The Oscar Quest: Best Actor & Best Actress – 2004
These two were pretty much a foregone conclusion. Everyone in the world knew that Jamie Foxx couldn’t lose. His Ray Charles was astounding, so he deserved this all the way. There really wasn’t anyone who could have beaten him. And in Actress, someone thought it was a good idea to make the race about Hilary vs. Annette Round Two instead of about the actress who was actually the most deserving in the race — so, that was pretty clear cut as well (Annette was not winning).
I really don’t have all too much to say here, since the Academy got one of them right, and one of them wrong. But the one they got wrong is one they’d normally get wrong, and it’s only made worse by the fact that she’s won one already and isn’t that good of an actress to have two.
Best Actor – 2004
And the nominees were…
Don Cheadle, Hotel Rwanda
Johnny Depp, Finding Neverland
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Aviator
Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby
Jamie Foxx, Ray
Don Cheadle — I made my thoughts known about this film yesterday. I never much care for films like this. It’s about a topic that’s “important,” which means 70% of people will overrate the quality of the movie just because it’s about that topic. This automatically puts me at some sort of odds against the movie. I hate when people overrate things. Of course, this is after the fact. I had seen the movie earlier in the year just when the buzz was starting to rumble. I saw it, thought it was fine, and moved on. I’m not one who equates the issue with movies about the issue. So I rated the movie on its own terms. And on its own terms, it’s African Schindler’s List. I saw Schindler’s List. I love Schindler’s List. This, sir, is no Schindler’s List. It’s a fine film though, but, when I don’t love a film more than a casual regard, and then everyone on earth praises it to the heavens, that’s when I start to speak ill of it. See: 2009 Best Picture.
Anyway, Cheadle does an admirable job here. He deserved the nomination. (Anything but Paul Giamatti, really.) I’m not gonna vote for him, because anyone who sees the movie will probably agree, the performance is fine, but, Jamie Foxx was in Ray.
Johnny Depp — Yeah, this is #5. This might be one of the easiest Best Actor races to rank (I think the only change between the majority of rankings and my rankings is that some people will switch Cheadle and Eastwood, which, is fair, I’m just doing it because I love Clint). This performance is fine, but, this is more of a, “You’re coming on, we like you, and we’re gonna keep nominating you.” You get two years where you can be nominated for anything, then, a few years later, if you do good work, they’ll throw you in again. But for someone like Depp, he needs to either do extraordinary work (which it seems he doesn’t care much for. He likes doing his own thing) or it just needs to be his time (which it isn’t, yet). He did a good job with Barrie, but in this pantheon of performances, his is clearly the weakest. It’s the rolling stature nom. It’s like Nicole Kidman in The Hours. She came on with Moulin Rouge, didn’t win, even though a lot of people liked the performance, so she came right back the next year with a weaker performance just because people really want to have the opportunity to vote for her. The only difference is, unlike Best Actress, Best Actor is at least part of the time about the performance. So, Depp is 5.
Leonardo DiCaprio — Great performance. However, not gonna win. Why? Because DiCaprio matured under Scorsese, but at this point, it’s still too obviously DiCpario acting. In Gangs, we saw DiCpario in the movie doing his thing. In this, he’s DiCaprio doing Hughes. And it’s a good job, but we can still see Leo there. But in The Departed, he was that character, and that’s where he should have won. But, naturally, the Academy didn’t even fucking nominate him for The Departed. And then in Shutter Island, he kind of stalled a bit — there was kind of a holding pattern there. So, hopefully, someday soon, DiCaprio will give that real performance that will get a statue. Because we can actually see him maturing on screen. I think they’re gonna wait until he’s in his 40s before giving it to him. He’s almost there. When each of his performances gets pre-shortlisted every year, he’s clearly on the path. It’s like tenure. He’s gonna get it, it’s just a matter of when. And watching his performances, it’s almost there. But, here, I’d say he missed it because of Jamie Foxx. Otherwise they’d have probably given it to him.
Clint Eastwood — I like the performance. Because it directly led to Gran Torino existing. Clint clearly did his thing here, saw that people really seemed to enjoy him starting off gravelly and then lightening it up by the end of the film that he said, “If I do that for the whole film, and make myself the main character, people will eat that shit right up.” And did they. But, this is a fine performance. Probably 4th best. I’m ranking it 3rd because I like Clint and don’t like Hotel Rwanda. So, tiebreaker goes to who I like better.
Jamie Foxx — Have you seen this performance? Is there anyone you could honestly point to and say they deserved it more than he did?
My Thoughts: Jamie Foxx is a runaway. The Academy got it right.
Best Actress – 2004
And the nominees were…
Annette Bening, Being Julia
Catalina Sandino Moreno, Maria Full of Grace
Imelda Staunton, Vera Drake
Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby
Kate Winslet, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Annette Bening — I liked this performance, mostly because she’s so deviously bitchy. But if there’s one thing I hate it’s when actresses play actresses who overact. Because it allows them to overact and get away with it. Annette Bening goes so over the top at points here that I just couldn’t watch it. But on the whole, she does a good job. Basically, she’s an aging actress, who has an affair while also dealing with an up and coming actress who is very talented and very willing to steal her part (but not in the Eve Harrington kind of way). So, the whole movie becomes about her dealing with getting older (but still being the Queen of the Stage), and, while flipping out and such, plotting her revenge. What she does is, accept the other actress doing all her things and getting all the lines that will help her go over with the audience, even going so far as to ask for a cheaper costume so the focus can be on the other girl. Then, opening night comes, and she comes out, dressed in her best costume, totally overshadowing the other girl, then steals the other girl’s lines, even using the moment guaranteed to get a laugh from the audience against her, giving the girl nothing to do in the scene at all and completely changing the ending of the play on stage to make the fact that she’s been reduced to tears work within the performance (the audience laughs at her and thinks it’s part of the act, meanwhile this girl’s been broken on stage). It’s a nice performance, but that whole overacting thing is too much for me. Can’t vote for her. She should have beaten Hilary in 1999.
Catalina Santina Moreno — I liked this film on a marginal level. She got in because they didn’t want to nominate Uma Thurman for Kill Bill. I can understand why. So, in a way she’s the 5th nominee but isn’t the #5. I’ll explain why in a minute.
But, I liked the film. I saw it in Spanish too. So, I have no idea what was said at all. But, I still followed along. And I got the essence of the performance. I saw her act without knowing what she said. Which, the performance was really good. I mean, it’s not amazing, but it’s solid. So, yeah she got in, won’t ever get in again, it’s there, we move on.
Imelda Staunton — Mike Leigh film. I never understand why these performances get nominated. The films are boring, nothing happens, and they’re basically like plays on screen. I admire the man’s technique — come up with an idea, get his troupe of actors, sit them down in a room and rehearse for months on end, essentially creating the characters and the script through those rehearsals. But in the end, what we’re left with are plays on screen, and stories that are kind of slow, despite having interesting ideas behind them. Take this film. About a very cheerful British woman (this is how she got cast as Dolores Umbridge), who does nice things for her family, and is well-liked, who just happens to perform back-room abortions in her spare time. And basically, what happens is, people go in a room, talk, have play people problems, she shows up, performs an abortion, and that’s it. Then at the end, she’s caught when one of her customers almost dies, and she finds out she’ll probably spend like 18 months in jail, and everyone is upset because they like her. It’s seriously like a play. And people go ape shit over these movies. I didn’t. I don’t. I just don’t get it. Sometimes I will really like one of the performances, but ultimately —
What I think it is, is the old members of the Academy really getting behind it. They’re all about the old, play styles and such. And they’re the ones that keep voting him in. Back in the 90s, up till 2004, a Mike Leigh film would routinely get one, two acting nominations every time. But, since 2005, his films haven’t gotten any nominations (despite Sally Hawkins being really good in Happy-Go-Lucky), and I think that’s because the younger generation really doesn’t get it (like I don’t). I feel like people my age tend to not like most of these movies, but end up being respectful toward them because — well, I don’t know. People aren’t willing to speak ill of films. But, these aren’t for me, and I don’t get them. Also, Imelda Staunton is barely on screen enough to be considered a lead.
Hilary Swank — She was clearly going to win this award. The Academy either couldn’t, or wouldn’t, vote for anyone else. This is such obvious bait it’s awful. All Hilary does is bait. Bait or bad movies. It’s getting tiresome. She’s not that great of an actress. It’s like her and Halle Berry alternate between trying to get an Oscar and doing shitty thrillers. But, a film about a poor boxer who works her way up to the ring, too old, too poor, and a girl, getting the old trainer to train her, facing the world champion, only to break her neck and be paralyzed. And then, to top it off, having the trainer end it all by pulling the plug on her. Oscar bait to the max. She does a fine job in here, but, the reason I won’t vote for her (because, I probably would have, maybe) is because she’s won already when I feel she shouldn’t have. So, unless the performance is too good to ignore (it isn’t), I’m not voting for it.
Kate Winslet — This is my vote. I just loved what she did here. The Academy would never vote for her to win this (sadly), but the fact that they even nominated her is amazing. I wonder why Jim Carrey didn’t get in. I guess they just don’t like him. I guess he’ll get his one Bill Murray role at some point and get nominated. But, Kate did a great job here. It’s tough to say exactly what warranted a win, but, I liked it, and I already said I’m not voting for Hilary, and she’s Kate Winslet and deserved an Oscar by this point,so, why not for this? The film got overlooked as it was, why not award it here?
My Thoughts: Hilary would have been the vote if she hadn’t won. Kate is the vote. Love the film, like the performance. Worse crimes have been committed.
5. Imelda Staunton
4. Catalina Santina Moreno
3. Annette Bening
2. Hilary Swank
1. Kate Winslet