It seemed, early on, that George Clooney was the favorite for his emotionally deep performance as a cuckolded husband in The Descendants. Critics, who hardly ever have a bad thing to say about Clooney (except for Batman and Robin) were impressed by his stretching his range. He won the Golden Globe and seemed to have the Oscar sewn up.
In a way, I was surprised by this turn of events, given that Clooney has already won before, for Syriana. I thought that Brad Pitt, playing baseball executive Billy Beane in Moneyball, stood a great chance, considering he’s never won before and he’s one of the few who are in the same stratosphere as Clooney. I would vote for Pitt, who showed me things I haven’t seen from him before, and looked completely at ease in the skin of Beane. But Pitt has won nothing in the precursors, and it would be a shock if he won.
Instead, Clooney may have been eclipsed by Jean Dujardin, the heretofore unknown French star for his almost silent role in The Artist. Dujardin, who would be the first Frenchmen to win an Oscar for acting, won the Golden Globe, but it was for Comedy/Musical. The win for SAG two weeks later was telling–the last eight winners of the SAG Award for Best Actor have won the Oscar (granted, the last time these two did not match up was when Johnny Depp won the SAG for Pirates of the Caribbean). As The Descendants sinks in the minds of voters while The Artist is poised to win a bundle, Dujardin is my pick to win.
The other two actors in the category can just enjoy the ride, which is precisely what Gary Oldman has said he is doing. Most of the commentary about this venerable actor is surprise that his role as master spy George Smiley in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is his first. Given all the outrageous villains he has played, it is ironic that his first nomination is for the quiet, almost stationary Smiley.
And Demian Bichir has got to be pleased with the nomination. His role as the undocumented Mexican worker in A Better Life is the least seen of the pack, and though a fine piece of work he doesn’t have the proverbial snowball’s chance. I hope it leads to many more great roles for him.
Will win: Jean Dujardin
Could win: George Clooney
Should win: Brad Pitt
Should have been nominated: Michael Shannon, Take Shelter