Saturday, February 8, 2014

Awards-Nazi Award nominations: Actor

What a year for this category. I easily could shuffle out all five of my own Best Actor nominees for the five that just missed and the lineup would still be incredible.

BRUCE DERN in Nebraska
Dern finally gets the career role he's been working for, and is liberated to focus on acting method and internalize what other actors may have felt the need to make explicit. The brilliance of his performance is not so much in his commitment to the behaviours of a senile old fool, but in his most underplayed reactions to hearing others describe him and his past. We get the sense of a man with an entire lifetime of history he wishes he could express, but which his deteriorating mind won't allow him to.

LEONARDO DICAPRIO in The Wolf of Wall Street
Sometimes hard to gauge these things at first blush, but after a couple of years to sit and mellow (though there's nothing mellow about this incendiary performance), it's clear that this is what may go down as the role of Leo's career. It tests his versatility as a performer far more than any of the anguished antiheroes whose brows he furrowed in physical/psychological pain, galvanizing a unique, entertaining anti-villain, but without letting the character's despicable nature get lost in his limber comic tone.

CHIWETEL EJIOFOR in 12 Years a Slave
And at the centre of this harrowing saga, holding our gaze when we'd rather not watch, is Chiwetel Ejiofor. He delivers a haunting portrayal of an intelligent yet crucially naïve man; a man once blissfully blind to the plight of his race until he is dragged through all nine circles of hell in chains, losing something even more irreplaceable than twelve years of his life in the process. As he stares into oblivion, we can feel every pang of fear, uncertainty, and loss coursing through his heart.

OSCAR ISAAC in Inside Llewyn Davis
Isaac gives a superb, weathered performance that evokes the guilt and remorse that runs deep beneath his character's prickly, arrogant exterior. And he does so with such unaffected subtlety and impressive musicality. It takes a special breed of performer to truly act through song, but when one hears Isaac strum his guitar and wrench out lyrics with true meaning behind them, it becomes clear that he's singing much more than words on a page; He's baring his soul.

In a performance that transcends his celebrity status, McConaughey completely disappears inside Ron Woodroof, compelling us to watch an unsavoury man vindicate his entire life on borrowed time. His transition from a homophobic drug profiteer to a devoted champion of a crucial cause is dramatic yet gradually handled. McConaughey makes us genuinely believe that this man – who so repelled us at the beginning – could undergo such a profound change in just seven years.

ETHAN HAWKE in Before Midnight
While his costar Julie Delpy has received at least some notices (including a Golden Globe nod), it seems to have been forgotten that it really is two fists that deliver this knockout of a film. Hawke has invested just as much of himself into developing his character over the course of eighteen years, skillfully revealing a selfish man, insightful though he may be, disguising his passive aggressive wants with faux rationality. But Jesse still hasn't lost the charm and mellow humour that drew Celine to him in the first place.

Just missed:
CHRISTIAN BALE in Out of the Furnace
TOM HANKS in Captain PhillipsETHAN HAWKE in Before Midnight


  1. You're on a Di Caprio high, here?

    1. Revisited all his nominated performances in anticipation of his win, and it's clear what the standout is. Needed a couple of years for it to ripen with me.

    2. Kl. And the decision to trade up Fassbender for Leto in supporting actor was; ripening affection Leto's performance, a way to give Dallas Buyers Club an award in your ballot, a way avoid over-rewarding Fassbender on your ballots or a combination?

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