Monday, February 13, 2012

THEN & NOW: Lead Actor & Actress

Continuing to seek our teeth into the flaws that exist in this low-point for the Academy Awards, I was starting to wonder if there was even a point of doing this. I mean, sure the nominees this year aren't great, but are they really a massive departure from previous years? Actually, yes. This isn't an overreaction. Previous years have rendered much greater and more deserving performances and films in the categories given. Maybe last year went a bit wild with the winners, but it did the nominees pretty well. I think that the Best Actor race was the worst last year, as it didn't really seem to have its heart in it. Colin Firth was the frontrunner the year after he should have won.

I am still of the belief that Jeff Bridges should have came to a win last year, rather than the year before, but he isn't the most deserving performance here either. James Franco was always a bit on the mild side, and I can't quite believe that he really needed to be there. I'm very glad that Javier Bardem made it in for a performance that was admittedly quite strong, and that was worth it simply for the rage it ensued amongst ignorant YouTube reviewers. But I think that Jesse Eisenberg was the real gem of the group last year, with a skillfully internalized performance in a very internalized film, but it was still a case of a relative newcomer sweeping in to steal the glory from somebody who was overdue.

This year seems to be a lot of the same that was going on then. We have George Clooney filling the Colin Firth role of "destined patron", but that doesn't quite wash the same as he has won an award before for a supporting role in "Syriana". Demian Bichir fills Bardem's space of the wild card nobody knew about until he was nominated. I feel bad lopping Brad Pitt in the same respects to James Franco, but he is filling that role to a degree, of the likable real life figure. And I suppose the only thing left to do is count Jean Dujardin and Gary Oldman as Jesse Eisenberg and Jeff Bridges, respectively, but that's not quite the case.

In fact, in a way this category has improved a bit. It would have improved a bit more to see Michael Fassbender nominated, but that's an argument for another day. As it is, Gary Oldman and Jean Dujardin are really seeming like the main players in this category. It's not likely to happen for Oldman, but I'd be more than happy to see such come to pass. The seething and brilliant performance is simply different from everything else here. Jean Dujardin, in the mean time, is fixing himself in a similar fashion. He has been overlooked for much of his career, and more than that he is such a natural showman and endearing figure on par with the cute dog he carries around with him. The two of them raise this category just a slight degree above its predecessor.

But it seems to be the opposite progression in respects to Best Actress. Last year featured five performances that entirely deserved to be there for their aggressiveness, fragility, passion, and emotion. This year, I'm just not feeling it at all. Don't get me wrong, as I quite like some of the performances nominated, mainly between Rooney Mara and Viola Davis. Davis ripped the externalized emotion out of me from the word go, and it's performances like that which made the film such a joy, though not an Oscar potential one. Mara seemed to be the only participant on "Dragon Tattoo" who was on the right page for what the film should be viscerally and emotionally.

Don't get me started on the other three performances. Meryl Streep and Glenn Close are here as veterans more than actors, and Michelle Williams is just nominated for the wrong performance. Last year was dot for dot perfection, without a single party who could be deemed unworthy. It seems like some kind of chore to bring them all up, but they were such a dream lineup. They were five performances that I'd absolutely leap to see again on any given night. This year... maybe a really boring and depressing night.

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