Next up for our Oscar roundtable, Sasha Stone of Awardsdaily.com, and USA Today film reporter Susan Wloszczyna and I jaw about the early Best Actor frontrunners. While I began by posting a list of the serious contenders, Stone dubs this the year of the Oscar Hottie:
Thelma: Let me throw out the first pitch on best actor: George Clooney in The Descendants is the frontrunner, but even Clooney admits that’s a position that takes incredible stamina. You’re just asking to be knocked off the block. Still, if any one can campaign for this award like a politician out of The Ides of March, it’s George. And then there’s his old pal Brad Pitt, with the one two punch of Moneyball and The Tree of Life, and he’s a star that every one wants to come to their party. And then there’s the bad boy: Michael Fassbender. I’ve yet to see Shame, and he’s definitely the year’s rising male star, but is that, or his repressed Jung in A Dangerous Method, Oscar-able?
Susan: Clooney in The Descendants is the safest bet for now. And Pitt could easily be in there for Moneyball.
A Dangerous Method is proving to be a divisive film as some dismiss it as a talky bore while others embrace how it reveals the rift between these two fascinating men of the mind as they have a tug of war over a patient who is a key to both their theories. Still, Shame feels like the one that will place Fassbender in the race.
However, the more time goes by, the less The Ides of March feels like a generator of nominations. It’s well made but its script feels like it is five years out of date and its revelations about politicians are few.
So where will the other candidates come from? I wish Paul Giamatti could sneak in with Win Win but that feels like an Independent Spirit Award type situation. More likely is Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris, if the academy decides to reward Woody Allen‘s return to form — as well as Wilson’s own reawakening as an actor.
Leo in J. Edgar could go either way. I would feel more sure if this were a Scorsese film than an Eastwood. Tom Hanks in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close? Daniel Craig in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo? Gary Oldman — in the overdue club big time — for Tinker Tailor? All possible but mostly unseen.
And oui to Jean Dujardin for The Artist. He seems more likely than Ryan Gosling at this point.
Sasha: Hanks will be too small a part in Extremely Loud so, if anything, he goes supporting. And trust me, if the movie is as good as the screenplay it will rip your heart out.
The actors I’m thinking of right now are:
Clooney, The Descendants
Gary Oldman, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Michael Fassbender, Shame
Brad Pitt, Moneyball
Leonardo DiCaprio, J. Edgar
A pretty interesting list in that they’re all hotties. This would be a good year to institute The Oscar Hottie Calendar for Best Actor. But, in all seriousness, Gary Oldman is the one I think has the best chance to actually win. We have to see DiCaprio in J Edgar, of course. Way I figure it, if all of the Big Oscar Movies tank, as in, fail to live up to overhyped expectations, The Descendants will look better and better – Alexander Payne has never won a director/picture Oscar and if this were the Oscars old school, Payne would be finally due to win. After such a brilliant career with Election, Sideways, and About Schmidt, Payne is one of the most lauded directors who hasn’t yet been celebrated. If such turned out to be the case, if The Descendants pushed itself all the way through, it would drag Clooney along with it. That’s my theory anyway….loosely borrowed from Steve Pond.
Susan: The hottie Oscars? Why not objectify the men for a change, just like they did on The Emmys this week? I agree that The Descendants is the one that will most likely hang in there for the long awards season haul. It is Payne at his most grownup, which means his longtime fans might be disappointed. But those who bristled when Giamatti stole money from his mom in Sideways should be happy to see that Clooney’s character doesn’t do anything too unforgivable.
Your list probably is pretty right on, Sasha, but I can’t see the Academy resisting Dujardin’s performance. So one of those other names could fall out if their film doesn’t live up to expectations.
Sasha: Dujardin is the one I forgot – and how stupid of me! Why do I keep doing that? Okay, so let’s do this again:
Michael Fassbender is therefore the sixth but he might knock out one of the others. The question is: Which one?
Thelma: I have to acknowledge that A Dangerous Method is divisive, Susan, and that Fassbender is incredibly, intentionally chilly as Jung in that one, and he’s well-Jung. But, sight unseen, I’m wondering if Shame is just absolutely too hardcore. Someone said they loved his performance but they’re not sure if they actually met Fassbender, they’d ever want to shake his hand after watching that movie.
Also, does it hurt Oldman’s chances that I’m hearing that Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy doesn’t live up to the material and is confusing? I just watched the BBC six-parter and I was pleasantly confused — but cram it into two hours and I’m unpleasantly concerned. So Oldman could be getting the sight-unseen vote.
As for J. Edgar, I’m just totally wondering about Leo. He convinces me (Shutter Island, Inception) but he can be so boyish. I’m unconvinced of this casting, or if there’s any thing new to say about J. Edgar Hoover that doesn’t have him wearing stockings and garter belts. Or does he in this? I’m not even sure a switch from Eastwood to Scorsese could straighten this out for me.
So, Clooney has not been displaced — and Dujardin should be on the rise. The Artist could be helped by not being oversaturated too early. And Pitt is still in there for the Thelma & Louise, Pitt & Clooney fabulousness that will draw ratings
Any feelings about Gerard Butler? Or Dominic Cooper? If I was just picking best performance, I’d still stick with Cooper.
Susan: On Fassbender, Fox Searchlight bought that film to get him in the race and they are among the best at the awards game. Plus, his work all year long has been incredible, including Jane Eyre and X-Men.
And, yes, Thelma, Oldman might be hurt by what I have been hearing about the reception to Tinker, Tailor so far.
I, too, have qualms about J. Edgar and Leo’s appropriateness for the role. Of his roles of recent vintage, I was most impressed by The Departed , for which he was perfectly suited agewise and otherwise.
As for Cooper and Butler, they are getting much more positive feedback than their films. Sometimes that doesn’t matter but with this lineup it just might.
Thelma: I saw Machine Gun Preacher last night, Susan, and we can rule Butler out as a viable best actor contender.
Susan: Butler is impressive in Coriolanus, too, in a supporting role. So he gets the edge as a possible upset. And Ralph Fiennes also scores with Coriolanus as well though maybe not enough to make the final five.
Thelma: Are Shame and The Descendants both Fox Searchlight? If so, hmmm….it’s hard to run two best actors in a race. I remember last year when Harvey Weinstein threw Ryan Gosling under the bus in favor of the ultimate winner, Colin Firth in The King’s Speech. And, hey, I don’t want to muddy the waters even more, but did any of you see Rampart? Does Woody Harrelson stand a chance?
Sasha: It’s always hard to shove a contender into a race with so many strong lead players. So I figure it’s going to be harder for, say, Butler or Harrelson — hell, Tom Hardy is on the fringes, too, for Warrior, and we keep forgetting him. Hardy has a great shot at making the cut. But usually hope springs eternal this time of year and when the nominations start coming in (Globes, SAG) it all stops being surprising.