I was asked a couple of weeks ago if I think Garrett Hedlund‘s performance as Neal Casady/Dean Moriarty in Walter SallesOn The Road is an award-calibre thing. In a sense, certainly. But in reality, not quite. For as good as he is (and I think Hedlund easily matches or even slightly surpasses Nick Nolte‘s performance as the same guy in 1980’s Heart Beat), the competition is too tough. Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor are brutal fields this year. But first-rate work is its own reward as it leads to other good things.

Same thing when it comes to Kristen Stewart‘s performance as Marylou. It’s great to see her kick back and get sensual in a meditative art film that exudes soul and swoon and pastoral splendor and real-deal undercurrents instead of…you know, phoning in a Twilight or Snow White performance. She’s starred in indies before but never one as good as On The Road. But her role isn’t big enough or strongly written enough to win special attention. It would be one thing if she was playing “the” supporting actress role (as Sissy Spacek did in Heart Beat), but she isn’t — Kirsten Dunst is also in the mix. And Best Supporting Actress competish is fierce: Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables), Sally Field (Lincoln), Helen Hunt (The Sessions), Amy Adams (The Master), Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook), Ann Dowd (Compliance), Susan Sarandon (Arbitrage).