Thursday, October 27, 2005

Surprise Actor Factor

My umpteenth post on the Best Actor race. My apologies:

If you ask people who is going to be competing in Oscar's Best Actor this year you'll hear these three names: Hoffman for Capote. Phoenix for Walk the Line. Ledger for Brokeback Mountain. It's only late October so no one is locked as much as expected to place at this point. Possible stumbling blocks? Hoffman is a supporting star (see Giamatti's surprise snub last year), Phoenix is not going to campaign (uh oh -they like gladhanding), and Ledger is a young pretty thing (and that naked gold man isn't gay --pretty and youthful only helps win "Oscar" over if you're an actress). So they all have hurdles, though all are still likely. From there it gets trickier. The other names you hear tossed around? Jones for Three Burials, Fiennes for something or other, Strathairn for Goodnight and Good Luck, Murphy for Breakfast on Pluto, Mortenson for A History of Violence, Crowe for Cinderella Man, Howard for Hustle & Flow, and Lane for The Producers some of which are clearly possible and some which feel absurd [at least to me] as competitors. But are there surprises in store?

5 Somewhat Under the Radar
Johnny Depp's last Oscar date came for one of his most underwhelming performances, Finding Neverland. That proves that he can just ride the newfound love. Can he coast into a third nomination for a more flamboyant performance in a far less palatable, less Oscar-bait film in The Libertine? Anthony Hopkins got good--and more importantly "warm"-- buzz for The World's Fastest Indian at Toronto. Then it seems like the film was going to 2006. Now it's competing with Tommy Lee Jones in the field of 'former winner getting a perfunctory one-week release in December to qualify'. Will it work? Eric Bana gets top billing in Munich. Hulk aside, both Troy and the Australian Chopper make him seem eminently nominatable at some point in the future. Is the future now? Spielberg films aren't really great at getting acting Oscars, though. Jeff Daniels' fantastic work in The Squid and the Whale could encounter the problems that derailed Jeff Bridges for a similar role last year. How do you get nominated while starring in a small film and superbly playing a horrible person who doesn't happen to be a villain, doesn't have a disability, and doesn't come from a bio-pic. It's tough to do. Still, Daniels has never had his due and if they're feeling generous it could happen. And finally, we conclude with George Clooney. It's not like people aren't talking about Clooney. But they're talking about him as a filmmaker. As an actor he still doesn't have that much respect beyond 'has good taste'. Could Syriana change that?

20 comments:

Kris said...

I don't really see much of an argument that any of these are under the radar. Especially Clooney and Bana.

Gerard said...

I love this year's Best Actor race. Packed to the brim with contenders but apart from Hoffman and Phoenix, everyone clearly has major factors working against them (though Ledger keeps returning to my predix).

I think Clooney is really one to watch. WB clearly has faith in the film. He's having a tremendous year and we know he'll get cited for acting eventually. The role is very baity and the category needs a "movie star". In fact, if nominated, I think he's a real threat to win (don't see him winning anything for GNaGL).

Depp would make perfect sense but I think the film is likely to get mediocre reviews and bomb at the box office. He needs an early mention, like the NBR.

Bana's question is how strong will his role be. Spielberg, Kushner and the subject matter could easily be considered "stars" before him and only 3 Spielberg films have ever received lead acting nods. But the premise on the Universal FYC site and the international poster really make it seem like it could be a showcase.

I also think you're underestimating Crowe, Nat. Bad press or not, that was a very Oscartastic performance from someone whose choices of films is clearly making him one of "the" great actors of his generation. Not to mention Universal's "in your face campaign", and he's really the selling point of the film. I can't see him not factoring into the race at all.

I think...
1/2) Hoffman/Phoenix
3) Ledger

4) Clooney
5) Crowe

6) Strathairn
7) Bana

8) Jones
9) Lane
10) Depp
11) Murphy
12) Howard
13) Mortensen
14) Fiennes (simply not enough passion for CG; no buzz on Countess, even now that it's premiered)

I'm confident the nominees will come from these 14.

david m said...

The reason I'm desperate to find out ANYTHING about White Countess is that if Fiennes delivers a solid performance there his work in GoF, CG and W&G plus his status as the only Brit in the race could propel him to the win.

But still nothing??!!??

NATHANIEL R said...

kris, i mean under the radar in terms of most people's predictions. They aren't the 5 names that keep cropping up. Of course there's about 20 names that are listed here and there

true under-the-radar rarely exists since there are dozens of media outlets that cover Oscar potential and it usually involves being from a foreign film that nobody knows is coming out.

NATHANIEL R said...

gerard,
i honestly don't see how, in a competitive field, Crowe could overcome the problems he's had this year combined with the problems the film has had. Unless they're just voting for him now on a knee-jerk basis. Which might be conceivable except for the nagging fact that he missed out on what should have been an easier nomination in 2003.

he stars in a film that lost money that is not an arthouse film (money matters if its a big studio film)
he had another embarrasing meltdown (like when he lost the Oscar after that fight in Britain at the Baftas)
he didn't seem apologetic about it.
he whined even further about it publicly when the case kept dragging on and made childish remarks about 'i know when i'm not wanted' and threatening to not work here anymore.

this type of behavior is not usually awarded with a lot of peer love. Chances are many of his peers think he's kind of an asshole (since many people do in general). And if they think that, than it takes a major performance to get nominated. Was Cinderella Man really considered one of his great performances? I would wager no.

certainly people liked him in it. But liking a movie star in a film that wants Oscars is very different than voting for a movie star when there's 14 other choices.

Gerard said...

Crowe's work in CM is not considered one of his greatest, no. But it's definately very well received and more Oscarish than his (better, IMO) turn in M&C. And that would have been a 4th nod in 5 years- almost unheard of.
The BFCA worships the guy and the HFPA is in need of stars this year, so I think he has fantastic chances at both those nods(especially considering the Globes really dig Ron Howard-directed performances and have a chance to nominate their beloved Renee in the vacant Dramatic lead Actress category).
That would automatically make him a contender. Makes a lot more sense to me than Fiennes in Constant Gardener anyway (the sort of actor's film the tech branches like, especially seeing Focus' MVP in this category will obviously be Ledger).
He may not get nominated. I only have him at #5 and don't think he'll get a SAG nod. But he definately ought to be higher than he currently is on your charts, IMO.

And the lack of buzz on The White Countess saddens me, considering it really ought to be a good film.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I think Terrence Howard has much more chance of being nominated than Crowe.

Like Nat said, Crowe is an unrepentant asshole. I suspect there will be a large bloc of AMPAS voters voting on an ABC ("Anyone But Crowe") ticket, just so they don't have to see this guy at the ceremony. Which means actors that may seem to be lacking "buzz" right now, are in a strong position to capitalise.

Howard seems to be majorly loved in Hollywood at the moment. Hustle and Flow didn't become a breakout/crossover hit, but it made good money. And I think Howard will get a lot of Critics Awards love. I totally see him being one of the pleasant "surprise" nominations, that nobody thought likely (ie Samantha Morton in In America). Fiennes could benefit from being underestimated as well.

Anonymous said...

AMPAS has proven in the past that they can nominate people from "gritty" films so I think Howard could indeed suprise with a nomination.

But I still just want my man Heath to get nominated. I think that'd be the funniest thing of the year if it happened. HEATH LEDGER. And playing a "gay coyboy" no less.

Bana could also be nominated (I'm thinking he will) and that would just be so bizarre. Growing up with Ledger and Bana in the projects they did and now oscars? Hilarious.

My nods at the current time?
Bana
Hoffman
Howard
Ledger
Phoenix

On the matter of Howard again, I think he could make it because... there are no African-American possibilities in ANY category apart from him and Thandie Newton. In the interest of racial diversity, The Academy may wish to keep their current streek going by nominating Howard (or Newton?)

Can I also just make a quick little observation while we're discussing Oscar. Has anyone noticed that all the ads for Crash as well as the DVD Box now has an image of Thandie Newton and Matt Dillon on it? It's no longer the locksmith dude (can't remember his name) and his daughter. ...i thought that was interesting.

-Glenn

david m said...

Here's a fairly cursory but generally positive review of White Countess from a site that has lots of similarly sketchy reviews. Not that helpful, but it's something.

www.backrowreviews.com/

He has Countess on his 2005 top ten thus far with a B- grade... he seldom gives out an A (a good thing). Of the 2005 movies he's seen he ranks it ahead of Jarhead, Walk The Line, Family Stone, Constant Gardener, Crash, History of Violence and behind Good Night and Good Luck (of the movies currently getting the major Oscar buzz)

Unfortunately his review doesn't say much beyond the synopsis we already know.

He does mention "a tastefully restrained performance by Ralph Fiennes."

NATHANIEL R said...

while i generally trust people who don't give out As frequently (this is the main reason i think Ebert is washed up. He thinks every new release is a 4 star classic)... this guy is certifiable.

i can't trust his top ten placement for White Countess because he has one of the most forgettable, dull animated movies Robots ahead of it. And 40 year old virgin near his bottom ten list. whatup with that? show some respect when a raunchy comedy is actually smart and funny as opposed to plainly juvenile and sloppy. reviewers who can't tell the difference? i don't trust 'em.

david m said...

yes, "certifiable" did come to mind

oh well, waiting on the next one...

JavierAG said...

oh how I long for the days of Pauline Kael... love her or hate her, she was a joy to read (the bitch... ha). She was great.

and now ebert is america's best-known critic. bah.

JavierAG said...

btw i've just read some reviews of that guy who saw "The White Countess", and he gave an F to "Kill Bill" and a C- to "Eternal Sunshine", among other atrocities. now if you're a great critic you might be able to get away with this untouched, but when you lack a sense of humor and don't seem to know what you're talking about like this guy here, you'd better stop embarrassing yourself in public.

Anonymous said...

See, I really like Ebert. I think his reviews are great and he geniunely has a love of cinema and he gets excited about great movies. He always rights great reviews, positive or not.

But, seriously, he gave three movies 4 stars last week. North Country, GN&GL and Capote.

But then, I also think it has to do with the fact that FOUR STAR RATING SYSTEMS ARE ATROCIOUS

(who ever came up with the 4 star system needs to get their head examined)

-Glenn

tim r said...

Briefly got to meet Howard at a Hustle & Flow party in London last night. That is one cool cat. My thinking is he may get a supporting nod for Crash as a consolation prize for this category being so darn busy. The pimp thing will just be too much of a turn-off for most voters.

I reckon it's Hoffman, Phoenix, Strathairn, Ledger and Fiennes, at this stage, with Lane elbowing his way in later if The Producers is any good at all.

NATHANIEL R said...

but if the 4 star system is what you choose. good movies deserve 3 stars. plain and simple. I will never hear an argument for North Country that is trustworthy that doesn't recognize its considerable flaws. Even people who like it (to each their own) ought to have their heads examined if they think it deserves any "highest" rating.

ugh.

Anonymous said...

Someone somewhere mentioned that almost always one of the five best actor nominees is a past winner.

Now that Penn is out that leaves Russell Crowe, Tommy Lee Jones (supporting) and Anthony Hopkins as the only three being mentioned as possibilities.

But what about Adrien Brody in King Kong? Now that WOULD be a surprise.

The trailer focuses on Jack Black and Naomi Watts, but in the original Bruce Cabot played Jack Driscoll and had a lot of screen time. He was the third party in the love triangle with Fay Wray and Kong. He was the romantic leading man.

Some people are starting to talk about Kong in terms of Titanic and RofK. Both of those had major romantic leading men helping build box office, Neither Dicaprio nor Mortenson got nominated, but they weren't past winners.

Just a thought.

javi said...

...and an interesting thought at that

Anonymous said...

Where did you find it? Interesting read » » »

Anonymous said...

What a great site » » »