Though most of my Oscar prediction chart updates have to wait for today's screening of Zero Dark Thirty (eeeeeeee! Bring it, Bigelow) it was safe to go ahead and revamp the Best Actor chart since Jessica Chastain can't compete there without significant alternate universe alterations. The chart has all new text, new rankings, links to reviews and past articles, and thoughts on locks, dark horse campaign angles. There's also an extensive list of vote siphoners that probably won't factor in but for random ballots from their most ardent admirers. That doesn't mean they aren't worthy of attention. It never does and never will since "Best" will always remain in the eye of the beholder.
HUGH vs. DANIEL
This weekend's debut of Les Misérables sent numerous industry professionals and media types (including myself) into a frenzy. (lots more after the jump)
The film has the truly epic scale and all-caps Artistry that AMPAS often seems created just to honor. Though Anne Hathaway is the film's surest best for Oscar glory, there's been a smaller flurry of excitment for a truly bold suggestion that Hugh Jackman will prove to be Daniel Day-Lewis's true rival for 2012 Best Actor glory.
Jackman gives his all in this movie, and his performance is a tour de force of passion in the same way that Daniel Day-Lewis' portrayal of Abraham Lincoln is a triumph of precision. At this point, the Best Actor race is all about them.
Many pundits would argue this isn't bold so much as obvious, given the ecstatic reception. I think it a bold suggestion not for its content (I absolutely believe it to be true IF he's nominated) but for the depressing possibility that he might not even be nominated. Best Actor can be an infuriatingly bland category and the Academy has not, as a general rule, been kind to male leads of musicals... a genre often viewed as "feminine" , however silly and retrograde that gender stereotype may be. In the 84 year history of the Oscars many male musical leads have been snubbed (including, recently, Ewan McGregor and Richard Gere in Best Picture nominees with plentiful nominations and Daniel Day-Lewis in Nine... though the latter was one of DDL's very infrequent critical misses) and only three have won Best Actor for musical roles:
- James Cagney, Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
- Yul Brynner, The King and I (1956)
- Rex Harrison, My Fair Lady (1964)
Hard boiled Cagney had the advantage of playing against type (a dependably strong Oscar hook) in a biopic (inarguably Oscar's favorite genre). Striking Brynner had considerable momentum having already played the role to über acclaim on stage and just impeccable timing since he was co-starring in another best picture blockbuster nominee (The Ten Commandments) that very same year, and finally Rex Harrison won at the peak of the form's popularity with Oscar voters. A Jackman win would put a happy end to a nearly half century drought for lead actors in musicals.
If you include Supporting Actors it's still a dire statistic in terms of win. No man has won for a musical role since Joel Grey in Cabaret (1972) and only six men have been nominated in either category in the 40 years since: Roy Scheider couldn't manage a win for All That Jazz (1979) and he had the advantage of celebrity biopic mimicry... though that was admittedly much less of an automatic Oscar draw in the 70s than it is now; Charles Durning couldn't win for his brilliant cameo in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas despite also adding wonderful notes to Tootsie and somehow the great Robert Preston in Victor/Victoria (1982) also lost that year; John C Reilly couldn't win for Chicago (2002) though co-starring in three Best Picture nominees that year undoubtedly secured that nomination to begin with; Eddie Murphy couldn't win despite an electric comeback performance in Dreamgirls (2006) that was obviously superior to the winning role; and finally Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd (2007) was lucky to be nominated and still riding momentum from his career peak in the mid Aughts.
All that said, Jackman's performance is a sensation, the role he was obviously born to play, and few Oscar statistics can hold forever. If Academy voters get antsy about handing Daniel Day Lewis more Best Actor Oscars than anyone else ever -- yes, even more than Jack Nicholson, their all time favorite actor -- we could see a thrilling end to a 40 year Oscar drought for men in musicals. Do you think he will?
Assuming Hugh Jackman is as locked and loaded as Daniel, Denzel and Joaquin (a risky assumption) that leaves just one spot up for grabs in the shortlist. If Silver Linings' Bradley Cooper or Amour's Jean Louis Tritnigant can't rally as dark horse spoilers, does it go to John Hawkes in The Sessions or Sir Anthony Hopkins as Hitchcock? I'd love to hear your thoughts. It's trickier than you might think. Hawkes has better reviews (for the performance and the film) but neither movie has exactly set the world ablaze and if there's anything Oscar loves more than Best Actors With a Disability its Best Actors in Prosthetics Mimicking Famous People... particularly actors they already think the world of.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on which five men will hear their names called on January 10th and whether or not Hugh Jackman can end that 40 year drought for musical men.