The Oscar Quest: Best Actor & Best Actress – 2009
The best way to describe these two categories is by referring to Goodfellas. Why? Because that’s what came to mind when I thought about them. It’s the moment right after they shoot Joe Pesci in the head, at the end of “Layla,” when De Niro and Ray Liotta think he’s gonna get made. And De Niro’s on the pay phone with the other guy, who is actually Martin Scorsese’s father, and he’s expecting them to be like, “Ceremony went well, it’s official,” when instead he says, “We had a problem, and we tried to do everything we could.” And De Niro’s like, “What, what do you mean, problem?” And the guy says, “I mean he’s gone. And we couldn’t do nothing about it.” That’s what best describes these races. They won, and we couldn’t do nothing about it.
There wasn’t anything that could be done about either person winning these races, even though one was a bit undeserving for the performance alone, but was hugely deserving as an actor, and the other shouldn’t have even been attending the ceremony as a guest. Quite simply one of the worst Best Actress choices of all time. And I say that because, had they given her an Oscar in a year that didn’t feature an amazing performance, like say, 2005, when the exact same thing happened, or 2006, one of those years, where you really couldn’t definitively single out one performance to vote for, then an Oscar like this is okay. This year, it counts as one of the worst decisions of all time (right up there with 1970, and oh boy, wait until we get to 1970). And there wasn’t nothing that could be done.
Best Actor – 2009
And the nominees were…
Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
George Clooney, Up in the Air
Colin Firth, A Single Man
Morgan Freeman, Invictus
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
Bridges — I fully believe that Jeff Bridges deserves an Oscar. I do not, however, think this performance alone was worth giving him one. However, in a year like this, I really could only point to one other performance to vote for, and even that might not have been one everyone would agree was a good enough performance to reward (I think it is, but I’m not everyone. Yet). So, ultimately I’m okay with him winning this year, though I’m certainly not voting for the performance.
Bridges is admirable and does a good job, but there’s nothing particularly strong about the performance. See him in The Fisher King to see a strong Bridges performance. Here, he plays an old broken down drunk country singer, basically taking the Bob Duvall model to winning an Oscar (so much so that they actually got Bob Duvall as his old friend in the movie). And he’s fine, and the movie is actually pretty good, it’s just, I can’t see voting this for an Oscar.
Clooney — This is a performance I can vote for. It’s the perfect Clooney performance. For lead, anyway. That’s the problem. As a lead actor, he has to play off his persona, whereas in supporting he really gets to show his chops. However, this is the best I’ve ever seen him play off of that persona and show his chops at the same time.
He plays the dude who fires people for a living, is on the road 300 days a year, is very effective at getting people to believe what he wants them to believe, and is a committed bachelor. No parallels to the Clooney persona at all. But he does a great job in this, and personally, is getting my vote, even though I know Bridges is going to win and am 100% fine with it. Who doesn’t love Jeff Bridges? Shit, even Clooney voted for him. So I’ll make up for that vote.
Firth — They said he gave a career best performance in this (I guess they didn’t have the foresight to know what he’d do next year. Amateurs). Personally, I found the movie boring and not as good as everyone said it was. What a surprise. (Indie movie.)
He plays a gay professor whose lover has died suddenly and now he doesn’t know what to do with his life. He goes around, depressed, meets up with an old flame, Julianne Moore, who he tried to sleep with as a younger man, but — it didn’t take. So, they hang around together, talk about it, and the whole time he’s planning on killing himself at the end of the day. One of those one day deals. Then he sleeps with one of his students, one last fling before he goes, then the kid finds the gun, talks him out of it, and he decides he wants to live after all. Then he has a heart attack and dies. Wah, wahh.
He’s fine in this, I guess. But I didn’t see anything to really tell me this man deserves an Oscar. Not up against Jeff Bridges and George Clooney anyway. Plus, just look at next year.
Freeman — This is the role he was born to play. People confused Nelson Mandela for Morgan Freeman before he was slated to play the role. Granted, he was going to play it for the better part of the decade, but, still, dream role. Problem with that was, he was going to play it for the better part of a decade. Everyone knew. So, when you’ve been talking about it for ten years, everyone is like, “Oh, yeah, he’d be perfect for it!” and then when he does it you’re like, “Yeah, you know, he was perfect for it.” It’s not really blowing anyone away. It was the kind of role where, I said at some point, all he had to do was attempt a South African accent and just be there and he’d get nominated. Well, it happened. Too bad the film wasn’t very good or about him at all. So, that hurt his chances. But, after knowing about this for seven years there was hardly anything he was gonna do in this movie that I’d have thought was good enough to get the win here. But, definitely a deserved the nomination, if only for people in like forty years who could be like, “Shit, he did look like him.”
Renner — I thought he was fine in this. At least, he was the most lively thing in what was a boring ass movie for me. Badass characters who don’t give a fuck are often well-reviewed by me. Though, since two performances felt “meh,” and two were pretty good, this one kinda falls into the nebulous #3 spot. Which can either mean he was third best in my eyes, or was somewhere in between where he couldn’t really go higher or lower because of the other people. That’s more of what this is. So, there. You know I hate this movie, so there’s really not much more you’re gonna get out of me.
My Thoughts: Vote is for Clooney, but Bridges deserved it. So good job, Bridges. The funny thing is they said Firth should have won here, which, even if he did, Bridges would have won this year. I find that funny. Plus, if Bridges won this year, then two people would have won for playing Rooster Cogburn. That would have been weird.
Best Actress – 2009
And the nominees were…
Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Helen Mirren, The Last Station
Carey Mulligan, An Education
Gabourey Sidibe, Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire
Meryl Streep, Julie and Julia
Bullock — Oh christ. Where to begin with this performance….how about … NO.
Mirren — Yeah, she was fine. But no vote. She won three years ago and this is certainly not the role that’s gonna get a vote out of me. But, she is lively in it. So it’s okay she’s here. Still, I talked about it yesterday, the movie is pretty forgettable if not highly competent, but, as you’ll see in a second, there are better choices in this category.
Mulligan — Holy shit. That’s all. This girl gave the performance of a lifetime in what was essentially her first leading role in her lifetime. The last person to do that? Audrey Hepburn. (I’m making up this fact, but, they are comparable. There’s definitely a similarity in the way they jump off the screen.) You know what the difference was with Audrey Hepburn, though? There wasn’t a terrible actress getting a “we like you” Oscar stealing it away from her that year. Carey Mulligan was, hands down, by everyone’s account, the actress who gave far and away the best performance of this year. By far. It is incredible what she does in An Education. If there is one performance in this category you watch, make it this one. And then watch old Sandy there and tell me which you think should have won this Oscar.
Sidibe — She was really good in this. Her and Mo’Nique were perfectly cast. Only two problems with the part. One on my end, one on the Academy’s. On my end, there was another “first-timer” who gave a better performance (and didn’t have the movie stolen from her by a supporting character. Sorry, but Mo’Nique owns this movie). On the Academy’s end — she isn’t white. There was no way they were giving two black actors Oscars again at the same time. They’re too white to do it. She was never going to win. And because I liked Carey Mulligan’s performance better (and her movie better), a toss up goes to her. Them’s my rules. But at least I’m not racist. So I got that going for me.
Streep — Yeah, she played Julia Child. She did a good job, but she really only got nominated because she’s Meryl Streep. They’re itching to give her another Oscar before they stop nominating her. This wasn’t going to be it. But it wasn’t for lack of trying. My problem with viewing this role objectively has to do with three things. One, the movie isn’t amazingly good. It’s okay, but it’s not like I’m going to sit down and watch it all the time. Two, Amy Adams’s character annoys me. Not the character herself. It’s the fact that the woman who wrote the book is actually kind of a cunt. Very self-absorbed and she actually left or cheated on her husband or something in the book. And it was written by her. So she’s like Briony in Atonement like, “Yeah, I cheated on him, but I gave me my happiness.” And it’s the fact that they got someone as lovable as Amy Adams to try to make this character less of a heartless bitch. And she kind of succeeds. The character isn’t nearly as unlikable as it should be. Or rather, is. And that’s solely because of Amy. That has nothing to do with Meryl’s performance, but, in my world, random things affect performance. The third, and most important, is that I realized a while back that Meryl Streep is very similar to a good friend of mine. And now whenever I see her act, I can’t help but see my friend. They have the same facial expressions and movements and ways of saying things. It’s one of those things you can never unsee once you see it. And what’s worse is that this is the one role that freaks me out the most because, my friend sometimes speaks in the exact same Julia Child voice. So, I can’t be totally objective about the performance because it was so freaky to watch it. But, she was good in it though. No vote.
Also, for those of you who know who I’m referring to, seriously, watch this clip and tell me that’s not her:
You watch the first part and go, “Yeah, I can see where the voice is kind of similar.” But then you get to the end, those last five seconds … holy shit, right?
My Thoughts: Mulligan, far and away. I refuse to say anything else.