While the best supporting categories seem a little more cut and dry this year, not so the races for best actor and actress. Remember, the key to winning your Oscar pool is to think like the Academy, which doesn’t always fall in line with your favorite choice. Let’s take a look.

Best Actress

  • Glenn Close – Albert Knobbs
  • Viola Davis – The Help
  • Rooney Mara – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
  • Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady
  • Michelle Williams – My Week With Marilyn

This race is going to come down to the wire. It’s also a great example of an award that could go to an actress undeserving of the acclaim. Hear me out.

First things first, as brilliant as Rooney Mara was in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, you can rule her out. Unfortunately, the film is garnering little buzz with the Academy, and Mara’s personal aloofness has turned many people off. There are plans for the next two Dragon Tattoo books to be adapted into films with director David Fincher and Mara both returning to the project. Look for them to get their due in time. Mara will be heard from again if she can polish up her image a bit.

I absolutely adore Michelle Williams. Her nomination last year for the underrated Blue Valentine, coupled with this nod, are proof that she will be a force to reckon with for years to come. If Meryl Streep hadn’t made a film this year, she might have a very good chance at making a speech on Oscar night. But, Streep did make a film. More on that in a bit.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 23 years since Glenn Close has been nominated for an Oscar. (Dangerous Liaisons, 1988) She’s certainly a terrific actress, but Albert Nobbs is garnering no buzz. No one seems to care. Any votes in favor of Close winning this are sentimental in nature, and I just don’t see enough people giving her the nod in this field of talent.

Which brings me back to Meryl Streep. I will never argue that Streep isn’t one of the best actresses of all time. But, she should not be nominated for every single role she gets. She was the standout in a movie that has gotten mixed reviews. Of all of the nominations she has collected over the years, is The Iron Lady truly that role the Academy plans to honor her for? I’m a little bit disappointed in how Streep has carried herself this awards season. Her humbleness seems very phony to me. Her Golden Globe acceptance speech was amateurish and egotistical. She couldn’t even remember the names of her competition. That’s a sad statement from such Hollywood royalty. But remember, this is the Academy we’re talking about here. In my opinion, Streep’s performance is 4th best among these nominees, but she stands a very good chance of pulling this off.

Who is going to stop the Streep express? Viola Davis, that’s who. Davis’ role in The Help stands as mighty and courageous as her character, Aibileen Clark. Davis made you feel something that some of these other actresses didn’t. You felt for her and wanted to see her succeed. What did we see in her closest competitor, Meryl Streep? Another iconic female historical figure played by Meryl Streep. Been there, done that. Will probably be there again soon enough. There should be enough voters that can see through the sham and award this to Davis, but she needs a little “Help”.

Should Win - Viola Davis

Will Win - Viola Davis

Best Actor

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

Demian Bichir in A Better Life. Who? What? Unless you are a fan of Showtime’s Weeds, you’ve never even heard of this guy. Even less of you heard of this movie. Not happening.

I like Brad Pitt. His acting talents are often overlooked in the face of all of his sexiest man alive cover photos and high profile marriages. But I’m not really sure why he’s nominated here. Moneyball is a good movie. Pitt is good in it. Top 5 performances of the year level? Doubtful. I’m pretty sure Michael Shannon in Take Shelter could make a case for being here. Hell, I’ll even go more obscure and say that Michael Parks in Red State gave a more haunting and powerful performance, but the Academy isn’t about to invite Jay and Silent Bob to it’s little tea party.

It’s astounding to me that Gary Oldman has never been nominated before. All the guy does is give brilliant performances. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is falling victim to the dreaded lack of pre Oscar buzz, so Oldman is just going to have to be happy to be here.

Jean Dujardin is peaking at just the right time. The Artist is garnering all of the buzz, and Dujardin is reaping the rewards of that. My biggest issue with his performance is that it seemed less about acting and more about emoting. I’m not trashing the guy, as I thought he did a great job. I just didn’t fall in love with the movie or the performances like many critics and pseudo cinephiles seemed to. Dujardin has a shot at this, but I think it would be myopic to award this to him, as I think if he does win, it’s more the Academy making a statement on The Artist and less on the performance.

For my money, George Clooney found another level within himself and gave hands down the best performance of the year. I’ve always dug Clooney’s stuff, but his role in The Descendants was astounding. You felt every bit of the anger and pain that this guy was dealing with. When the movie is over you find yourself asking questions like, “could I have done that?” Performances that make you look inside yourself are those that need to be honored.

Should Win – George Clooney

Will Win – George Clooney

Be sure to check back in tomorrow for a look at the best director race. For now, discuss amongst yourselves. I’d love to hear your opinions.

 

Check out yesterday’s Best Supporting Category rundown.

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This article was first posted on February 23, 2012