Monday, September 25, 2017

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Actor 2011

The Contenders:

Jean Dujardin: The Artist (winner)
Demian Bichir: A Better Life
George Clooney: The Descendants
Brad Pitt: Moneyball
Gary Oldman: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

What’s Missing

It would be difficult for me to say that I dislike any of the nominees for Best Actor 2011, but it would also be a lie for me to say that I’m over the moon about any of them. Most seem like good performances that struggle to be considered great. There are a few from the year that I’d rather see in place. Michael Fassbender’s turn in Shame might be the gutsiest performance of the year, and I loved Antonio Banderas in The Skin I Live In. I’m not generally a fan of Owen Wilson or Matthew McConaughey, but they were brilliant in Midnight in Paris and Killer Joe respectively. Ryan Gosling had a two-fer in 2011 with both The Ides of March and Drive. Since there are a lot of 2011 movies I haven’t seen, I imagine there will be many suggestions in the comments below.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. This feels like one of those years where everybody should be in third place. I’m probably punishing Gary Oldman by putting him last simply because of all of these films, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is the one that nearly put me to sleep when I watched it. I think I liked it better in the moment than I do in my memory, but I recall it being a film where everyone sits around and thinks at each other really hard. Sure, he’s good, but I’d take any of my list above over his performance here.

4. I tend to like a lot of Brad Pitt’s movies and I rewatched Moneyball within the last month. It’s a fine movie, and Pitt does a fine job in it. But much like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, it’s a movie where everybody thinks a lot. Despite this, it’s actually pretty entertaining, but Pitt doesn’t honestly have a lot to do except make a few decisions that happen to be the right ones. Pitt has gotten nominations in the past that I think were warranted. This one wasn’t even though it’s a good performance and in spite of how entertaining this is despite being about statistics.

3. I don’t hate the nomination for George Clooney in The Descendants even though I probably wouldn’t nominate him for the role. While he is definitely the focus of the film, this is closer to an ensemble cast than all of the other movies listed for this award. In that respect, Clooney, while definitely the lead, gets a great deal more help than the other nominees. I was surprised at how much I liked The Descendants, and much of that comes from Clooney, but there are too many others from this year that I’d like to see here more.

2. I really liked The Artist when I watched it, and that initial fascination with the film faded quickly and faded hard. I haven’t had the desire to go back and watch it again, since I can get much of the same story from Singin’ in the Rain and with that, I get singing and dancing. Jean Dujardin is undeniably good in this film, and I understand precisely why he won. The Artist was very much the flavor of the month, released at the right time and hitting award season at the right time. But that’s not a fascination that lasts, at least for me.

1. That leaves me with Demian Bichir and A Better Life, which might be the only nomination of the five that I could be convinced to keep in an open field. The genius of Bichir’s performance is that it would have been incredibly easy for this to turn into melodrama in a heartbeat, and he keeps that temptation firmly at arm’s length. Bichir plays the role perfectly, avoiding making the character something less than he is or something unbelievably noble. He’s real, and honestly, for this award and this year, that’s enough to end up on top, at least temporarily.

My Choice

The honest truth is that I would pick pretty much anyone in my first paragraph over all five of the nominations we have, with the possible exception of Demian Bichir. I think it could be pretty convincingly argued that Michael Fassbender had the best performance of 2011, at least for actors. Ryan Gosling, with two very good lead performances, had the best year, though. I’d be happy with either one of them winning, Gosling for Drive should he be nominated. But if this is for the single best performance, that belongs to Fassbender.

Final Analysis


  1. Joel Edgerton in "Warrior," Michael Shannon in "Take Shelter," John Boyega in "Attack the Block," and Michael Fassbender in "X-Men: First Class" would have all been good choices as well. And while Michael Fassbender was phenomenal in "Shame," he would have finished second on my 2011 list to young Asa Butterfield in "Hugo."

    Most critics' lists of the top-ten films of 2011 had "Hugo" near or at the top, with James Cameron calling it a masterpiece that even surpasses his own brilliant body of work. Masterpieces aren't made without very strong actors carrying the load.

    At the time, I thought it was a great film. But with time, I can look back and see just how great a talent young Asa really was in it to make it such a great film.

    1. John Boyega is a great addition here, and I'm not sure how I missed Attack the Block as a 2011 release. I liked X-Men: First Class but see it as much more of an ensemble cast, although Fassbender is good in it.

      I really disliked Hugo. I thought it was beautiful to look at, but ultimately a failure at what it wanted to achieve, so I'd definitely not agree with the "masterpiece" label.

    2. I think the youthful audience I was with helped open my eyes to "Hugo" as it helped put me in the right mindset to get the director's desired experience right from the outset of the dimming of the lights. Had I seen the film alone by my much older self, I may have had a totally different outlook.

      But I now have to knock Fassbender down a notch and put Dominic Cooper in second place for "The Devil's Double" thanks to joel65913 reminding me of that great performance(s). Despicable subject, but a first-rate, tour de force acting performance.

    3. I saw Hugo in as good a situation for that as I could--I went with my extended family. We filled about two rows of the theater. My kids were 12 and 8, and my older daughter absolutely loved the book the film was based on. Like I said, I think it's a beautiful film, but it ultimately fails in terms of what Scorsese wanted it to be.

      I'm adding The Devil's Double to my un-list.

  2. I'm at a certain disadvantage with this since I haven't seen Demian Bichir performance. I enjoyed The Artist though I got more of A Star is Born vibe from it rather than Singin' in the Rain and I loved Jean Dujardin's work but wouldn't hand him the prize. I hated The Descendants and Clooney's performance so he'd never make the cut. Oldman was good in the snoozefest that was Tinker, Tailor but it anyone should have gotten a nomination for that film it should have been Tom Hardy for Supporting Actor. Brad Pitt is the only one of the performances that I've seen that I though should have been included in the running and I was pulling for him to win though I also understand why Dujardin took it.

    But as to who I think should have actually been in the lineup except for Pitt would be totally different. As I said I hated Clooney's film and his work in it but there were a couple of performances in films I was likewise not a fan of that I thought was brilliant despite my dislike of the vehicle.

    The first is Fassbender in Shame which I detested but he was excellent, another was Take Shelter a film with two razor sharp performances, most of all Michael Shannon's, that otherwise was a mess. Drive was better though not a great film but Gosling was certainly a standout in the picture. However my vote would have gone to Dominic Cooper's outstanding dual performance in The Devil's Double where he portrayed the insane Uday Hussein and his hapless doppelganger Latif Yahia.

    1. As I said, I liked Moneyball. My problem with it is simply that I don't know how much he really had to do. The Devil's Double is one I've considered a few times but have never pulled the trigger on.

      In my review of The Artist, I compared it with Singin’ in the Rain mostly because of the time frame and the story dealing with the start of talkies. I also compared it with Sunset Bouleveard because it does get dark in places. I see A Star is Born, though, and almost referenced it above.

  3. I'm actually with you damn near 100% on this one. I haven't seen A Better Life, but I've seen the others, and I'm with you on ranking and comments. Though The Descendents and Moneyball are pretty interchangeable on this one for me (I quite liked both). I also haven't gotten around to seeing Shame, but I've heard amazing things about Fassbender in it. I can't say I'm a huge fan of Drive (it's alright), but I can definitely agree on Gosling's performance.

    However, I'm all for Boyega in Attack the Block, as someone pointed out. His performance there is fantastic. Not saying best of the year, but still worth being in the running. Yeah, this was definitely a tough year, and one where I could see an entire other list made here of films not considered.

    1. I'm pretty close to wanting an entirely new slate. None of the nominated performances are bad ones, but I find it difficult to call any of them great ones with the possible exception of Bichir's. Good shouldn't be enough.

      And yeah, if the Academy were more open to science fiction and horror, I could see Boyega in the list, although he still wouldn't win for me.

  4. Yep, this is perfect. I feel like I could've written this because I agree with it so much. I'd rank the nominees the same way, but ultimately, this was Fassbender's snub. Such a shame he was robbed of a nomination.

    1. Maybe it was the subject matter? I don't know, but he should have been there.

  5. Michael Fassbender is most definitely an under appreciated actor except in one regard, he's won more than the Oscar when it comes to his love life. First he dated Nicole Beharie of "American Violet" and "Shame," and now he has taken up with Oscar darling, Alicia Vikander. I think I'd be hard pressed to choose an Oscar over the likes of those two extremely talented actresses. But judging by this trailer, Michael Fassbender is about to win his first best actor Oscar.

    1. I think Fassbender's Oscar is only a matter of time, really.

      The movie I'm really looking forward to in the final quarter of the year is The Shape of Water, which I hope will at least earn Guillermo del Toro his first Best Picture nomination and Best Director nomination. He's my favorite working director, and I'd love for him to get the sort of recognition I think he's long deserved.

      I guess we'll see in about four months, at least in terms of the nominations.