I’ll just say this, I actually really respect and kind of love this lineup. For a refresher, this is what was nominated:
I know that there was a lot to choose from, and only two of these actually make my personal top twelve (only one makes my ballot) there is no denying that all of these performances (minus one, but we’ll get to that) are respectable and deserving in their own rights, regardless of our thoughts on the films themselves. I mean, to fault Von Sydow, who pulls out a tremendously heartfelt performance, simply because ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’, as a whole was a force-fed mess would be sad.
So, we’ll get that ‘one’ out of the way first.
I don’t see why Jonah Hill was nominated. I mean, I see why. His film was raved. He was in a Best Picture nominee. His reviews were very strong. It was an ‘against type’ role for him. He has friends in the industry and he really proved he can do more than raunchy comedy. The problem is, his character has no arc. There really is nothing there to nominate. He has good chemistry with Pitt, but he doesn’t build a character. He’s more like a well-used prop. It’s not a bad performance at all, but there is no passion there; nothing to really remember.
The rest here, though, are a different story.
Von Sydow is truly heartbreaking. He never utters a single word and yet he truly manages to convey so much emotion. His scene when he’s hearing about the voice messages made me bawl like a baby. “Please Stop”. UGH! He’s just so intense without ever once overplaying a single moment. His nominated was a complete surprise, since he basically showed up nowhere all season long, and yet I can’t fault it at all. It added to an already solid lineup.
Branagh was also really good. I kind of loved his take on Olivier. He nailed the self-centered egotism while always hinting at something more underneath. He actually gave more depth to his performance than Michelle Williams did, showing us so much of Olivier without throwing it in our faces. I loved the way he laced his scenes with humor, but never once mocked his subject. It is a truly meticulous performance and yet he was easy, natural, confident.
But Nolte and Plummer are in a different league. This is coming from the guy who constantly debates Nolte’s actual talent because his approach to acting is often so hammy and off-putting. Not the case here. In ‘Warrior’ he is raw and powerful and truly embodies such rugged humanity. His breakdown in the hotel after his relapse is remarkably played. He could have easily gone overboard and used hysterics to become a cliché, but he held back just enough to make his performance feel so authentic. I said all season, I was FLOORED that he was not the frontrunner because the role is just such an AMPAS hot-spot. He was beat out by Plummer, who had such a different role. He was soft and intimate and subtle and just so delightful. The way he groomed this character from start to finish was outstanding, delivering a powerful look at a man coming to terms with the ‘beginning’ of his new life.
I’d rank them as follows:
3) Von Sydow
Careers are fun because these guys (at least four of them) have relatively GREAT ones. Hill is a newbie to the game, but he’s built a solid resume for himself by actually starring in commendable comedies, and he’s building on his range every year.
Plummer has been respected for years and has starred in a slew of great films, but general consensus on his career is that it is just now hitting its peak. It’s is a surprising statistic, since age is rarely kind of actors, but I think that it is true. While he has noteworthy performances in films like ‘The Sound of Music’, he has kind of always been under the radar until recent years when he’s kind of been everywhere.
Branagh is known for one really big thing, Shakespeare, and he does it really well. I find him somewhat one-note, but he plays that note well. His strengths also bleed into directing, which I may be tempted to say he does better than acting. I mean, in all honesty I’d say that ‘My Week With Marilyn’ is his finest screen performance, and that says a lot.
I’ve said a little on Nolte already. I mean, I really like some of his work. ‘Affliction’, ‘Cape Fear’, ‘Warrior’, ‘Clean’…so rich with development, but for every ‘Clean’ there is a ‘Prince of Tides’ which is so overblown I want to puke. He gives me a headache. At least he’s more consistent than Nicolas Cage, who suffers from lack of emotion. Nolte tends to have too much emotion.
But really, is there any doubt who the victor is here.
Yeah, he wins at life for practically being Ingmar Bergman’s muse for the 50’s and 60’s. Like, the man has turned in more Oscar worthy performances than this entire list has in their entire careers.
So, career wise, I’d rank them:
1) Von Sydow
And, here is my personal ballot:
The 1991 and 2009 ballots should be up by Monday!