Joseph Cross and Victor Garber and Dennis O'Hare and James Franco. Vicky because the leads all meshed together so well. And Rachel because each guest had their moment, even if it was miniscule, and because the four leads couldn't have been more perfect.

Emile Hirsch - Milk
Bill Irwin - Rachel Getting Married
Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight
Gary Oldman - The Dark Knight
Brad Pitt - Burn After Reading

An uncommonly strong Supporting Actor year, and any of the below runners up would have been perfectly worthy of nominations. Only Ledger's going to end up as an Oscar nominee, and he's absolutely worthy of it for, if nothing else, being the one part of The Dark Knight that managed to live up to the outrageous hype. But here's where I pour one out for Hirsch's energy and enthusiasm, Irwin's great big wounded heart on display, Oldman's quiet resolve, and Pitt's volcano of dipshit hilarity.

Runners Up: Ben Whishaw (Brideshead Revisited); Eddie Marsan (Happy Go Lucky); John Malkovich (Burn After Reading); Ralph Feinnes (In Bruges and The Duchess); Josh Brolin (Milk).

Penelope Cruz - Vicky Christina Barcelona
Viola Davis - Doubt
Rosemarie DeWitt - Rachel Getting Married
Ari Graynor - Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist
Michelle Williams - Synecdoche, NY

So here's the thing with Ari Graynor: hers was the single funniest performance from a supporting actress all year, and she absolutely walked away with what was already a pretty good movie. If Robert Downey Jr. can get (justifiably) Oscar-nominated for doing that, then I'm down for Ari doing the same. Cruz and Davis also stole their movies out from under the feet of their co-stars, and they'll brawl with Kate Winslet over that Oscar statue. Williams I've already talked about, and DeWitt chose not to allow Rachel to rest on the laurels of being the "good sister" and let her every petty and self-centered quality shine through.

Runners Up: Debra Winger (Rachel Getting Married); Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler); Samantha Morton (Synecdoche, NY); Dianne Weist (Synecdoche, NY); Tilda Swinton (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button).

Robert Downey Jr. - Tropic Thunder/Iron Man
Colin Farrell - In Bruges
Phillip Seymour Hoffman - Doubt
Sean Penn - Milk
Mickey Rourke - The Wrestler

Slim pickings this year -- represented by the mere two runners-up -- but that doesn't mean I didn't love these five performers (and six performances). The fact that Colin Farrell actually won the Golden Globe is fantastic and all, and his speech might have been my favorite of the night, but it kind of stole my thunder for being the one person in all the world to recognize just how great he was in In Bruges. Of course, those hopes were already shot, since it looks like a whole lot more people were on that particular bandwagon than I thought. Downey's two giant star turns were the stuff justifiably large paydays are made of. Penn and Rourke you've heard about and you'll hear about again for the next four weeks or so. Know that I was wild about them both (though Rourke moreso). PSH is an interesting case, because I'm not always his biggest cheerleader, but I was really knocked out by his work in Doubt. The fact that there are a couple shouty scenes that attract the clip reels is deceptive, because the absolute best stuff comes in the 6-10 really tiny moments when he subtly shifts the audience's perceptions, back and forth, based evidence even flimsier that what Sister Aloysius is going on.

Runners Up: Brendan Gleeson (In Bruges); Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon). EDIT: ACK! And Richard Jenkins (The Visitor). Glad Oscar remembered him even if I didn't.

Anne Hathaway - Rachel Getting Married
Sally Hawkins - Happy Go Lucky
Melissa Leo - Frozen River
Michelle Williams - Wendy & Lucy
Kate Winslet - The Reader

As opposed to the lead actors, this category is STACKED this year, so don't take Streep's omission to mean that I didn't like her dragon-lady performance in Doubt, because I totally did. What I liked more was the twenty-odd layers of sympathy and defiance Hathaway brought to the usual selfish fuckup; or Winslet's stone-cold sex Nazi; or Leo's eternal quest for a double-wide; or Hawkins's Poppy realizing what a terrible driving instructor Scott is; or Williams's heartbreak in that scene by the fence.

Runners Up: Meryl Streep (Doubt); Rebecca Hall (Vicky Christina Barcelona); Kate Winslet (Revolutionary Road); Cate Blanchett (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button); Julianne Moore (Blindness).


deirdre said...

I've seen so few of the likely nominated films this year - it's tragic. But because you've mentioned him a few times now: thanks for the love you're giving Michael Sheen. I liked Frost/Nixon more than you did, but I absolutely agree that his is the standout performance.

I was preoccupied, while watching it, with wondering what he'd changed from his onstage performance, because there's no way something that relatively subtle would have translated to the back of a theatre. Whereas I'll bet Langella barely had to alter a thing for the movie. So Sheen not only had the tougher job in the film, he probably had to rethink his entire performance and should be getting more kudos for that.

Admiral Neck said...

Weird, you mention this Ari Graynor lady, who I have never heard of before, and five minutes after I read your post I see her playing Anna Torv's sister in Fringe. You're a starmaker!

Joe Reid said...

She's gonna be in a bunch of things in the next year or so; "Youth in Revolt" with Michael Cera, for one; and "Whip It!" which is the roller derby comedy (!) directed by Drew Barrymore (!!) that has a ridiculous cast (Ellen Page! Kristen Wiig! Juliette Lewis!) and I am suddenly all kinds of interested in it.

Brooke Cloudbuster said...

Things I love about this post:

1. Doubt for Ensemble. And not just the big four. All those little actors and actresses that play the kids and priests. They all contribute.

2. Colin Farrell for In Bruges. Just because.

3. A runner-up for Tilda Swinton in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. She's just plain awesome in this film, guys.

4. Ben Whishaw! Also heartbreakingly adorable in BBC mini-series, Criminal Justice.

Awesome picks all around, though.

Kamikaze Camel said...

Hoffman is also in my current Best Actor lineup. As I wrote on my blog, I normally don't care for him at all and I fully expected him to be all sweaty disgusting screaming PSH but he wasn't and, after Davis, was my favourite performance from the film. Farrell is still my #1 male lead candidate though at the moment.