This field remains WIDE OPEN. Here are the first five front-runners:
Christopher Plummer, Beginners; Albert Brooks, Drive; Viggo Mortensen, A Dangerous Method; Nick Nolte, Warrior; and David Thewlis, Warhorse
There’s a big push for Plummer to get that lifetime achievement Oscar. Makes me wanna sing: “How do you solve a problem like Maria?”
So Plummer has a lock on the deserving geezer slot. Brooks may be hurt that there is no Drive juggernaut, same with Nolte and Warrior. In the first case, it’s Brooks playing against type, in the second it’s an actor humanizing a type he’s played before. I like both performances. And then there’s Viggo: we’ve yet to see the general reaction to Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method, but Mortensen’s is a wily performance and he keeps his clothes on and cravat tied. (Does one tie a cravat?). I’ve yet to see Thewlis in Warhorse, and there’s no reason to rush to judgment. He was good in Harry Potter — a movie that’s bursting with supporting actor roles. Say, hey, didn’t we all want more Alan Rickman? But it’s almost like you’d have to string his performance end to end to get the meat of it.
What about throwing out some new names: Vincent Cassel, short but sweetest in A Dangerous Method; Jonah Hill, Moneyball; will see Kenneth Branagh with My Week with Marilyn; hearing great buzz on Hugo, which makes Sir Ben Kingsley rise and yet and yet; freakish hope for Rob Brydon in The Trip, and his endlessly supporting role to Steve Coogan. And, let’s see, Jim Broadbent, Potter alum, playing Mr. Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady.
What does our brain trust think? C’mon down, gf’s.
Susan Wloszczyna: Next to Clint Eastwood, Capt. Von Trapp is just about the sexiest octogenarian still making movies. He was great in The Insider and fine in The Last Station, but there is a reason he has gone Oscar-less this long: His career in movies pales next to his stage work. True, they gave Helen Hayes a gold guy late in life. But it isn’t the same as Glenn Close never winning.
But he does have an ace in the hole beyond his terrific role in Beginners: What can be a killer role as the family elder haunted by his long missing daughter in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Is he a shoo-in to win, though? Not necessarily.
One could argue that Albert Brooks should have won for Broadcast News — Sean Connery won because he acted his age minus the rug. So this could be a makeup to him, even if the movie is less than loved by the general public.
I would have given it to Viggo for A History of Violence, but he wasn’t even nominated. He makes for a wily Freud and love how he fondles his cigars, but I don’t think it is strong enough for a win. A nom? Perhaps.
I can’t see anyone from the Potter film making the cut. But Branagh getting back in the awards game would be sweet to see — especially since he was supposed to be the new Olivier long ago.
Nick Nolte? Another nice comeback and a nearly subtle performance for him, but first someone has to watch the film.
But without having seen J. Edgar, Tattoo, War Horse, Extremely Loud, Hugo, etc., it is hard to guess at such a ill-informed stage.
Sasha Stone: Supposedly Max Von Sydow is great in Loud and Close and if so, he’ll walk away with it. Albert Brooks has made it known on Twitter that he wants to win (he was probably joking). There is probably a reason Christopher Plummer hasn’t yet won on screen, like there was a reason Lauren Bacall never did. He’s such a good actor. If he’s ever going to win one, though, he’ll win for Beginners, don’t you think?
Max Von Sydow
Von Sydow wins. Best guess right now.
SUSAN: I would give it to Max, too, performance unseen. He should have gotten one for Hannah and The Exorcist let alone his Bergman classics.
Oh, and Mr. Brooks wants to win. He even stuck a fork in it.
THELMA: Sasha’s right: in this category, we still have too many gaps in knowledge, although I think we’ve covered pretty much what we’ve seen so far in 2011. Is there a problem when an actor wants the Oscar so badly — you should look like you want it, and shake every old Academy member’s hand, and yet be humble, and praise every body else. It’s such an act — and Colin Firth nailed it last year.
SASHA: It’s a careful line to walk. You can’t look too desperate (although Melissa Leo kind of did last year and won anyway) but you can’t ignore it either. You have to just be everywhere and always look good (if you’re a woman) and always be charming and affable if you’re a man. Albert Brooks will need to be out there among them. Some performers really are above that. Peter
O’Toole, Max Von Sydow. But the rest of them need to do the monkey dance. Kate Winslet did it well. Marion Cotillard. Mo’Nique did it without showing up anywhere. The one I’m impressed with most so far this season is Viola Davis, who always looks great whenever she goes out in public – and, might I say, is built like a brick house. She needs to work that body like Helen Mirren did. Smile, laugh, act easy and breezy. Never let them see you sweat.
But to answer your question, it is considered uncouth to blatantly want an Oscar. The only time I’ve seen it pay off is when they forced Kate Winslet to say she wanted it, finally, after years of acting humble and waiting for her win.
Anne Thompson: Albert Brooks gets points for leaving what people consider to be his comedic safe zone by doing a villain. He is a trained actor.
Need to see Max Von Sydow in Extremely loud–depends on how much screen time he has. Christopher Plummer is in. Jonah Hill is probably in, too.
THELMA: Definitely points to Brooks. He goes very far afield for Brooks — some thing that can’t be said of Carey Mulligan in Drive. I’m wondering if Hanks can wring a supporting nomination out of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, even after that abomination of a directing-star turn in Larry Crowne. Can any one ever take him seriously again after he wore that scooter helmet?
SUSAN: Meryl Streep has blatantly said she wants a third helping of Oscar goodness over and over again. Of course in the most self deprecating and humorous way possible. Maybe this year she won’t say it and they will hand her the trophy just to spite her.
Albert Brooks is even more adept at being funny about such matters so doubt it will blow up in his face. Of course, if you can act like you don’t want an Oscar and make it seem believable, then that is the kind of acting that deserves an Oscar.
Two that couldn’t be believably humble enough to win: Sharon Stone in Casino and Madonna in Evita, who didn’t even get nominated. Chill Wills still stands as the most obnoxious campaigner ever for The Alamo.
THELMA: Hill, huh?
SUSAN: Yes, Hill. Especially if the film hangs in there at the box office. Although he might Norbit his chances away with The Sitter.
THELMA: The Sitter looks DESPERATE. A Norbit. Is that now a term we can use, like jumping the shark? Pulling a Norbit, an obit for an Oscar.
Has any one heard if Eye of the Storm, which was at TIFF, will have a US release? I’m hearing hot on Judy Davis — and also Geoffrey Rush in what could be a supporting.
ANNE: No buzz on Eye of the Storm as far as I know. Simultaneously texting with my daughter in China! If Warrior hadn’t tanked would have said Nick Nolte was a possible long shot.
SASHA: I kind of feel like Moneyball is going to do a lot better than my colleagues seem to think it will. On the other hand it could sink like a stone too. I think it’s gonna depend on how much money it makes. It is helped along by the wonderful night of baseball seen last week: baseball fever.
Albert Brooks should have won for Broadcast News. His character goes to the dark side, which can often translate into an Oscar win, Denzel Washington for instance. The only thing about his performance is that it could lose to a more touchy/feely performance because his doesn’t have a transformation. He is just this mean guy who kills people. So a win for him would be love for him, not love for his character (it’s ideal if you can have both – like Alan Arkin).
ANNE People forget Brooks was in Taxi Driver. He’s popular here. Moneyball will stay the course, I think. Very well liked.
I like Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Ides of March. Kris Tapley thinks its George Clooney supporting.
SASHA: I like Hoffman in Ides but better in Moneyball. I’m with Kris on that – if you have to choose one I’d pick Clooney there. But I’m worried Ides will open to not so great reviews. If that happens I don’t know if it will make the cut for Best Pic but I’m assuming, for now, that it will. The weird way they’re choosing Best Pic this year makes it completely unpredictable. We don’t know how many they’ll choose but Steve Pond says it’s going to be closer to five than to ten. So if it’s down to five, Ides won’t get in. If there were ten it would for sure.
Brooks is great in Taxi Driver…He’s also done so much throughout his whole career – his own directing, and now his book, which Academy members are probably all reading. I was totally on the Brooks train until I saw him on Twitter talking about his Oscar rankings, which one would hope he wasn’t paying attention to.
Like Melissa Leo last year, the whole process exposes such hypocrisy — everyone wants an Oscar and yet to actively campaign for one lowers your status for such.
ANNE: There’s also Brad Pitt for The Tree of Life in supporting as a possiblity.
THELMA: As much as there’s a lead in that movie, I think it’s Pitt. Sean Penn would be supporting if he made any sense.
ANNE: i love Hoffman in Moneyball but he doesn’t have a big scene. It’s missing. Kenneth Branagh in My Week with Marilyn has good buzz too.
SASHA: We keep forgetting Kenneth Branagh. I knew I was forgetting a big one. Also overdue.
THELMA: Seeing that today. Early buzz is that it’s lighter than expected but that may be a good thing. Does every body feel that Carnage has dropped out of the supporting categories as people are seeing it…in this case Chris Waltz and JC Reilly?
SUSAN: Carnage does seem to be living up to his name. We mentioned Branagh early on in this thread. And, Sasha, Brooks is mocking himself with those references on Twitter. If Melissa Leo expressed her neediness with half as much wit as he does, I wouldn’t be cringing every time I see her on screen now.
SASHA: Oh, God, do you cringe every time you see Melissa Leo? Poor Melissa Leo. I should say, rather, I keep forgetting about Kenneth Branagh. Meanwhile, as an aside, I am reading Charlie Kaufman’s new script – Frank or Francis — and it’s all about the whole circus of Oscarwatching. The critics, the bloggers, the commentators, the Oscars themselves, the contenders: It’s pretty surreal to read that and then go back to commenting as though we are all characters in his screenplay!
SUSAN: But is it less healthy than all those pre-game and post-game sports analysts talking endlessly about each player’s health and mental issues and every team’s strengths and weaknesses?
As for Leo, I realized I developed a post-Oscar allergy to her after watching Treme, Mildred Pierce and the dreadful Seven Days in Utopia — the last one especially.
THELMA: I have to recuse myself on Melissa Leo: I am a staunch supporter. Loved her in Frozen River, The Fighter, and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada…When I see you write Leo, Susan, I immediately think DiCaprio, to whom I”m often allergic.
I would love to read CK’s script, Sasha. I like that meta awareness. You’re so meta! So is CK – and he’s also cranky and funny. And Susan’s right: think of this as our Sports Night.
I’m following Brooks — but not all that closely — so I’ll have to shift my awareness there. And I bet Film District will really rally behind him as the movie Drive hits a speed bump. (How many awful puns can I develop for that movie!)
And here’s my next question for us here: what defines a winner in this category? We’ve definitely touched on that. Take a Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds: 1. he stole the movie from the lead. 2. he played a monster. 3. He had a number of bravura scenes, starting with the long, long opening in the cottage with the Jews beneath the floor, not to mention the apple tart and whipped cream scene. 4. Every time he was on the screen, the movie lifted, deepened, got more interesting. 5. But, notably, he didn’t transform as a character – he lost the upper hand but he didn’t have a character arc.
Oh, and regarding CK and his script, he took his losses really hard in the past. He’s not one that suffers any situation lightly. I love him, but he definitely has Napoleon issues.
SASHA: Christoph Waltz was just plain brilliant in that part. But I also believe he won “for the movie” as Alan Arkin did for Little Miss Sunshine. Therein lies Albert Brooks’ big problem: it is all on him and how people feel about him – it helps that he’s great in the part. But if there is a supporting actor who can win “for the movie” like, say, Von Sydow for Loud and Close or whatever, they have that advantage. Tilda Swinton/Michael Clayton kind of thing.
As for Mr. Kaufman – the Oscars themselves are made to look ridiculous. I’m guessing that this is Kaufman’s beautiful rendering of the hit he took after Synecdoche came out and wasn’t embraced the way his other scripts were. Kaufman was an online god during Eternal Sunshine. Believe me, that fan base took over my whole website and that was all we talked about for a whole year and almost a year after that. But Synecodche couldn’t get arrested. So the Kaufman character (Frank) must atone for that lack of want — he definitely has to own his own ego bruising – he sings about wanting the public’s love for the decade and stuff like that. It’s great. Again, no one gets out of this thing unscathed — and certainly people like James Rocchi who constantly bag on Oscar bloggers. The script doesn’t condemn Oscar bloggers so much as it condemns the medium that allows for this blind anger to play itself out on message boards and in comments sections. And if someone like Rocchi can’t see how universal it all is – how there aren’t good and bad critics/bloggers/commentators – but just varying degrees of goodness and badness in all of us — then he needs to evolve a few years and then get back to me.
Frank or Francis is one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever read and again, I know I sound like one of the characters in it when I say that.. But if it’s dull, take it out. I hate myself.
THELMA: I think it’s lively and rich and insider back-story — and that’s why I want to keep it in. I learned from Tom O’Neill that controversy attracts interest, but I want to see if just being interesting, smart, disagreeing, goofing and “owning our shit,” will also bring viewers into our circle. I think it will. And controversy when it’s not handled in a “Jane, you ignorant slut” wrapper.
Synedoche was a sometimes brilliant, sometimes banal mess. Truth. Word. (My kids HATE when I talk out of my generational cage).
SUSAN: In years where one film dominates the Oscar race like a Return of the King or a Titanic, a high tide raises all ships — and most of the nominees translate into winners as a result. But not necessarily acting nominees — usually a best actor win is one of the best bellwethers for whether a movie gets best picture.
But this year feels scattershot given what has been seen so far. Could one of those December movies suddenly become the one like Million Dollar Baby? Who knows? But it does feel like a year where a win in one of the major categories will honor the whole movie.
As good as Christoph Waltz was in Basterds, he was equally good at giving a series of semi-obtuse yet charming acceptance speeches that hinged on some sort of metaphor. Given how long the season goes on and how many of these events are televised, sometimes the performance on TV is of equal weight to that of the one in the film.
Just reading about this Kaufman script makes it sound personally interesting to me — but sounds a little inside baseball, too.
THELMA: Yes. And it really appeals to me. OK, Oscar’s Angels, that’s a wrap….until the next time.