The other day, I provide my list of the twenty performances from 2016 films that I would have submitted on an Oscar ballot had I been given the opportunity to do so. This is an exercise is wishcasting that I have been indulging in for an absurdly long time. In online platforms alone, it has been over ten years of offering my haughty views of which performers were most deserving of awards consideration in any given year. Since ten is a nice round number, I thought I’d drag out my anointed score of acting titans from the film year 2006, originally posted in my first online home, complete with the original commentary, without tempting finesses to make me look more prescient than I was. At least I managed to go four-for-four in predicting the actual winners.
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
1. Helen Mirren, The Queen
2. Ellen Page, Hard Candy
3. Luminita Gheorghiu, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
4. Kate Winslet, Little Children
5. Penelope Cruz, Volver
Despite my previous griping about the uniformity of the various critics’ awards this year, I have to wholeheartedly agree with the consensus pick. This is in part because the performance is that good, but also due to the field being that weak. Honestly, Ellen Page is the only other performance that I consider even close to Mirren’s work in The Queen and I’m pleased that she was one of the only people to wrest an award from the Dame’s hands this year (albeit from a critics’ organization pretty far down the food chain). Mirren will win tonight, and it will be the most deserving acting award of the night.
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
1. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Departed
2. Clive Owen, Children of Men
3. Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson
4. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Brick
5. Kazunari Ninomiya, Letters from Iwo Jima
Hey look, me and the Oscars agree on Ryan Gosling and that’s it! Just wait until we get to Supporting Actress. I haven’t bothered with Blood Diamond, but that must be a helluva performance if it’s better than the tightrope anguish of Dicaprio’s work in The Departed. Among the many sadnesses of Children of Men neglectful treatment during the awards season is that Clive Owen’s masterfully reserved performance has gone under-appreciated. Having finally seen Gosling’s lived-in edginess in Half Nelson, I’m pleased as can be that he got invited to come clap for someone else. I’ve already typed my piece about Gordon-Levitt, so I’ll just note the great empathy Ninomiya earns as the Japanese soldier who embodies the cultural shift in perceptions of glory and self-sacrifice in Eastwood’s good World War II this year. As for tonight’s likely winner Forest Whitaker, I think it’s a supporting performance rather than a lead (he’s completely absent for a good twenty to thirty minutes in the middle of the film), and I don’t think he really deserves a nomination in that category either.
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
1. Vera Farmiga, The Departed
2. Lily Tomlin, A Prairie Home Companion
3. Claire-Hope Ashitey, Children of Men
4. Maribel Verdu, Pan’s Labyrinth
5. Meryl Streep, A Prairie Home Companion
Among the Oscar nominees, I like the work of Rinko Kikuchi in Babel, but I think that’s largely due to the fact that her storyline is the only one that had any feel of truth to it. As much as I do like all of the performances here, the only person here who really had a chance to make it the big dance was Farmiga, and I’m not entirely sure how Warner Brothers botched the acting categories so badly with The Departed. It would be so much nicer if Streep were being honored for the charming flightiness of her performance in Altman’s closing work than the amusing single-note novelty of The Devil Wears Prada, but I’ll concede that I’m more curmudgeonly about that performance than most. By the way, I also think that Maribel Verdu shoulda been a contender for Y Tu Mama Tambien. Maybe if she gets around to working with the least talented member of the Three Amigos, she’ll actually get some deserved recognition. Bitter? Yeah, a little bit. As to the way tonight will actually play out, Jennifer Hudson remains a lock. Certainly the Dreamgirls soul train isn’t charging as hard as everyone assumed it would be, but the Babel performers will split, and its way too early to give Cate Blanchett her second. That leaves the ten-year-old and they’re not prepared to do that yet again, are they? If they are, expect that stupid yellow bus to win Best Picture. Back to Jennifer Hudson, I think that’s really a lead performance, and I don’t think she really deserves a nomination in that category either.
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
1. Michael Sheen, The Queen
2. Danny Huston, The Proposition
3. Michael Caine, Children of Men
4. Mark Wahlberg, The Departed
5. Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls
Listen, I know Danny Huston never had a chance for the wild inspiration of his work in the The Proposition and the Academy is going to foolishly prefer the more self-consciously serious work of Michael Caine, but they couldn’t have shared some of that Queen love for Sheen’s work, which is just as fine as Mirren’s? For tonight’s ceremony, smart money stays on Murphy to win, although the money that’s been moved over to Alan Arkin isn’t so dumb. I don’t especially like Alan Arkin’s performance in Little Miss Sunshine because, like almost everything else in the film, it feels too cutesy and familiar, but there’s nothing wrong with an Oscar having Arkin’s name engraved on it. We can just all pretend it’s actually for The In-Laws or something.