Oscars Preview: Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor Categories

Big names top my list in the 84th Academy Awards Best Actor category, but it might not be the names that we are used to reading while waiting in the checkout lines. And it’s actually a shame because George Clooney and Brad Pitt, each nominated, might have had their best-ever performances this year.

Clooney, who I think should win without question, mastered sincerity, sadness, humor and much more in his role as a husband whose unfaithful wife was in a coma. I thought the connection between him and Shailene Woodley, who played his bratty teenage daughter, was terrific. The two of them captured the sadness of the situation as they worked together to get their family back on track. The pacing of this movie was slow at times, but Clooney’s facial expressions, demeanor and his words, made this not only my favorite movie of the year, but put him at the podium accepting the Oscar for Best Actor, at least if I was the one handing out the hardware.

I liked Brad Pitt, again, more than any other time I have watched him, in his role as Billy Beane in “Moneyball.” He played the general manager of the Oakland Athletics, a small-market team that used an innovative technique to find good baseball players on the cheap. Pitt and Jonah Hill, who is nominated in a supporting role, were a great together. Pitt showed his comedic side at times, with a wry smile and some pointed interaction with some of the baseball old-times, but he also showed his passionate side as a father and mentor to his players.

But, my favorite to win and perhaps help steal the night for “The Artist,” is Jean Dujardin. He played a silent film star who was on top of the world, until technology changed his life. In a movie that was 1 hour and 40 minutes long, he had one line, but he still managed to tell a story through a smile, a wink or some silky smooth dance steps. I preferred the performances of Clooney and Pitt, in part, because I like my actors to speak, but you can’t argue that the role that Dujardin played was unique and played it to perfection.

“A Better Life,” was a very good movie about a father, played by Demina Bichir, who was working in America illegally, trying to raise his son and give him a better life. It was a powerful performance, but I think the competition is too strong for him to have a true chance at winning the Oscar.

Veteran actor Gary Oldman was nominated for his leading role in “Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy.” This was a movie that got you thinking, and Oldman was definitely the driving force in a cast that included Colin Firth. Oldman played a retired agent who was brought back to find a mole in the government, but Oldman didn’t display the range that I would like to see in the winner of an Oscar.

In the Best Supporting Actor category, the best performance in my opinion was that of Jonah Hill and his role as the assistant general manager in the movie, “Moneyball.” It was by far the most formal role for the comedic actor, but he nailed it using indecisive tendencies and a shyness, all while winning over the general manager, played by Pitt. It was nice to see him in such a role and while he got a much-deserved nomination, he will probably have to enjoy the red carpet and after parties instead of the acceptance speech.

In a close second, Kenneth Branagh, was great as Sir Lawrence Olivier in “My Week with Marilyn.” He showed great range, from his frustrations in directing megastar Marilyn Monroe to his calmness in dealing with his assistant who befriended Monroe. The movie was above average and Branagh’s role was made even better by the stellar performance of Michelle Williams.

Christopher Plummer, by many accounts is a front-runner to win for his role as a widower who as an elderly man was now embracing his role as a gay man in “Beginners.” The movie was good, but not my favorite. It moved too slow at times for me, but my favorite scene in the movie epitomized why I think Plummer was nominated and why I wouldn’t be disappointed if he were to win on Sunday. Plummer spoke to his adult son, explaining why he decided to marry his mother, living a life filled with what you would assume were lies, but what you found out was that love existed in their relationship. That she knew who she was marrying and he knew what he was doing, too. They lived a life together, had a wonderful family, but when she died, Plummer’s character was able to be himself for the first time in his life.

Max von Sydow in “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,” was another actor nominated who didn’t have a speaking role. He played “the Renter” in movie, which was really code for the grandfather of the boy whose father died in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Sydow used facial expressions, a pen and a notepad and the words “yes” and “no” written one on each hand. He didn’t communicate like most grandfathers, but he inspired and guided his grandson on a path that ultimately led to growth and healing. Just as Dejardin’s role was captivating, so was Sydow’s.

“Warrior” was a movie that involved two brothers fighting in a mixed martial arts tournament. Nick Nolte played their alcoholic father, who wished he had been there for them earlier in their lives so he would be all alone now. I felt like his role was one I had seen before. He was very good, but the competition is a bit too steep.

READ: Oscars Preview: Can A Silent Film Really Win Best Picture In This Day, Age?

READ: Oscars Preview: Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress Categories