One year ago, there was an extremely compelling race at The Academy Awards for Best Leading Actor. While all the nominees gave great performances, the award was up for grabs between Sean Penn (Milk) and Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler). Rourke walked away with the BAFTA, Golden Globes, and Spirit awards. Penn walked away with the NSFC and the SAG award. Both racked up a number of Critics awards from around the nation. So it was basically a coin-flip during the moment the envelope was being opened.
Sean Penn’s name was announced as the winner. Some considered it an upset because of Rourke’s incredible comeback performance, plus the fact that Penn already won an Oscar (Mystic River). But it was Penn standing at the podium giving his acceptance speech for his fearless performance in Milk. In my opinion, The Academy got it right.
Last year also awarded Kate Winslet for her long-overdue acting Oscar. And it handed out a posthumous Oscar to Heath Ledger for his iconic performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight. It was a fantastic year for the acting categories.
Unfortunately, this year is shaping up to be a snoozefest when it comes down to the acting categories. Of course, no awards have been given out and won’t for another few weeks, but the way things are shaping up, everyone’s going to go four-for-four in their Oscar pools this year.
Let’s start with the Best Supporting Acting categories. Throughout the entire year, Mo’Nique and Christoph Waltz have been winning their respective supporting categories. It’s a little disappointing when you simply know that no other actor has a chance at winning besides these two. I wonder how that must feel as a nominee. To be happy for the nomination but that’s it? To be sitting content in the auditorium as your name is announced along with the four other nominees, knowing exactly which name is going to be written in that envelope?
I’m not saying that Mo’Nique and Christoph Waltz do not deserve their awards, because they definitely do. Just as a follower and a fan of the Oscars, it’s a little disappointing knowing there’s no competition.
Which brings us to the leading acting categories. In the beginning of the Best Leading Actor category when things were shaping up, I made a note about how competitive it seemed. When you have a strong group of actors like this year does, it almost seems like anyone can win. George Clooney (Up in the Air) seemed like a front-runner in the beginning, but has lost his marking to Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart). And when there’s an actor who will win the Best Lead Acting category over nominees like Morgan Freeman (Invictus), Jeremy Renner (in the Best Picture favorite The Hurt Locker), and Colin Firth (A Single Man)… that’s saying a lot. But all impressions aside, this creates for no suspense.
The Best Leading Actress might be the closest acting category of the bunch, but it seems like Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side) is a lock to win it. I didn’t think she really had a legitimate shot at winning the Oscar. It was fitting for her to win the Golden Globes, but the Oscar? Against the legend Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia) and one of the finest young actresses right now Carey Mulligan (whom, imo, gave the best performance by an actress this year in An Education)… does Bullock really deserve this award? It doesn’t matter. After the Oscar nominations were announced and The Blind Side sneaked in as a nominee, that sealed the deal for Bullock. It showed how much love The Blind Side has inside the Academy. And once again, it killed all the suspense leading up to the ceremony.
So what does all of this mean? Well the Academy wants ratings. Sandra Bullock is a very famous actress and the public will most likely praise her recognition. But what it comes down to is that most people aren’t tuning into the Oscars going to watch the acting categories. They want to know what film will win Best Picture. I’ll break that down within the next few weeks.