As time goes on, I don't look at the early 2000's kindly in terms of cinematic output. Not to say there wasn't some great films from the era (and there have definitely been time periods with more dismal films than the early 2000's), but on average, movies from this time just didn't pack a punch. It is hard to say why exactly, but I think the industry might have been in a transitional period in terms of artistic leadership. The directors from the previous generation seemed to be running out of creative steam, while some of the younger talent (the Christopher Nolan, David Fincher, and Darren Aronofskys' of the world) were still finding their feet and hadn't broken through enough to demand the respect of the studios. This in turn affected performances of the era, for no matter how talented they may be as thespians, actors are (at least partially)dependent on good roles. The 2004 Best Actor race is a perfect example of this fact, because while the category is filled with star-studded names of capable actors, with the exception of a few, most of the performances are not prime examples of the actors' best work. How about performances that missed being nominated though? Well there was one great performance that has since gained pop culture status through parodies on Youtube: Bruno Ganz as Adolph Hitler in the German film Downfall. Playing THE villain of the 20th century, Ganz finally brought a level of humanity to the Nazi leader who had previously only been portrayed as a cartoony super-villain. While Ganz would walk away with the Oscar in a meritocracy, unfortunately, with the Academy's inane rules about foreign actors' eligibility, I'm not sure if the performance was even eligible for the award. Other than this stand-out performance, while I might have substituted this for that here and there (Tom Hanks in The Ladykillers, Bill Murray in The Life Aquatic, Jim Caviezel in The Passion of the Christ, and if considered lead, David Carradine in Kill Bill Part 2 would all be possible replacements), nothing jumps out as an awful blunder on the Academy's part. As fun of a pastime as Academy-bashing is then, aside from their xenophobia, I can't really criticize them in this category, which means it is time to get to the ranking of the actual nominees.