Monday, October 15, 2012

A Closer Look: 2011 Lead Actor

So next up in the Closer Look series is 2011 Lead Actor.  Almost done here.  After this we’ll do 2011 Lead Actress and then it’ll be a wrap up on Oscar updates and then I’ll be gone for three weeks!  I hope you guys have had fun reading these write ups.  I have a lot planned for mid-November, so be sure to check back!
So, refresher…here are the Oscar nominees:

This lineup really shows the power of word of mouth and friends in high places.  Both Bichir and Oldman were nominated with minimal precursor support (Bichir had SAG and Oldman had BAFTA) while DiCaprio (SAG, Globe, BFCA) and Fassbender (BAFTA, Globe, BFCA) were both snubbed.  Bichir had actors going to bat for him much like Bardem did in 2010, and he had viewing parties for his film, so his nomination isn’t that shocking (SAG means a lot), but it is still bizarre that DiCaprio and Fassbender were both snubbed in favor of him.  At least it’s shocking at first glance.  When you take another look it makes more sense.  ‘J. Edgar’ got awful reviews, and ‘Shame’ was all about sex, which is (at times) an Oscar taboo. 
Dujardin, Pitt and Clooney were solid from the beginning and they rode that wave all the way to nominations.  They were also the only three with any shot at winning the gold, and while Pitt didn’t pick up anything outside of some critics wins, I have a feeling he was closer to the gold than we think.  Clooney may have the Globe and the BFCA, but Pitt was winless at the time and had the reviews of his career.  I have a feeling he may have actually been our runner up.
As far as performances are concerned, this is a decent enough lineup.  Pitt and Dujardin are leagues above the rest though.  Dujardin especially carried his film from start to finish and really used every ounce of his charisma he possessed in order to pull out a brilliant performance that MADE HIS FILM WORK.  Pitt etched out a real man in ‘Moneyball’, which was something I really admired.  He found subtle ways to make his character feel full of life and soul and he managed to balance out all avenues of his life in order to create a complete picture.  The reviews that call this his finest performance in years were right.  He broke completely away from the ‘celebrity’ and gave us a real full bodied actor.
Bichir and Oldman are also both really good in their respective films.  They are both similar in that they deliver more quiet and subtle performances.  There are no outbursts, no theatrics.  Bichir has that one money scene with his son at the end of the film, but other than that he portrays a regular man.  He is soft spoken and determined to make a living and better his life and the life of his son, but other than that it is a very straight forward performance.  Oldman is the same in that he delivers a somewhat ‘still’ performance.  He develops a lot in the window of his face though, etching out a backstory that isn’t told in any exact way and so he really relies heavily on his eyes and the crevices in his mouth to show the audience exactly what is going through his mind.
Clooney phones it in in a pretty big way, and while he sells the scene in the hospital with his wife, the rest of the performances is about as vapid and lazy as the film itself.
1)      Dujardin
2)      Pitt
3)      Bichir
4)      Oldman
5)      Clooney
Gaging their careers is rather easy.  You can rule out Dujardin and Bichir for me since I’ve only seen them in their respective Oscar vehicles (I’ve seen Bichir in a few more films, but I don’t remember him much in them).  It really boils down to Clooney, Oldman and Pitt.
Oldman is one of those actors that I don’t love as much as everyone else.  I respect some of his 80’s and 90’s work (most notably ‘Dracula’ and ‘Sid and Nancy’) but I also find the devotion to him by fellow actors and cinephilles to be a tad odd.  I mean, he’s good, but is he really THAT good?  I’ve never given him a win for anything, but he gets a few nominations.  His career is certainly respectable, and he’s shown a great deal of range, but overall he hasn’t deserved the unanimous praise he’s received, at least not in my eyes.  Clooney is an actor who I once adored and have grown to merely tolerate.  He’s become lazy, resting on his current fame.  His 90’s and early 00’s work was respectable, and I find him to be a far more convincing comedian than dramatic actor (in drama he tends to play the same character and same set of emotions over and over).  The only Oscar nomination a respect for him is ‘Michael Clayton’, and even then he only makes my top twelve.  I wouldn’t nominate him.  He gets one nomination from me, in 2000 for ‘O’ Brother, Where Art Thou?’, which I consider his finest performance to date.
So, I think the easy winner here for me is Brad Pitt.  I think that Pitt, like DiCaprio, is one of those actors who is dismissed by many who aren’t really familiar with their filmography as a mere pretty boy and not a serious actor.  Thankfully, they have delivered enough praise worthy performances to have the minds of many changed.  Pitt is actually one of my favorite actors and for big reasons.  He has such range.  His 90’s work is extraordinary.  From the minute he popped on the screen as Thelma’s one night stand in ‘Thelma & Louise’, he’s been on fire.  He racks up Fisti mentions for a number of performances in the 90’s, from ‘Legends of the Fall’ to ‘Se7en’ to ‘Fight Club’, and even when he isn’t nominated he’s top twelve material more often than not (‘Babel’, ‘Burn after Reading’, 'Moneyball', ‘The Tree of Life’).  He matches his charisma and sex appeal with true depth of talent and emotional range.
I love him.
1)      Pitt
2)      Oldman
3)      Clooney
4)      Dujardin (based on the power of this particular performance)
5)      Bichir
And, for the record, these are the Fisti Nominees!!!


  1. I was never a big fan of Oldman, until I saw State of Grace earlier this year. His performance in that prompted me to see more of his work, and I'm now a huge fan. Not only was I thrilled that he finally got nominated, but I'd give him 3 wins (Sid and Nancy, State of Grace, Leon: The Professional). Glad he received a few Fisti nods at least.

    Love that McGregor and Shannon got nominations. They'd make my longlist, as would Fassbender.

    Right now, my lineup is:

    1. Ryan Gosling, Drive
    2. Jean Dujardin, The Artist
    3. Woody Harrelson, Rampart
    4. Peter Mullan, Tyrannosaur
    5. Ralph Fiennes, Coriolanus

    1. I wasn't that impressed with Fiennes as a whole, although some of his scenes I thought were stellar. But Coriolanus isn't a film I really connected to overall either.

      I haven't seen Rampart.

      Gosling and Mullan make my long list, which should be up tomorrow on the Fisti pages ;-)

    2. I loved Coriolanus, but fair enough.

      See Rampart. The film is divisive, but most agree that Harrelson gives a stellar performance.

    3. I have heard that Harrelson is amazing in Rampart. I really need to see it!