I never saw Paul Giamatti as a truly Oscar deserving actor, but I also never felt that he was bad in any way. His acting style is very specific, and in my opinion, it was best summed in the sixth episode of Last Comic Standing this year by James Adomian. His latest film, Barney's Version, never seemed like an awards grab, but I respect it as a Paul Giamatti vehicle, and I may see it if it ever reaches my town. The film is set for Toronto, but people in Venice got the first look at the film.
Guy Lodge (In Contention): "This kind of dialogue is seized upon by the film’s almost entirely game ensemble, anchored by Giamatti’s wry, limber performance, the most engaging portrait yet in his gallery of ungainly middle-aged schlubs. Pleasingly tender and retiring where you expect him to gorge on neurotic kvetching, he could well find himself rewarded by the Venice jury — and might offer the film’s newly acquired distributor Sony Pictures Classics a credible Oscar prospect. (At the very least, a Golden Globe comedy nod should come with gift-wrapped ease.)"Below is the aforementioned Last Comic Standing routine from this season. It ends after 1:21, but it pretty much sums up how I view Paul Giamatti.
Michael Rechtshaffen (Hollywood Reporter): "Considering Barney's lifelong penchant for insensitivity, he's still a long way off from a happily-ever-after ending. As he demonstrated with his roles in Sideways and American Splendor, Giamatti excels at playing difficult curmudgeons, but in Barney's Version, he also possesses a stubborn vulnerability that's indispensable to the film's palpable poignancy. His relationships to his fellow cast members are alternately comical, tragic and tender but somehow never quite as genuine as the bond he has with the elder Hoffman."