The Oscar Quest: Best Actor & Best Actress – 2000
These are fun, because, it’s a mix of actor vs. performance. You look at the sheet of winners and be like, “They won for that?” And then your brain starts processing, and you’re like, “Well, that makes sense. But, not for that. Well, they do like them, and they probably deserve something, and…”
BEST ACTOR – 2000
Javier Bardem, Before Night Falls
Russell Crowe, Gladiator
Tom Hanks, Cast Away
Ed Haris, Pollock
Geoffrey Rush, Quills
Javier Bardem. Every couple of years (mostly this one, 2004, 2010) Javier Bardem comes out with a performance that everyone says deserves an Oscar. The problem is, it’s a Spanish language movie. So no one sees it. This one is only partially in Spanish, and was directed by Julian Schnabel. That’s why he was nominated for this and not the others. Here he plays the gay Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas. I’m pretty much indifferent toward the film and the performance. Nothing really struck me about either, though I’m sure there are people who would like it. For me, I wouldn’t vote for it to win. It’s cool he’s here and all, though. I like Javier. He made a huge impact in one scene in Collateral.
Russell Crowe. Here’s a performance I just can’t gauge. I’ve seen this performance many times. I still can’t tell exactly what warranted a nomination and win here. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Gladiator. It’s just, did Russell Crowe really act in this? I feel like his performance was a result of the Kuleshov effect. Put the character through all this and you think the actor went through it as well. Maybe this was like Charlton Heston in Ben-Hur. It’s a big epic film, and he carried it solely on his performance. If that’s what they rewarded him for, I’m all for that. Solely on performance…I don’t know.
Tom Hanks. This is the real example of someone carrying a film this year. The man in on-screen by himself for like an hour and a half. And it’s an interesting hour and a half. Hanks isn’t reinventing the wheel with his performance, by as far as carrying movies goes, it’s fascinating. I have more to say about this performance, but I’m going to do it down at the bottom.
Ed Harris. Very good performance. Directed by himself, too, which is even more impressive. It’s a hell of a lead performance, but, when you watch it, you can see why he didn’t win the Oscar. There’s just something very low-key about it. Really enjoyed watching him, though. One day, he’s gonna get his Oscar, and it’s gonna be well-deserved. Let’s hope it’s for lead and not supporting, but something tells me he’s the kind of guy that will end up with a supporting Oscar. But, good performance, worth checking out.
Geoffrey Rush. The thing about Geoffrey Rush is, he’s a good actor, but he’s really hammy. There’s a certain bit of theatricality to what he does. And it’s great for those smaller roles, like in Pirates and in such. But in lead roles, it’s kind of — it’s not like it diminishes the role, since to someone just watching the movie it works, but it just seems a bit too theatrical for me. I did like this performance though. He basically is confined to one location, and gets to annoy the higher-ups by constantly making them look like fools by having all his writing materials taken away and still writing inflammatory stuff. I am perfectly happy with the nomination, but will not be voting for him to win. It’s a good performance though. Worth watching.
My thoughts: In a completely isolated year, with none of the existing history, I’m taking Tom Hanks. What he did with his performance trumps Russell Crowe’s performance for me, only because he’s the only thing on screen and there aren’t special effects aiding him. However, the fact that he already had two Oscars when this nomination happened really hurt his chances. That’s why people gravitated to the other film-carrying performance. So, my vote will probably change on the given day. I personally prefer the Hanks performance, but, given that he won twice, I might vote for Crowe, but — ask me tomorrow, my answer will be different. So, let’s put it this way. I vote for Hanks knowing that Crowe will win and knowing that Hanks has two already. In a purely objective world, I’m taking Hanks. Either way, the outcome is fine.
My ranking of the performances:
(Reminder: I’m ranking them in the order I enjoyed them. That is, the order in which I would watch these movies purely for this person’s performance, give or take. Of course the film does play into it a little bit. Mostly this is just the order in which I liked the performances, and then how much I liked the film functions as a tiebreaker.)
- Tom Hanks, Cast Away
- Russell Crowe, Gladiator
- Geoffrey Rush, Quills
- Ed Harris, Pollock
- Javier Bardem, Before Night Falls
BEST ACTRESS – 2000
Joan Allen, The Contender
Juliette Binoche, Chocolat
Ellen Burstyn, Requiem for a Dream
Laura Linney, You Can Count on Me
Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovich
Joan Allen. I like Joan Allen, I liked her performance in this movie. However, I think it was too much a case of — let’s first say that this is the movie with the female VP nominee getting put through the ringer by those dastardly Republicans (led by Gary Oldman, who probably deserved the Supporting Actor nod more than Bridges did). She does a good job conveying her emotions and the situation and stuff, but Joan Allen has a habit of having this strong, quiet, and dignified roles. She always comes off like the politician, in a way. In everything, not just in this. You never really see her vulnerable. You see her peel back the outer layer of strength to a certain point, but at that point, you know there’s a core there that’ll never be broken, and yet she has to pretend to go further. It just doesn’t work for me. It’s like when politicians are like, “I’m really happy,” and they still have that expressionless, monotone, fake politician voice still. That’s what this felt like to me. She does a good job in the movie, but I’m judging her for an Oscar here. Can’t do it.
Juliette Binoche. I love Juliette Binoche. She has to carry the movie on her shoulders and does an admirable job. But let’s not pretend this isn’t anything more than a romantic comedy. She doesn’t have to do that much. I was almost swayed by how pretty she is and how much I like her to vote for her here. But I can’t really do it. This is the film about the woman who takes her daughter to a new town to get away from her husband and opens up a chocolate shop. And this causes all sorts of problems and such, but also winds up helping a lot of the poor sons of bitches in the town. And she fucks Johnny Depp. So, that works out for her.
Ellen Burstyn. Here’s a performance a person can get behind. If you haven’t seen Requiem for a Dream, do yourself a favor and do so. Darren Aronofsky is one of the best directors out there, and this is the film that burst him onto the scene (I know Pi came out first, but the first film is always, “Hey, you’re pretty good,” and the second one is always, “Wow, look at this fucking guy.” This is the second one). It’s about people battling with drug addiction. Ellen Burstyn is an older woman living in Brooklyn. She sits and watches informercials all day. She gets a call saying she’s going to be a contestant on a game show (one of those phone scams), and she believes it. She becomes obsessed with getting down to the appearance she had at her son’s graduation (which is the best moment in her life, apparently). She begins taking amphetamines to slim down, and then sedatives at night. She then starts going crazy, hallucinating, picturing herself on the game show and picturing her fridge as a monster, about to eat her like the scary air conditioner in The Brave Little Toaster. It’s a nice performance. I wasn’t quite taken with it enough to think she deserved an Oscar for it, but in this weak year, she’s definitely a finalist.
Laura Linney. I like Laura Linney. she brings a believability to her performance. And for some reason, you always feel bad for her when things don’t work out. (I mean, she never got to get with Carl!) Here’s a small movie about a single mother who has to deal with a boss that slings shit at her for seemingly no reason other than to be a hard ass and the fact that her wayward brother is back in town. Her brother is one of those, go places, holding down small jobs to pay for food and shelter, then picking up and going somewhere else. So he comes back, and her life gets chaotic. Not overly chaotic. Small indie movie chaotic. It’s a nice performance by her. Not sure if I’d vote it to win, but in this year, anything is possible.
Julia. Julia, Julia. I still can’t decide what I thought of this performance. I did enjoy the movie, and I thought she did do an effective job as the character, despite the pushup bra. Though it just felt like Julia doing Julia. If I’m judging based solely on the performance as an Oscar-worthy performance, I don’t know if it is. Of course, that means nothing, as 2005 and 2009 have clearly shown us. Sometimes it’s just somebody’s time. (Note: I believe this year is Natalie Portman’s time.) That’s why she won. It was her time.
My Thoughts: If I have to pick based solely on performance and nothing else, I guess I’d take Ellen Burstyn. But I’m really not all that upset with Julia winning, because sometimes people just get Oscars for being who they are. And if there was any year for that to happen, this was one. It wasn’t a particularly strong category, and it had no specific performance I could pick out as one that absolutely, without a doubt, should have won. So, I’m cool with Julia having won, and I guess if I had to vote for someone, I’d probably vote Julia or Juliette. Maybe Laura. Depends on how I felt. This year was a popularity contest.
I’m not going to rank these. I don’t really like them enough. Ranking these would be like trying to rank the NFC West from last season. (To those familiar with football, it’s considered the worst division, and people were upset that someone from it had to win and make the playoffs.)