Jeff Bridges: Crazy Heart (winner)
Jeremy Renner: The Hurt Locker
Morgan Freeman: Invictus
Colin Firth: A Single Man
George Clooney: Up in the Air
2009’s list of nominees is certainly odd, and I’d love to make some wholesale changes to them. Oh, I’d probably keep a few, but certainly not all of them. A movie like Ninja Assassin isn’t going to get any Oscar love, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun, and Rain would be a fun nomination. The same is true of Ricky Gervais in The Invention of Lying, a film I think is much better than its reputation. I didn’t love The Blind Side, but I can’t deny that Quinton Aaron was very good in the lead role. Ben Foster had a great year with both The Messenger and Pandorum. Woody Harrelson could be considered for the former and Dennis Quaid for the latter. District 9 was a surprise nomination for Best Picture, and I think I can argue Sharlto Copley for Best Actor. In the Loop was an ensemble cast, but I’d love to see Peter Capaldi here; ditto for Brad Pitt and Inglourious Basterds. Foreign movies, as always, are a longshot nomination, especially for horror, but Song Kang-ho should be considered for Thirst. Bill Murray and Robert Duvall would be interesting choices for Get Low. I think a case could be made for Michael Stuhlbarg in A Serious Man. The big miss, though, was Sam Rockwell in the career-making and defining Moon. And before someone says Watchmen, it’s far too much of an ensemble for me to make a choice.
Weeding through the Nominees
4. I genuinely like The Hurt Locker. In truth, I like most of Kathryn Bigelow’s movies, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that I liked this one. I don’t dislike Jeremy Renner in this role, either, except to say that I don’t find Renner himself to be that memorable in the role. I remember great swaths of this movie, but it’s the movie itself and the adrenaline or the need for adrenaline that I remember more than anything else. Renner is fine, but I feel like he should have made more of an impression on me than he did.
3. I have nothing against Colin Firth as an actor. It feels like his nomination for A Single Man was a warm-up for him to win the following here. The problems I have with this movie come from the movie itself and the rather surprising and weird ending. This is one of those performances where I have trouble separating a good performance from a movie that I really didn’t like very much. It’s hard for me to be objective about a movie that made very little of an impression on me one way or the other.
2. The biggest problem I have with Crazy Heart is the fact that, like many a movie that has come before it, the plot insists on giving us a May/December romance that is supposed to be charming and just ends up creepy. That said, I understand the win for Jeff Bridges, who is very good in this role. There’s a lot to recommend it, and ultimately, I understand exactly why the Academy went the way they did. It’s another case where I like the performance, not so much the movie or the role in question.
1. This means that based on the five nominations, I’m giving this to George Clooney for Up in the Air, which is a much better movie than I thought it was going to be. I went into it with no real expectations and left with some surprise that Clooney was this capable of playing this kind of dramatic role. Clooney, I think, is a better actor than a lot of people give him credit for being, and this is evidence. That said, if I can open the field up, I’m still going to nominate Clooney, but I’m not going to give him the statue.
Moon was a small movie that flew under a lot of radars and it shouldn’t have. It’s the kind of performance(s) that make someone a star in the sense that it’s the kind of performance that gets people noticed by the people that matter. Sam Rockwell has certainly had a dandy career since he starred in Moon. This was a role designed to show someone at his absolute best, and Rockwell should have been recognized.