The Oscar Quest: Best Actor & Best Actress – 2007
Dare I say it? Did they actually get both of these right? Yeah, they did. Frighteningly so. Best Actor was a no-decision. This was perhaps the best male lead performance of the decade. Best Actress was between two very, very good performances, and in my mind, they picked the correct one, though I’d have been happy with either. Hooray, good decisions.
Best Actor – 2007
And the nominees were…
George Clooney, Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Tommy Lee Jones, In the Valley of Elah
Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises
George Clooney — In my mind, without Daniel Day Lewis going all ape shit on this category, Clooney wins this hands down. He gave an amazing performance in this film, and it’s a shame he didn’t win. But really, with Mr. Plainview in the category, he’s a distant second choice. But still, he’s great in this film. He’s a lawyer who is his firm’s “fixer” — think the Winston Wolf of the legal world. He makes problems go away. And when he finds out his mentor, Tom Wilkinson, went crazy in a deposition room, he starts dealing with that. Slowly he figures out a conspiracy, and, when bad shit starts to happen, his loyalties begin to sway. It’s a very good performance, and I hate that I can’t vote for it. But…
Daniel Day-Lewis — Holy shit on short-grained rice. This and Heath Ledger in Dark Knight are the two best performances of the decade. I say this outdoes Heath (if we’re ranking solely on performance and not on lead vs. supporting) just because Plainview IS the movie. Daniel Day-Lewis is in every scene — or at least, all but four. And if he’s not personally in the scene, his presence hangs over the scene, because the people in it are talking about him. This race had to have been one of the biggest landslides in a while, because no performance came close. When even George Clooney says his com-pet-i-tor cannot lose, it’s going to be a landslide. Put it this way, within a month of this movie coming out, not only did we get an instant classic performance, we got one of cinema’s most memorable lines on top of it. So much so that when AFI redoes their list of the top movie quotes, the quote will probably end up in the top 35. Not for certain, but it will definitely make the list.
As a side note, what happened to all the memorable lines? There are very few from this decade, I feel. Maybe a post on this later.
Johnny Depp — Yeah, I liked Johnny and I liked this movie a lot, but, I don’t think he deserved a Best Actor here. But, remember what I said. 2003, his performance was so good it earned a nomination when it wasn’t supposed to. That was Pirates. Then, 2004, it was a holdover nomination. The whole, still in good graces thing, where as long as the performance was anywhere near the wheelhouse he’d have been nominated. You get two years where you can be nominated for anything. That was Finding Neverland. Then I said, a few years later, they’ll nominate you for something as long as you’re mostly good in it. Which is this. And he hasn’t been nominated since. This was the last of those nods. Now, if he’s ever going to win one, it’s going to be either for a performance very worthy of it a few years down the road, or, he’s going to start appearing as being “due,” and he’ll get it for the next Oscar-type performance he gives (once he’s labeled as “due”). Anyway, my point is, he was never going to win this, but I’m glad he’s here. Because I actually enjoyed the movie. Though I did think Helena Bonham Carter did a better job and if anyone deserved to be nominated from that movie it was her.
Tommy Lee Jones — I’m pretty sure everyone wondered how the hell he got in here. I remember people audibly gasping come nomination morning when his name was mentioned. I think most people were expecting either James McAvoy for Atonement (I can see why he didn’t get in. He wasn’t really that good in it to earn a nomination), Emile Hirsch for Into the Wild (that, I think, would have been a much better decision)…I don’t think Tom Hanks had any traction for Charlie Wilson’s War, so, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t in the running…I know people were hoping for Josh Brolin in No Country for Old Men, but I think that was for supporting, for some reason. Plus, Tommy Lee Jones made the most sense, as No Country was the better performance, and this was the one they nominated him for instead. That’s always how it happens. American Gangster was another one — but Denzel wasn’t going to get nominated for that. Since his Oscar he’s gotten a bit — like after Pacino won his (and to some extent, before). Denzel’s been having some fun lately. I’ll leave it at that. I can’t remember who was supposed to get here instead, but this made sense. He’s a veteran. And he hada a very good year. Plus, everyone knew who was going to win from the get go. So let’s let him have this. He’s awesome. Still #5 though. Sorry.
Oh, yeah, he’s a former army dude who’s son goes missing in Iraq. And he goes around, making trouble, trying to find out what happened to him, and, after he finds out he’s dead, how and why he died. It’s a Paul Haggis movie. So…I’ll leave it at that.
Viggo Mortensen — I liked this performance, but didn’t love it. Liked the film, though. Still weaker than A History of Violence. I think this was a makeup for forgetting him in that. Film’s good though. Vincent Cassel is awesome in it. Worth a look. He plays a Russian mob enforcer, who’s sort of like — well, he kills people. He’s got crazy tats, which, apparently in Russia mean he’s killed lots of people in prison or something. And the mob boss loves him more than he loves his own son. Mostly because his son is a fuck up. And there’s a moment about 2/3 of the way through the movie that — well, it kind of ruined it for me. I thought the movie was taking the character in one direction, and then pulled the rug out from under us. I thought they should either tell us at the beginning or don’t do it at all. It felt cheap. Though, the ending is a nice Infernal Affairs ending — which, if you’ve seen it, you already know what I’m talking about — the, “What the fuck do I do now?” ending. So, that’s nice. Good for Viggo. Nice to see him get some notice. No vote, though.
My Thoughts: Day-Lewis wins this by a fucking landslide.
Best Actress – 2007
And the nominees were…
Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Julie Christie, Away from Her
Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose
Laura Linney, The Savages
Ellen Page, Juno
Cate Blanchett — Yawn. She’s been nominated for this role before. This is the sequel to that movie. It’s a period piece. Double yawn. Hate these kinds of movies. I was fine with it the first time, but this one was too much. You want to see another standard movie about a queen, watch this.
Julie Christie — Here’s a movie that affected me much more deeply than I was expecting. She plays a woman diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. And at first it’s very slight. Like, she forgets things and such. Then one day she wanders off in the middle of the night and is found on the highway in the snow (it’s Canada). then she agrees that things are going wrong and agrees to be put in a home. And she’s in the home, and slowly deteriorates further to the point where she doesn’t even recognize her husband anymore, and eventually begins a relationship with another man on the ward. The movie is really about her husband. He’s the real lead performance of the movie. And, to me, he gave a performance, that, were it nominated for Best Actor, might have been second best. It was that good. That motherfucker was incredible. He’s dealing with her disease, her behavior from it, and the fact that the hospital doesn’t allow him to see her for thirty days. Then, when he goes back, she’s forgotten him and is “in love” with another man. And he still keeps going back and taking care of her, under the guise that he’s someone else. It’s fucking heartbreaking all around. That’s where the title of the film comes. He tells a nurse that he’s never “wanted to be away from her.” I think the ultimate reason she didn’t win the Oscar is, aside from Marion Cotillard being brilliant, that she’s actually kind of a supporting character in a way. Still, she really did deserve this and was incredible in the role. Definitely definitely check out this movie if you ever get the chance.
Also, it was directed and written by Sarah Polley, whom most people would remember as the main girl in the Zack Snyder Dawn of the Dead remake. She was also in Splice, which was fucking awesome.
Marion Cotillard — Wow. Just. Wow. If you haven’t see this movie, do yourself a favor and watch it. This is one of those performances that you can feel everything aligning perfectly. You can feel the electricity in the performance. It was like when Barbra Streisand showed up in Funny Girl. You actually felt a force of nature moving through that film. Here is the same thing. Except, whereas the Streisand one would not have worked as well nowadays, here, Cotillard plays Piaf from like 20 or 25 all the way until her death. And at the end, what’s so brilliant about this is, she plays her, not as an old person, but rather, as an old person trying to be young. Normally actors playing old people are pretending to be all decrepit and such. Instead, Cotillard plays her as though she thinks she can still do what she did at 20. Watch this, and then follow it up with Inception, and realize, this is the same actress. She deserved this. Definitely watch this movie.
Laura Linney — Fine performance and all, but, never gonna win. Nice to see Linney here again, though. Her and Philip Seymour Hoffman are brother and sister whose father is now slipping into dementia (the opening scene is him writing on the bathroom mirror with his own shit), and they have to care for him. It’s implied that he was abusive when they were kids. She’s an office temp still trying to be a writer. Has her play rejected by everyone. She then lies to her brother saying she won that McArthur grant thing in order to look good. It’s one of those movies. She’s a compulsive liar (I think), he’s a professor who seems to not give a shit about anything. It’s an indie movie. Also, apparently the Hoffman character is based on a theater professor at my college. Since the woman who wrote and directed the movie is his sister. But, Linney is fine in this. No threat to win, though.
Ellen Page — Here’s a performance I’m going to rank well, even though a lot of it is based purely on the dialogue. But, this is an enjoyable film. I’m not at the point where I can think objectively about it. Because, at first, I saw it before all the buzz came about. There were small rumblings that it was pretty good, and I saw it in limited release, loved it, then it got huge and everyone was raving about it. Then the backlash started and everyone hated it. Which is weird, because usually I’m part of the backlash. But, now, three years later, I can’t tell if I’m starting to believe in the backlash, or if the film doesn’t hold up for me — so, I’m going to leave this performance at, it was good, gonna rank it #3, and wait a while longer before I figure out my true, objective feelings on the matter.
My Thoughts: Christie and Cotillard are tops. My vote goes to Cotillard.