Last year I famously (famous in my mind at least) gave Colin Firth an enthusiastic nomination and ended up leaving Jeff Bridges out of the running completely. This year, I find myself nominating Bridges and leaving Firth off the shortlist. I wasn’t doing the inverse of the Academy’s preferences on purpose and I didn’t disclude either from their respective years lightly.
- James Franco- 127 Hours: James Franco’s work as a man stuck alone in a canyon in anguish has been discussed at length in many places. That’s all good, but I’m going to focus on what he does that’s really impressive: create a character. Aron Ralston could have easily come across as an unsympathetic douchebag, but Franco is able to make him into a really likable person from the get go and you can really see him evolve as a person throughout the character’s ordeal.
- Ryan Gostling- Blue Valentine: What really impresses me about Ryan Gostling’s work in Blue Valentine is just how much his character seems to change between the film’s two timelines, while still sort of staying the same. You can see how he’s evolved into someone who would be less desirable to Michelle Williams, but you can also see the roots of what he’s become in those early years. Mix that with the scene by scene emotional acting and you’ve got a hell of a performance.
- Casey Affleck- The Killer Inside Me: This year Casey Affleck has the unenviable position of having given an Oscar-worthy performance in a movie that very few people saw and which was seen as sort of a mess by the few who did. It’s unfortunate because Affleck is able to take his character from The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and apply it to this role as a sociopath who is simultaneously despicable and also sort of pathetic.
- Leonardo DiCaprio- Shutter Island: Leonardo DiCaprio was in two major films in 2010, and while Inception was probably the greater work overall, I think he delivered the greater performance in Scorsese’s thriller. DiCaprio starts out by doing a riff on Sam Spade, and that’s pretty fun to begin with, but then they start putting him through the emotional ringer. This is in many ways the male equivalent to Natalie Portman’s role in Black Swan and while DiCaprion probably isn’t as through the roof as Portman was, he’s up there.
- Jeff Bridges- True Grit: What impressed me about Bridges is how he was able to immediately get images of John Wayne out of the audience’s collective vision. While Wayne kept his signature personality through much of his interpretation of the Rooster Cogburn role, Bridges goes all out in his depiction of a rough, dirty, drunken frontier lawman. That he sounds remarkably similar to my chain-smoking and slightly redneck uncle only makes this more endearing to me.