OscarWatch: Best Lead Actor

21 Jan

Since the Academy Award nominations will be announced bright and early Tuesday morning (!) I thought I’d do seven OscarWatch posts for the main races: Screenplay (encompassing both Original and Adapted), Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Lead Actor, Lead Actress, Director and Picture.

In them I’ll detail my thoughts on the given race and how I think things are starting to shape up considering we have now seen most of the precursor awards and count with BAFTA and SAG nominations. I’ll give my personal Top 20, with a brief paragraph on each, for any given race and detail which I think will be the nominees for the Oscars come Tuesday. In this post I’ll tackle…

Best Lead Actor

I’ll give my Top 20 performances given by actors in a leading role in 2010, my brief thoughts on each and then I’ll say how I think the Oscar nominations for the category will look once they’re announced on Tuesday.

As for the state of the race, it’s all said and done already. There’s really no way in hell Colin Firth isn’t leaving the Kodak Theater without that trophy firmly in his hand, his performance in The King’s Speech is unbeatable, and every other actor who did good stuff in a 2010 film will have to settle for a nomination on Tuesday.

Personal Top 20

  1. Colin Firth (for The King’s Speech) – There really is no other #1 pick in any capacity that isn’t Colin Firth. The stuff on display from him here is just astounding, and considering he’s coming off another Oscar-nominated brilliant performance from A Single Man last year his chances only get bigger, he’s just the best.
  2. James Franco (for 127 Hours) – The buzz surrounding this film seems to have been dying down as of late, but James Franco will still no doubt get a much-deserved nomination for his work as Aron Ralston. His 2010 was amongst the best any actor had, and how he carries the film by himself, delivering a tour de force performance is amazing.
  3. Ryan Gosling (for Blue Valentine) – The film was full of raw emotion and power and honesty, and it’s all because of its two leads. Ryan Gosling is superb here, doing the finest work of his career to date, and if the world was fair then he’d get a nomination.
  4. Jesse Eisenberg (for The Social Network) – Jesse Eisenberg is still the Jesse Eisenberg we all know and love in The Social Network, but reigned in by David Fincher he delivers a fantastic performance, transforming himself into the version of Mark Zuckerberg the movie needed, and helping the film earn its “the movie of a generation” title.
  5. Javier Bardem (for Biutiful) – Much like Ryan Gosling, Javier Bardem sheds every inch of actor vanity for his role in Biutiful, and gives a very open and honest performance in it that has people speaking raves of him. The sheer amount of power and emotional punch he gives here is just unbelievable.
  6. Jeff Bridges (for True Grit) – Last year’s winner will likely be a repeat nominee this year. He tackles a role that won John Wayne his Oscar, and complete does a 180 with it, pitching his own singularities into the character, and making him instantly memorable.
  7. Aaron Eckhart (for Rabbit Hole) – Put him alongside Mr. Gosling and Mr. Bardem, this is the third performance that’s just emotionally sincere, in a film that’s raw and powerful. This is a guy who has been doing stellar work for a number of years now, and he doesn’t seem to be stopping any time soon.
  8. Leonardo DiCaprio (for Inception) – Casting Leonardo DiCaprio was the smartest thing Christopher Nolan did for his film. He grounds the film with his emotional storyline, not letting us get lost in the mind-bending plot structure, while not taking anything away from it either.
  9. Andrew Garfield (for Never Let Me Go) – Andrew Garfield had an amazing 2010, I had him as my third favorite supporting actor performance for The Social Network, which will likely get him an Oscar nomination, and he’s in my Top 10 here, for his work on what I’ll forever call the most under-appreciated film of all last year, he’s just amazing in it.
  10. Mark Wahlberg (for The Fighter) – Christian Bale, when accepting his Golden Globe for this film, said that in order for a loud performance like his to be effective, one needed an incredibly solid and quiet anchor. And Mark Wahlberg is that anchor, taking the leading role in his passion project, and delivering like crazy.
  11. Ben Stiller (for Greenberg) – Probably the best thing Ben Stiller has done in his career, his turn here is unbelievable, as he makes us feel about Roger Greenberg, feel bad for him, feel angry at him, it’s all just incredibly solid stuff from him.
  12. Robert Duvall (for Get Low) – Robert Duvall can do no wrong. He’s always amazing in anything he’s in, and he’s delivered some of the best acting work probably ever in some of his films. In Get Low he’s at it again, giving one seriously fine work, that only an actor of his caliber and experience would have been able to provide.
  13. Stephen Dorff (for Somewhere) – If this film had gotten more attention and love then we would all be calling Stephen Dorff’s career completely revived and be throwing nominations at him. The movie, however, wasn’t universally embraced. I still loved it though, and thought Mr. Dorff was amazing in it, creating in Johnny Marco a subdued and patient performance which I loved.
  14. Ben Affleck (for The Town) – I gave The Town three shout-outs in my Top 20 for Best Supporting Actor, then gave Rebecca Hall a nod in the Best Supporting Actress rankings, so this here makes it five mentions for that film. Ben Affleck not only directed and co-wrote this amazing heist movie, but also delivered a triumphant performance as the lead character who battles morals and emotions.
  15. Michael Douglas (for Solitary Man) – When people talk Michael Douglas and this awards season they talk about his supporting turn in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, and while he’s seriously good in that one, I’d rather have more people notice him in this one, a lesser-seen film in which he gives one of the strongest performances of his career, and definitely the best one since Wonder Boys.
  16. James Franco (for Howl) – Yes, a second mention for my #2 pick. And, even though 127 Hours is of course a much much different film, in this one he also carries the film by himself with a terrific performance. He plays Allen Ginsberg, and his line-readings of the titular poem are a thing of wonder.
  17. Paul Giamatti (for Barney’s Version) – I saw this one this year and will count towards my 2011 rankings, but it classifies for this awards season, so here it goes. Paul Giamatti has already won a Golden Globe for his performance here, and rightfully so, he’s amazing, and even though an Oscar nomination is pretty unlikely it would be awesome to see.
  18. Matt Damon (for Hereafter) – I also named him for Best Supporting Actor in True Grit, and here he is again. I’ve met a lot of people saying they were underwhelmed by Hereafter, but I thought it was a pretty masterful effort by Clint Eastwood, and Mr. Damon was just sensation in it.
  19. Leonardo DiCaprio (for Shutter Island) – Another double-honoree in this category. Leonardo DiCaprio always does wonders when working under the direction of Martin Scorsese, and in Shutter Island he really is amazing. A very different sort of role in a very different sort of movie for him, but he rocks it nevertheless, providing the perfect emotions to his character.
  20. Jake Gyllenhaal (for Love and Other Drugs) – I know there were other picks I could have made for the last spot, but I always give this one to a sentimental favorite. And I thought Love and Other Drugs was underrated, and I thought Jake Gyllenhaal was amazing in it, kudos kudos kudos to him.

How I Think the Oscar Nominations Will Look Like (in alphabetical order)

  • Javier Bardem (for Biutiful)
  • Jeff Bridges (for True Grit)
  • Jesse Eisenberg (for The Social Network)
  • Colin Firth (for The King’s Speech)
  • James Franco (for 127 Hours)

I think Bridges, Eisenberg, Firth and Franco are all locks by now, and I really can’t see any of them not being there picking up nominations. The fifth slot is more of a wildcard, and I think it’s a four-man race between Robert Duvall, Mark Wahlberg, Javier Bardem and Ryan Gosling. Odds-on favorite I would guess is Duvall, Wahlberg may get in because I think The Fighter will get some nice amount of love and Ryan Gosling gives a raw performance the Academy may want to reward. However, I think Javier Bardem has what he needs to pull this one off and be a foreign film competitor in a major race, he has peaked with the BAFTA nod and all the actors love his performance. So yes, I’m going with him for that final slot on Tuesday.

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