The Oscar Quest: Best Actor & Best Actress – 2005

Come Oscar night, these were two “no-brainer” wins, even though, in hindsight, they seem — well, one of them, anyway — like upsets. It’s strange how one’s allegiances can change based on time, other nominations, and lack of death.

Anyway, let’s check these out…

Best Actor – 2005

And the nominees were…

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote

Terrence Howard, Hustle & Flow

Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain

Joaquin Phoenix, Walk the Line

David Strathairn, Good Night & Good Luck

Philip Seymour Hoffman — One of my favorite things to do when looking at awards — because I’m all about random patterns and useless data — is see, when each person wins, where their name fell within the alphabetical order of nominees. It’s like when they rank the winning percentages of the post positions in the Kentucky Derby. And they tell you that a certain post position has only won once, while another one has won the most times. Well, I haven’t done anything like that — yet — but I do find it interesting that his last name begins with H and he’s the first nominee alphabetically. I am curious though where he fits into the pantheon of alphabetized actors, and whether him being first helped or hurt his theoretical chances, and whether or not I could turn this into a thing, and use it to further predict awards races that are pretty much decided come Oscar night anyway. Yes, these are the things I think about.

Oh, yeah, he delivered a hell of a performance, too. He’s not a perfect match for Capote (few are…though the dude who played Dobby did a hell of a job in Infamous), but he had the voice down, and he’s one of the better (if not best) actors of his generation. So, you give some, you take some. But that other dude is a dead ringer. That shit was weird. Anyway, he did a good job, standard “biopic” role. Saw him do Capote. I, personally, wasn’t taken with the performance to vote for it, though everyone swore by it. If it were just me, I’d probably leave him with just the nomination, but — I love Philip Seymour Hoffman and love his work, and I understand when they said they’d probably rarely have an opportunity to reward him like this, given his role choices being very unique (ie, good). Though, he was nominated twice after this so, good call on that one, Academy. Still, good performance — long and drawn out film, though. It’s good, but, my god…

Terrence Howard — This is a hell of a performance, but don’t think in any way he was ever going to win this award. Not in a million fucking years. He played a southern pimp, and he was up against a dude playing Truman Capote. No way would he win. Great performance, though. Carries the film. Pretty good film, too. Awesome soundtrack. Very glad he was nominated. Good for him. Clearly not a strong contender to win, though.

Heath Ledger — People fell in love with this performance. Compared it to Brando. Personally, I don’t see it. I did like the performance though, but that whole, “He was robbed” sentiment kind of makes me sour on the performance a little bit. I think he was a tremendous actor and did a good job handling the character with incredibly little dialogue, but, I don’t think this is really an Award-winning performance. See 2008 for an Award-winning Heath Ledger performance.

Joaquin Phoenix — Yeah, here’s the thing — I love me some Johnny Cash. Love him. Love his music, love the legend — just seeing Joaquin Phoenix, who looks almost nothing like Johnny, do the voice, put on the persona, do his thing — that was enough for me. I liked the performance. But, in hindsight, it really was not an Academy Award winning caliber performance. I think someone at the time or just shortly after called the performance, “sweaty” and “methody.” That’s pretty accurate. I do love the performance, and I’m glad the film exists, but in terms of voting for Best Actor, in this category, I don’t think I can vote for him. It seemed a bit too — it was like Morgan Freeman in Invictus but for different reasons. Morgan Freeman in that, all he had to do was walk on screen, vaguely attempt a South African accent, and he was guaranteed an Oscar nomination. It didn’t matter what the film was about because he looked so much like him. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the film itself, which, seemed to know the nomination was going to happen, and the whole movie just seems to be hitting all the pertinent beats, knowing as long as it hit the checkpoints, there was that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. This looks like a performance that knows it’s going to be nominated. And as a result, it’s not as spectacular as it could be. But I liked it, though. I was predisposed to liking it, so, take that for what you will.

David Strathairn — See, now here’s a performance I love that no one else seemed to. I say no one because, while he got rave reviews and such, once the nominations came out, everyone just sort of wrote him off and never even factored him in. Of course, it’s because no one really knows who he is. I mean, he’s a very respected actor (rightfully so), but not exactly the type of person that wins Best Actor. After all, it is a popularity contest. In that sense, I guess it’s a wonder he got nominated in the first place. I guess it’s too much to quibble over, since I am sincerely happy that Phillip Seymour Hoffman does have an Oscar, but, I do love this performance, so I’m gonna throw a vote his way to give him some recognition. Show him the love. He was amazing as Murrow in this. This whole film was amazing. See it, it’s awesome.

My Thoughts: I see why Hoffman won. I personally would have voted for Strathairn, but I can see why Hoffman won, and am okay with it.

Rankings:

5. Howard

4. Phoenix

3. Ledger

2. Hoffman

1. Strathairn

Best Actress – 2005

And the nominees were…

Judi Dench, Mrs. Henderson Presents

Felicity Huffman, Transamerica

Keira Knightley, Pride & Prejudice

Charlize Theron, North Country

Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line

Dench — When these nominations came out, I said, “Great, another “Judi Dench” nomination.” You might know this as the “Meryl Streep” nomination. Lesser film, standard performance, nominated just because of who they are. And in a way, yeah, this is kinda that. But when I saw the film, I actually saw, despite how much she was still Judi Dench, she was playing an entirely different character than we’re used to seeing from her. Usually we get either the cranky old lady, or the very sarcastic and cranky old lady. That same deal. Here, she plays a widow who inherits a shit ton of money from her dead husband, and now needs to figure out what to do with the money, and her life. She’s bored in the housewife circle and wants to do something. So, she opens up a theater, which eventually starts hosting nude performances. You know, like they all do.

The thing about Judi’s performance here is that she’s playing lively and naive. Which is weird for Judi Dench. For most of the film she’s like, “I want to open a theater. Of course I don’t know what I’m doing, but how hard can it be?” And she’s really into it and isn’t willing to be told no. But then when she finds a manager, and he’s like, “You need to do this, this and this. And stop telling me what to do, I know what I’m doing.” And she’s like, “Okay!” and is all for anything. It was weird seeing Judi doing this, because it’s not what I’m used to from her. Though, in all her nominated performances, those are really the ones she does something different. So I guess it makes sense. Also note, for a while, I was considering voting for this. I decided against it, I think — though I don’t know, there’s still four more nominees to talk about — but definitely check out the film, it’s actually really good.

Felicity Huffman — This is one of those nominees that everyone said, “Goddamn, she should win,” and I was like, “Fuck that.” Because, at the time, I had seen Walk the Line, and while I enjoyed Reese Witherspoon’s performance, I understood that it wasn’t the greatest performance in the history of film. But, when this film popped up, and people were like, “She plays a male-to-female transsexual awaiting surgery,” and I was like, “Oh god, more Oscar bait,” and turned on it, going all crazy in support of Reese. In all fairness, this was before I really got to be me, and stuff like this was still a big deal to me. Now, it’s — whatever. No reason to get upset on shit that has 82 years of precedent (though I will still be happy if Social Network upsets this year — despite that almost being guaranteed not to happen).

Anyway, my point is, after finally seeing this performance — I understand why it should have won. It’s quite a job. She’s playing a man trying to be a woman, while she, herself, is a woman. And the performance is actually really good. Though, when you watch the film, you can totally see why she didn’t win. There wasn’t that big “moment” that you could point to and be like, “Oh yeah, she deserves this.” And, while I love the performance, will be voting for and and am definitely ranking it above Reese’s (Ha ha. Reese’s.), I still am not upset she didn’t win. It’s what it is. However, this is a great performance, and is one I can now pull out that I’m fairly certain people haven’t seen, so that way they can watch it and be like, “Holy shit.” Yeah, it’s good. Which surprised the hell out of me, I thought it was overrated. And if you know anything about me, know that once I view a film, performance, or anything, as overrated, it has to do a hell of a lot to win me over. And this did. So that should let you know how good I think it is.

Keira Knightley — Yeah, I love Keira. That’s about it. I mean, she does a good job here, probably amplified by my love for her, but, watching this now (I saw it for the first time like three months ago), one, I don’t like the movie — I should have known. I can’t stand those classic literature films. Also, watching it after Keira’s matured as an actress really makes it seem like one of those “younger” performances. I can see where she hasn’t fully matured as an actress yet, and based on that, I can’t in good conscience vote for her. The character actually comes off as unlikable, which, I don’t know if that’s what it’s supposed to be or not, I just know that I don’t give a fuck how it’s supposed to be in the book, that’s how it came off in the film to me, and, while I like that Keira was nominated, I totally understand why she didn’t win.

Charlize Theron — I have to say, at first glance this felt like a really weak year for Best Actress. This was actually a year where I went into Oscar night only having seen one of the nominees. Which is weird for me. I wonder what I was doing in 2005. Anyway, for the last five years, I kept thinking of this category was being really weak, but now, having seen them all, it’s really fucking strong. It’s a sad day when I have to rank my beloved Keira as the weak link in a category.

This is a hell of a performance. One I would think is a possibility to win (it still wouldn’t, but, it would be close) if she hadn’t won an Oscar two years prior. That alone keeps me from voting for her. But, still, this movie was better than I thought it would be. I mean, it has some terribly cliched moments and scenes, but the ones that stand out for me are the ones of her in the union meeting room, trying to stir up support, and where she has a fight with her son at the hockey rink — scenes like that really grounded the film for me, and were what made me ultimately like the film. The Oscar bait and such weren’t enough to ruin the good stuff in here. But, she does give a really good performance, and the only reason I won’t consider her to win is because she won already. That’s how it works.

Reese Witherspoon — I can’t talk about this performance honestly. I always liked Reese — which is weird, considering she’s made some terrible films in her life. Plus I hear some not flattering things about how she interacts with others. But still, I liked her in this, and I loved the film. And when I hadn’t seen the other performances and heard a performance I viewed as something people would logically overrate (in a year with overrating), made me crazy in favor of her winning this award. I still haven’t fully come to equilibrium as to what I feel about this, so, I’ll leave it at, I liked it, and maybe it deserved to win.

My Thoughts: Whoo, boy, this is tough. I’m voting for Felicity, and, for now, let’s say Reese winning is okay. I guess. I’m gonna need more time to get back to being objective on this one.

Just know, these rankings, since I really did like all the performances, are based primarily on how I think they should rank for the award, and not personal like. That’s the only reason Charlize is 4th and not 3rd. I just can’t rank these in any other way. I tried.

Rankings:

5. Keira

4. Theron

3. Dench

2. Witherspoon

1. Huffman

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