The Oscar Quest: Best Actor & Best Actress – 2003
These were fun. The Best Actress race was over from the second they announced the nominees. But the Best Actor race was essentially between two people, even though people like myself were voting for the “never gonna happen” nominee.
Best Actor – 2003
And the nominees were…
Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Ben Kingsley, The House of Sand and Fog
Jude Law, Cold Mountain
Bill Murray, Lost in Translation
Sean Penn, Mystic River
Johnny Depp — Come on. How can you not be rooting for this performance? Dude went from quirky actor to icon in one drunken (possibly gay) pirate romp. And he got nominated for Best Actor for it! That’s incredible. You knew he was never gonna win for this, and obviously this wasn’t the most technically great performance on this list. But who cares? I’m voting for it. You have to. I know it’s probably the reason Sean Penn won, but you know what, Depp won SAG, and when the Actors like you the best, it’s worth a vote.
Ben Kingsley — Very strong performance. He’s the Iranian dude I talked about yesterday. The one who won’t sell the house back to the owner. Yeah. Based on that set up, you can probably guess how the movie ends. At least, in the basic Greek sense. I don’t want to ruin it, since you rarely see things happen the way they do here.
However, it’s one of those performances that, while good, you just can’t bring yourself to vote for (partially because he already has one. Though there is that Sexy Beast snub…). There are two other people I want to vote for instead, so that leaves him the odd man out. Sorry, Ben.
Jude Law — Nuh uh. Never gonna happen. The performance isn’t that good to begin with, but I can see (kind of) why he got in. They like him, he’s one of those actors that mostly gives you good work, and he’s pretty much the anchor of this movie (since Renée provided the “flashy” support while Nicole was — well, whatever the fuck she was). He’s the guiding presence, in a way. However, there didn’t seem to be that much acting involved. He was just the easiest person to nominate.
However, since this is the last nomination the film got, I have something I noticed during the film that I find interesting: Here is a film filled with stars and star cameos (stars meaning, memorable faces that you would never see in these stock roles in most films): Natalie Portman, Brendan Gleeson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Giovanni Ribisi, Ray Winstone, Jack White, Ethan Suplee, Jena Malone, Cillian Murphy. What’s great about it is that every star either kills someone or is killed by them. The other stars, that is. All stars kill or are killed by other stars. Even the leads. Except Nicole Kidman. Which is funny because, looking at her filmography (in a glance-atory fashion), I don’t think she’s ever killed anyone in a movie. She’s had people killed, but has never carried out the deed on screen to the best of my memory. Life’s little things. Also, killing herself does not count. Fuck The Hours.
Every star kills or is killed by someone. That’s funny to me. Maybe that’s why the movie isn’t interesting. It’s a revolving door of famous people shooting each other. Also, fucking voiceover again. Anyway, no vote for Jude.
Bill Murray — There’s your winner, right here. I mean, it’s not a perfect performance, but it’s against type, and he’s a great actor — I just don’t see why they didn’t give it to him, especially when you knew Sean Penn was gonna come back with something Oscar worthy at some point. This was gonna be Bill’s only shot. It was a performance that worked right in the wheelhouse. The whole, has-been actor on vacation, living his life all Sofia Coppola movie-like. It worked. He doesn’t get my vote because I loved the Depp performance so much, but he’s definitely the one that Oscar should have went to (which would have made me feel better about the Penn second Oscar).
Sean Penn — This is tough because, he’s a veteran. He should have an Oscar. But, the only performance before this I can see voting him in with is I Am Sam (didn’t like the Dead Man Walking performance). He actually did much better in 21 Grams, but this role seems to be much more Oscar friendly. All he really did in this movie was play overprotective, ex-con father, then “Is that my daughter in there?” flipping the fuck out, then sad, then vindictive, then very businesslike, then, kills his friend, then, sad because friend didn’t do it, then, Macbeth. So it’s tough to guess whether they voted him for this performance specifically or for the body of work for the year or the career or what. Based solely on this performance, I can’t vote for him. Based on his work for the year, fine, I can see where you might throw him a vote. But Bill Murray was pretty fucking good. Though I can see where they wouldn’t vote for that performance. Still, I don’t think this specific performance is worth the salt, but I can see why they gave it to him, and the only real gripe against this performance is that it makes the Milk win seem much more tainted. He probably should have been Mickey if he didn’t have this Oscar already, but since he had this, he shouldn’t have won (even though he was deserving. But when has Oscar been deserving most of the time?). So, this performance, no. The man, yes.
My Thoughts: Bill Murray should have won critically, but my vote is Depp. I’m guessing Depp might actually have taken the votes away from Murray to give him the win. Either way, my vote is Depp, I think Bill should have beaten Sean, just because Sean would have won one anyway.
4. Penn (He goes #3 if it’s 21 Grams included or instead)
Best Actress – 2003
And the nominees were…
Keisha Castle-Hughes, Whale Rider
Diane Keaton, Something’s Gotta Give
Samantha Morton, In America
Charlize Theron, Monster
Naomi Watts, 21 Grams
This is a category where the rankings are gonna be all fucked up. I’m finding it hard to rank based on what I thought was good and what I liked. For some reason, while I enjoyed certain performances on this list, I can’t bring myself to rank them that high. I don’t really know why. Anyway…
Keisha Castle-Hughes — I really liked this performance. I’m glad she got nominated. It’s a very likable role in a very interesting movie. She’s the granddaughter of her clan’s chief (It’s a New Zealand thing), who is unable to become the new chief because she’s a girl. And her father sort of ran off into the city to be with a woman or something, and he’s gone. So the grandfather looks after her, and it’s the kind of thing where, it’s clear he loves her, but he’s still kind of hard on her and such because she’s a girl. And she takes lessons on the sly to try to be the clan chief, and is crazy diligent about it. And basically the whole thing is, the (title of the film) is the person who could ride a whale out to sea or something, so that’s how she gets the approval of everyone at the end. Anyway, it’s a great performance. Likable. Probably not really nomination worthy (or rather, certainly not win-worthy), but, I’m for it. It’s better than seeing the same older actresses nominated all the time for no reason.
Diane Keaton — Speak of the devil. Older actresses nominated for no reason. For a while they were saying she was gonna win! Really? It’s a romantic comedy! Something happened between 2003 and 2005 where any movie Diane Keaton did they were automatically saying she was gonna get nominated for an Oscar for it. Family Stone included. Yeah. People were fucking weird back then.
Samantha Morton — I like her. I think she’s great in all of her films. The only problem is, here, the film is not really about her. It’s mostly about the children. She gives a good performance, but for some reason it just doesn’t seem like it has that thing that puts it over the top for the Oscar. I love that she’s nominated, and I like the performance, but I just can’t vote for it because I can’t really see the magic in it. She’s the mother of the family of immigrants who is pregnant and is — what is she doing? — trying to keep her family together, mostly. I guess it’s like the Irene Dunne in I Remember Mama role. Just watch the movie, stop listening to me talk about it. You’ll understand everything if you just see the damn movie. It works in the movie, but won’t get my vote to win. Sentimentally, yes, but there are two other performances that take precedent this year.
Charlize Theron — I find it hard to truly judge this performance. On one hand, it’s a great performance. On the other hand, the movie is terribly written. Some of the dialogue is just clunky as shit and the film just seems really not very good. But, the performance overcomes that, and, when you see footage of the actual woman, it’s kind of astounding what Charlize did here. She ddid deserve to win. Hands down, despite the movie’s flaws. I’d even vote for her, which says how strong the performance really is.
Oh, she’s a hitchhiking hooker who kills her johns. That’s about it. Troubled past, meets Christina Ricci, starts dating her, and they do this for most of the movie and eventually she gets caught and executed. The movie really isn’t that good, and the performance is leaps and bounds above the shitty voiceover, bad musical choices, and uninteresting scenes they put her in. She really stands out among the film, and that’s what really makes it work.
Naomi Watts — I really liked this performance. Former addict, living happily with her family, when suddenly her husband and daughters are killed. She goes back to using, really depressed, and eventually meets the dude who got her husband’s heart. But she doesn’t know it. And they become friends, eventually start fucking — which, is after she finds out about the heart and gets all pissed. Then they become a couple, and then the whole, “Let’s kill the fucker who did this” bit joins in. It’s a great performance — one that I probably would — know what — I am gonna vote for it, just because Theron is far and away the winner here.
My Thoughts: Voting for Watts even though Theron gives the best performance and was clearly gonna win anyway. Also, ranking Theron above Watts just because Theron overcomes a shitty script while Watts really is only hurt by the fact that everything is shown out of order.