Oscars 2010: Best Actor


A lot of the times when it comes to someone winning Best Actor or Actress, it comes down to whether they “deserve it” or whether it’s “time they get their due.” It’s not necessarily an unfair way of doing things, as I too like when a veteran whose performances I have enjoyed countless times finally gets their statuette, but sometimes it feels like an excuse to vote for people.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

  • Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart
  • Colin Firth for A Single Man
  • George Clooney for Up in the Air
  • Morgan Freeman for Invictus
  • Jeremy Renner for The Hurt Locker

This is a bit of how I feel about Jeff Bridges being the favorite in this category for Crazy Heart. I haven’t seen the film, so I should probably just shut up, but I’m not hearing the kinds of things about Bridges as I have in the past about winners such as Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood. At the same time, as a five-time nominee (should be six for The Big Lebowski), “getting his due” certainly applies.

Speaking of comedy roles like The Dude in The Big Lebowski, what about someone like George Clooney in Up in the Air? Sure, he got his trophy for supporting actor in Syriana, but just because he’s playing a familiar role and so naturally embodies his character doesn’t make him any less impressive. But no, we must award the tortured and dramatic performance that takes the performer out of his comfort zone. Shouting dialogue is required. Why else would Al Pacino be so decorated? I’m not saying Clooney should win, I simply mean to point out that I don’t think these categories get judged by the right criteria all the time.

The two Oscar newcomers were also impressing. Colin Firth would be the frontrunner without Jeff Bridges in the category. He plays a tortured, lonely character who goes through an incredible process of self-discovery in A Single Man. He also delivers a few powerful moments that shout “Oscar” with ease.  Jeremy Renner gave a sophisticated and complex performance in The Hurt Locker. I don’t think the message that this film drives home is nearly as effective without him. Part of that is writing, but the performance is the communicator and there’s no white noise in what Renner does on screen.

Morgan Freeman was the one everyone predicted as a shoo-in early last year. How does an Academy-decorated actor playing of the most inspiring and influential figures not get an Oscar? Truthfully, Freeman was outstanding as Nelson Mandela, but his performance did not move me. I think that the script being about rugby and South African unity — not a true biopic of Mandela — was the reason. We know he spent a lot of time in prison, but we don’t see the journey of his character, only the qualities that he consists of.

So while Jeff Bridges will finally walk up and take that Oscar this weekend, there was something to think about. Jeff deserves it and I will be glad to see him win, but the reasons why are something worth examining in years to come. What makes a performance Oscar -worthy and what should?

Prediction: Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart


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