Monday, March 17, 2008

One Category at a Time - Part 14 - Leading Actor

Some very good prospects for Hollywood's leading men this year. Here is my meager attempt to whittle what is a very long list of hopefuls down to five:

Brad Pitt for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Aging roles often grab the Academy's attention (Marion Cotillard in La Vie en Rose, for instance), but how about reverse-aging roles? As I and many other Oscar bloggers have forewarned, David Fincher's films have been criminally overlooked before, which could mean all the early notice that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is receiving could be for naught. However, Brad Pitt has been churning out very good work recently (Babel, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), and this role is as good a chance as any to snare that elusive nomination.

Leonardo DiCaprio for “Body of Lies” (or “Revolutionary Road”)
Leo had something of a predicament a year back when he had two very strong performances in the same year, The Departed and Blood Diamond, the latter of which he was nominated for, despite it being the less popular of the two. This year he also has two big projects in store, and could be nominated for either of them, assuming he's any good in either of them. I think that's a safe assumption. Ever since Titanic, the quality Leo's acting as been getting better and better (I attribute this to him working so much with Martin Scorcese), and sooner or later, he's going to have an Oscar. Maybe this is the year...

Or maybe not. He has stiff competition from three very meaty, made-for-Oscar roles:

Benicio Del Toro for “The Argentine” (or “Guerrilla”)
If an actor is playing a person who actually existed, they are automatically considered in this category. The “best leading actor” winners of 2004, 2005, and 2006 all played real people (but oddly enough, none of this past year's nominees played real people. Hmmm...). Del Toro will play Che Guevara in not one, but two films about the Argentinian revolutionary who helped Castro bring down Batista in 1959. I'm not sure how they're planning to release these films, but if they both come out this year, there's a very real danger that Del Toro will split his own vote, even though he plays the same character in both movies. At this point, I still think he has a good chance.

Frank Langella for “Frost/Nixon”
Frank Langella had a bit of talk going for him this past awards season for Starting Out in the Evening. However, that talk quickly evaporated in the heat of Daniel Day-Lewis, George Clooney, and Johnny Depp. It looks like he will be the heat to beat this year for portraying Richard Nixon in Frost/Nixon, the same part he originated on Broadway. My only concern about Langella's nomination potential is that voters might not warm up to a performance that he's had years of experience playing on the stage already. Sure, it worked for Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady, but that was over 40 years ago. Will Langella's Nixon have that extra something special needed to win this category?

Sean Penn for “Milk”
Yet another real-person role competing with poor Brad and Leo. Sean Penn plays Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to public office in San Fransisco. It's a very baity role, and you can bet Penn will milk it for all it's worth. We know he's got the skills for a nomination, but will the homophobic Ernest Borgnines of the Academy stop this movie at the finish line? The old, straight, white guys certainly brought a surprising and abrupt halt to the Brokeback Mountain bandwagon two years ago. We'll just have to wait another eleven months to discover the answer to that. In the meantime, all I'm thinking about is the nominations, and I say Penn's in.

Who have I neglected to put down? Tell me your picks.
Next category, best sound mixing.


bryan said...

You sure picked this year's five hottest contenders, and I basically agree with you. As for Leo, I'd say he'll get nominated for Revolutionary Road, which I think might have a good shot at winning the 5 "big" Oscars. The very early frontrunner in this category is Frank Langella. I've heard from people who attended a screening that his performance is exceptional. But on top of the problem that you alraedy mentioned, there is also the obstacle of a relatively early release date (June 30). So it'll be interseting to see if he and the movie can keep up the buzz.

And to conclude this, I'll just throw in two more names: Never count out RUSSELL CROWE (Body of Lies) or JAMIE FOXX (The Soloist) who might make a return to the Kodak this year!

The Oscar Nazi said...

I agonized over whether or not to include Jamie Foxx. In the end, I decided that (until I see his performance) the role seems a bit too baity. In the 90's, playing a schizophrenic musician on his way to the top would have easily won this category (in fact, it did!), but by now it may strike some people as being cliche.

I think your suggestion of Russell Crowe has a much better shot. His body of work this decade has proven that he's a quality actor who consistently makes good decisions. But his main challenge with "Body of Lies", like it was with "American Gangster", will be competing with a co-lead (DiCaprio).

But these two are definitely #6 and #7 on my list (for now).