Yesterday Envelope /Gold Derby guy Tom O’Neil posted his choice for Best Actor front-runners at this stage of the game. I feel torn, as always, between pushing those performances in this category which I know are the “best” (i.e., the most striking, affecting, powerhouse-y, likely to be fondly remembered 20 years hence) and those that the Zelig crowd either thinks will win or needs to see win due to genetic tribal-current issues.
Right now HE’s most worthy contenders — comfort-seekers be damned — are, in this order, Colin Firth in A Single Man, Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker, Michael Stuhlbarg in A Serious Man, Nicolas Cage in Bad Lieutenant and a tie between Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart and Hal Holbrook in That Evening Sun (i.e., two gray-haired guys facing last-act issues). Every one of these performances is a major eye-opener and head-turner. On top of which Renner and Stuhlbarg are fashion models in the new Esquire (i.e., the one with the guaranteed-not-to-be-nominated-for-anything Robert Downey, Jr. on the cover).
But then basic human instinct (particularly the primal need to show obeisance before power) has to be factored in, which of course means stars (or bigger names) in this equation. I’m presuming that the Up In The Air current will carry George Clooney (who’s quite affecting as a sad flyaway guy) into contention, and that Morgan Freeman‘s Nelson Mandela in Invictus is almost certainly a nommie waiting to happen. Anyone who sees Nine will find themselves curiously drawn to Daniel Day Lewis‘s spell-like performance, so there’s a good to pretty good chance he’ll snag a nomination as well.
So blend these two together, think it all through and let the natural selection process manifest and you’re left with the following five contenders: Colin Firth in A Single Man, Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker, Michael Stuhlbarg in A Serious Man, Nicolas Cage in Bad Lieutenant and Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart. Big names don’t get a pass ’round these parts just because they’re big names. When Invictus starts to be shown this week and the calls start coming in about Freeman, we’ll see. I’d like to figure some way to wedge Holbrook in but I can’t figure a way.
Matt Damon‘s The Informant! character finally feels like more a sociopathic riddle or curiosity than a guy I understood and felt in a deep-down way. I haven’t seen Everybody’s Fine but my sense is that as touching and soulful as Robert De Niro may be in it, the film itself may be too much of a problem. Like others I respected but was never truly knocked down by Viggo Mortensen‘s performance in The Road.