About three hours ago I had a nice easy chat with Albert Brooks, whose sardonic and malevolent performance as a former exploitation film producer-turned-“bad guy” resulted yesterday in three Best Supporting Actor awards from the Boston Film Critics Society, the New York Film Critics Online and the San Francisco Critics Circle. Add these to his New York Film Critics Circle win in the same category two weeks ago, and he’s surely a lock for an Academy Award nomination. Right now it’s Brooks vs. Christopher Plummer, I’d say.

Albert Brooks (photo not taken by yours truly)

Seriously — we had a really good discussion about this and that and whatever else. It goes on for about 35 minutes and is highly recommended.

Last June I wrote that Brooks “is deliciously direct in Drive — cynical, snarly, smart-mouthed. And yet good-humored at times. His Bernie Rose, a former schlock movie producer, is one of those tasty-ironic characters, mostly ‘written’, of course, but also a series of riffs and rim-shots that Brooks seems to have co-written or half-improvised as he went along.

“Bernie doesn’t like mincing words and futzing around with low-lifes but he does enjoy wordplay on a certain level and reflecting on the past, etc. He’s crafty and cunning and straight…and so corrupted he’s lost sight of whatever he might have been in the ’80s. I wish the script could have given Brooks/Bernie just a bit more humor and meditation (and less in the way of artery-slicing), but what’s there is fine, quite fine.”

The Drive guys in this testimonial video are very taken with the menacing quality of Brooks’ performance, but I think that people are voting for him because he’s simply delicious in the film, and because people have liked and admired him since the mid ’70s and all that. It’s fun to watch him play dark and bad, but he’s too embedded in our consciousness as a brilliant comic auteur to be fully accepted as the guy he’s inhabiting in Drive. Which isn’t to take anything away from the performance — it’s just that Brooks-the-comic-legend is bigger. A vote for Brooks is a vote for Brooks, and that’s a good thing.