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The season of the golden statue is upon us, and the heat is increasing in the top categories. Where is the wind blowing this year? One of the most coveted awards, along with the Leading Actress trophy, is that of Best Male Lead.
This year, the battle is between experienced and seasoned performances, all around age 40 and up. At the same time, there are many first-timers, despite their years in the business, with only one of the nominated already having an Oscar to show for it. Nothing is certain until Sunday, February 26, live from Hollywood, but here are the predictions.
Demián Bichir for ‘A Better Life’
American audiences primarily know 48-year-old Demián Bichir from the TV series, Weeds, and as Fidel in Steven Soderbergh’s ‘Che’. However, Bichir is a huge name back in his native Mexico, part of a family of celebrated actors, and his presence on this year’s nomination list will be his first. In Chris Weitz’s A Better Life, he plays the gardener, Carlos, who has worked hard to make a life for himself and his estranged son in the States. When his truck is stolen, father and son, albeit virtually strangers, set out to recover it in hopes of a better life.
There were reports of confusion when Bichir’s name was read among the nominees as some believed the choice was made at the expense of the highly acclaimed ‘Shame’s Michael Fassbender. While Weitz’s film was celebrated, it was not widely watched. However, the nod to Bichir is the only one for the movie, and despite the initial surprise, or maybe because of it, it seems unlikely that he will take home the award.
George Clooney for ‘The Descendants’
Already a groomed candidate with seven nominations in his pocket and a win in the Supporting category for ‘Syriana’ in 2006, 50-year-old George Clooney has placed himself firmly in the front. Unlike Bichir, Clooney is ‘Hollywood royalty’, and the story goes that a bet was made between him and fellow Tinsel royal, Brad Pitt, that if one of them got the nomination this year, the other would perform a favor.
Clooney’s was to spend the day with Brad and his partner Angelina Jolie’s pack of kids – which he allegedly loathes. With that deal already sealed, the question is if ‘The George’ will up the ante by making an actor’s Oscar hat trick – winning both Leading and Supporting Actor; something only five other actors have done before him.
Is the part worth it? Many great things have been said about The Descendants, and it is no wonder; the adapted screenplay hit a chord with critics and movie-goers alike, and Clooney’s character, Matt King, is relatable as he struggles to keep the pieces of his reality together. Already winning the Golden Globes this year is a huge plus, which tempts us to believe that the night will be Clooney’s time to shine.
Jean Dujardin for ‘The Artist’
At the tender age of 39, Jean Dujardin is not well-known in the States. Dujardin is funnily enough referred to as the French George Clooney, and the liking is merited after an evening spent in the company of The Artist - the smile says it all!
The Artist, in itself, is an incredible achievement that has reaped rave reviews around the world, with the exception of some disgruntled movie goers on the British Isles, and much of the magic is thanks to Dujardin’s charming, yet heartbreaking performance as the silent movie star, George Valentin, who fades into obscurity as the ‘talkies’ take over.
Not only is his performance a delight, but an immense amount of respect and awe goes into the challenge of performing ‘old school’; the whole cast had to abandon their experience to embrace a performance style of the past. A dark horse in the race, but a secret favorite of this reporter. Will the French finally get a leading man on the podium?
Gary Oldman for ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’
While younger generations connect Gary Oldman with good and helpful franchise characters (Harry Potter, Nolan’s Batman), most of the mature viewers know that Oldman earned his badges as the ‘bad boy’ and other villainous characters. Evidently, the tide has turned for the 53-year-old native Englishman who embodied the anti-Bond character of George Smiley in the adapted espionage drama, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, to such taste that the Academy nod was inevitable.
Even though Oldman has been around for years and is the eldest of this year’s nominees, it is the first time he has been nominated for an Oscar. Sadly, the predictions are that the honorary inclusion in the ranks of the Academy is the only thing he will be getting next Sunday.
Brad Pitt for ‘Moneyball’
So far, Brad Pitt’s career at the Academy Awards has been scattered and less eventful than you would have thought, considering his status in Hollywood. When he made the bet with George Clooney, his odds were statistically lower – curiously amusing to consider now that Moneyball is the movie that got him the nomination.
The role of Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics who takes a chance on a numbers game in order to win the League, is a powerful tale of grandeur against the odds. It has been awhile since baseball filled the main plot line of a big-name movie, and critics have applauded the production team for reigniting the on-screen excitement for the game.
Some hint that the fuss over ‘The George’ might blindside observers and allow the 48-year-old father-of-six to channel his character’s underdog qualities, but as it stands, Pitt will enjoy the show and settle for the party.
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