Oscar 2012: Best Actor Race

Over the next few weeks (when I feel like it and get through the remainder of the Oscar nominees) I will examine each of the races in the top eight categories. I am in no way trying to keep this objective or subjective; like with everything else in this blog, I’m writing what I think and don’t really filter it.

The Nominees
Demián Bichir – A Better Life
George Clooney – The Descendants
Jean Dujardin – The Artist
Gary Oldman – Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Brad Pitt – Moneyball

Some years there are performances in this category that are so transformative and so absorbing that the actor is completely lost within the character and an entirely new person is born.

This is not one of those years.

What we have this year is five equally matched, excellent performances in this category. George Clooney is the most decorated of the bunch and the only one with a statue. Brad Pitt may be an international superstar, but has only two previous nominations with no wins. The other three are first timers; the shocking revelation here is that master thespian Gary Oldman is a rookie nominee.

Will Win: Brad Pitt, Moneyball. The signs point to Clooney, but the Academy tends to skew towards newer, big-name nominees over returning winners, and Pitt certainly fits the bill. It’s really six of one, half a dozen of the other when you compare the two.

Should Win: Pitt’s performance was one of the best of his career and he does deserve it this year. However, Demián Bichir should be right in the thick of this race and no one is talking about him. That’s a shame; and it’s a shame that no one would have heard of this film without the Academy’s recognition.

Snubbed: Leonardo DiCaprio, J. Edgar. DiCaprio is a perennial Best Actor candidate for just about anything he does, and his J. Edgar Hoover was no exception. However, the blame for this snub falls at the feet of Clint Eastwood, who seems to have lost his ability to pace a film as a director. That, and the odd makeup was DiCaprio’s undoing. If J. Edgar had scored a 80% on the Rotten Tomato scale, no doubt he’d be up there with Pitt and Clooney right now. Barring him, Michael Shannon’s performance in Take Shelter was a knock-out and deserved more recognition than it’s gotten.

Overhyped: Gary Oldman, Tinker, Taylor, Solider, Spy. I really hate to say this, given how big of an Oldman fan I am and he was quite good in the film, but I didn’t feel like this was the best of his career by a long shot. He will win soon, but this isn’t the time.