Editor’s note: Welcome to the sixth of a multi-part series dissecting the 2008 Academy Awards, brought to you by the Large Association of Movie Blogs and its assorted members. Every weekday leading up to the Oscars, a new post written by a different LAMB will be published, each covering a different category (or more) of the Oscars (there are 24 in all). To read any other posts regarding this event, please just click on the tag following the post. Thank you, and enjoy!
By Jed Medina from The Movie-Fanatic
THE RACE FOR THE OSCAR BEST ACTOR: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Depending on one’s perspective, the majority of the winners of the Oscar Best Actor award are either deserving or just plain hype. While I don’t think it’s relevant at this point to get into the politics of voting, it would seem alright to get into a bit of history, and then take a look at this year’s nominees.
How was it then?
It was exactly 80 years since Emil Jannings won the best actor trophy for the film The Last Command. The Swiss born German actor actually won for 2 films, as it was possible in those days to receive multiple nominations in one category. When the talkies were later introduced, the actor eventually lost his job due to his thick German accent. He went back to Germany and became an ardent supporter of the Nazis.
Since then more than 50 have been awarded best actors. Multiple winners include Tom Hanks, Russell Crowe, Jack Nicholson and Dustin Hoffman. Sydney Poitier won in 1964, the first for an African-American. Two others joined him on the roster – Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker. Adrien Brody is the youngest to win for Polanski’s The Pianist in 2002. He was 29. At 76, Henry Fonda is the oldest; he won for the film On Golden Pond.
Perhaps the most controversial winner was Marlon Brando who returned his1973 Oscar best actor trophy, protesting the plight of American Indians. He’s definitely an exception as most nominees would relish the chance to go on stage and collect their trophies.
In recent years, big studios and a number of cutting edge film producers see to it that their actors get their share of buzz- campaigning for their talents via mainstream media outlets and thru popular movie sites.
This year’s nominees: Best Leading Actor
George Clooney — Michael Clayton
Daniel Day Lewis — There Will Be Blood
Johnny Depp — Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Tommy Lee Jones – In the Valley of Elah
Viggo Mortensen — Eastern Promises
No surprise on Daniel Day-Lewis and George Clooney. A big thrill to see Viggo Mortensen finally getting the recognition he deserves. A bit of a surprise for Tommy Lee Jones- not because he’s not good, but because of the film where he was nominated. A big surprise (even a shock) to see Johnny Depp- for there are a number of other actors who should have been there.
Mr. Clooney, actor, producer, social activist, gentleman extraordinaire is regarded as representing the cream of the crop of today’s Hollywood elite. Known for his penchant in producing movies that deal with political and social issues, the actor has been getting his share of Oscar nods of late. As Michael Clayton, he’s a fixer (a ‘janitor’ he says). He works for a large law firm that represents mostly corrupt corporate clients. Much more than a John Grisham thriller, with hints of brilliance in the league of Scott Turows’, Michael Clayton deals with a rather heavy theme but delivers with the right punches- many thanks to Clooney (and director Tony Gilroy) for keeping it tight. The film also makes a power showing- taking in nominations in many of the top categories.
Just like Clayton and actually getting more Oscar nods, P.T. Anderson’s There Will Be Blood is a showcase for Daniel Day Lewis. While Paul Dano was superb in playing the supporting role, Lewis, as usual overwhelms his co-stars and delivers a tour-de-force performance. From the moment he starred as Johnny, the gay teen/activist who had an affair with Omar, a Pakistani immigrant in My Beautiful Launderette to his first Oscar in My Left Foot, the English born, Irish citizen has been admired not only by the moviegoing public, but by the most talented actors in the industry. Considered as this year’s frontrunner, it would be a big disappointment if he loses this one.
For Viggo Mortensen, playing the lead in three Lord of the Rings and David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence is not enough. He needs to get naked to be considered for the Oscars. In Eastern Promises, Viggo is a member of the Russian mafia but is actually someone else…
I have always pictured Tommy Lee Jones as a U.S. Marshall, or better yet as the assistant district attorney who hunted down Harrison Ford in The Fugitive. In the underrated and mostly unheard of In The Valley of Elah, Jones plays the father of a missing soldier who just finished his tour of duty in Iraq. It’s another side of Tommy’s acting- a more sensitive type. I think its one of the most powerful performances of the year. Lee Jones was equally impressive in No Country for Old Men, but it’s Javier Bardem’s territory, albeit a supporting one says the members of the Academy.
Finally, a vengeful and deadly Johnny Depp (who also sings) in Burton’s Sweeney Todd. Winning the Golden Globe for Best Actor (Comedy or Musical) certainly boosted his claim to the Lead Actor category. His fans are definitely rejoicing, while some moviegoers lament the fact that some actors, who have performed even better were snubbed…
In the case of Frank Langella, he was overlooked for Starting Out in the Evening, another quite unheard of film, except for the few but ecstatic movie fanatics who have seen the film and are still in awe.
For young James McAvoy, this would be the second time he got snubbed by the Academy. His first was in The Last King of Scotland where his co-star Forest Whitaker eventually won the award. Another young and talented actor was equally unlucky. In Sean Penn’s Into the Wild, Emile Hirsch emerges as one of Hollywood’s most promising young talent, and it’s sad he was not recognized for his sensitive performance.
Brad Pitt, who already won the Best Actor at this year’s Venice, also failed to get the nomination. He won for the long-winded The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. It’s equally depressing to learn his co-star, Casey Affleck not getting a nom for another good film, Gone Baby Gone…
Who’ll win? Place your bets…From all indications, unless someone pulled a miracle, it’s Daniel Day-Lewis’ turn to grab his second Oscar.