Oscars: the ones in front of the camera

Two quick things to get out of the way before part one of this SPECIAL FEATURE:

1. The traditional way to go about this is utterly backwards. Everyone else tries to pick who they think will win and then sees how many they can get right. But that presupposes that it’s the Oscar voters who are right in the first place; they aren’t. In fact, they frequently get shit totally wrong. And so here I am going to post the correct answers, and we’ll see how many they get right.

2. In recent years there’s been a smattering of criticism that nominating obscure/non-blockbuster films is “elitist”. God, I fucking hate that word. It’s been misappropriated by stupid and/or uninformed people to be used in any and all cases wherein their massive insecurity complexes cause them to feel personally attacked when they see what they believe is “them intellectuals” chiding them for their low-level tastes. Well, they should be chided; their tastes are puerile and embarrassing. A quarter of the audience that’s going to tune in for this show want The Blind Side to take home Best Picture. That says it all.

On to the answer key. Since even someone as well-versed in cinematic offerings and all-around omniscient as I am still can’t see everything, * will denote the ones I haven’t gotten to.

Supporting Actress
Penélope Cruz, Nine
Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart
Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
Mo’Nique, Precious

Should Win: Not even close. Mo’Nique’s Mary Jones deserves to go down as one of the all-time great villains in movie history. She’ll never be as iconic as a Darth Vader or Hannibal Lecter, but holy fuck, this woman is terrifying. And in her monologue near the end Mo’Nique somehow manages to evoke, I hesitate to say sympathy, but a measure of understanding for how this awful human being turned out the way she did. Just an absolute powerhouse of a performance.

If Not, Then: Farmiga

Where the Hell Was: Diane Kruger, Inglourious Basterds?

Supporting Actor
Matt Damon, Invictus
Woody Harrelson, The Messenger*
Christopher Plummer, The Last Station*
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

Should Win: Waltz has won every award under the sun so far, and it’s hard to argue he hasn’t deserved them; as the slimy, coldly efficient “Jew Hunter” Col. Landa he’s sublime. But I have to go against the grain on this one and go with Tucci. They’re both brilliantly realized villains, but Tucci was saddled with a fairly burdensome milstone around his neck in the form of an awful script for an awful film. That he manages to leave such a lasting impression with his chilling, murderous pedophile character amidst a completely forgettable film is a minor miracle.

If Not, Then: Waltz. Really, it’s almost a toss-up between these two.

Where the Hell Was: James Gandolfini, Where the Wild Things Are? One of the best voiceover performances I’ve ever seen. Or actually heard, but you get the idea.

Lead Actress
Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side*
Helen Mirren, The Last Station*
Carey Mulligan, An Education
Gabourney Sidibe, Precious
Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia*

Should Win: I’ve only seen 2/5, but the two I did see were excellent in their respective roles. Mulligan had to hit every note just right in order to not make her naive, precocious schoolgirl character come off as a pretentious little twat, and that’s exactly what she does. But Sidibe gets it for imbuing the obese, sad sack Precious with strength and resolve instead of mopyness and hysterics, and for going toe to toe with Mo’Nique on screen and holding her own in the face of the latter’s overwhelming bravura.

In Not, Then: Mulligan

Where the Hell Was: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Antichrist? Yes, it’s an unknown performance in an unknown film, but anyone who’s seen it knows that this woman had as mentally and physically demanding a role to play as anyone else this year, and she nailed it.

Lead Actor:
Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
George Clooney, Up in the Air
Colin Firth, A Single Man*
Morgan Freeman, Invictus
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker

Should Win: Bridges. He’s both the anchor and the heart in Crazy Heart, and he plays has-been country singer Bad Blake not as a caricature embodying all the faults or virtues that are commonly the exclusive, defining characteristics of the “bum who’s down on his luck” trope, but as a real person whose strengths and weaknesses add up to a good-natured, well-meaning fuck-up of a guy. Crazy Heart is this year’s The Wrestler, but less raw and more laid back, and Bridges is this year’s Mickey Rourke. Also less raw, also more laid back, but in its own way no less of a performance.

If Not, Then: Clooney, who’s never been better than he is here.

Where the Hell Were: Sam Rockwell, Moon and Peter Capaldi, In the Loop?As pretty much the sole actor to appear in his film, Rockwell gives an enormous, award-worthy effort. And Capaldi delivers the blistering one-liners that sound like what you’d get if Aaron Sorkin and David Mamet mutated into one writer as if it’s second nature.

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