Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Oscars 2006: Actor In a Leading Role

Actor In a Leading Role

Leonardo Di Caprio - Blood Diamond
Ryan Gosling - Half Nelson
Peter O'Toole - Venus
Will Smith - The Pursuit of Happyness
Forest Whitaker - The Last King of Scotland

Who should win?
By furlongs, lengths, kilometres, miles.. over bridges, through forests, scaled mountains and oceans, Ryan Gosling deserves to walk away with this award. It isn't that this performance is merely convincing. The depth of Gosling's performance creates a window into the mentality of addiction itself. He resists putting on the savage turn that people expect and perhaps prefer, in turn blurring the distinction between himself and his drug-dependent persona. Have the drugs taken over him? Do they provide escapism? Maintain youth? The main thing is that their effect is neither flaunted nor sensationalised, and Gosling's performance is indicative of that.

Who will win?
Every year there's one critically lauded performance I just don't get. Sometimes more than one (all of the acting winners, Robbins excepted, in 2003). This year it's the likely Oscar winner Forest Whitaker, in The Last King of Scotland. It's admittedly a powerful, intimidating, and occasionally touching portrayal of tyrant Idi Amin, but while Whitaker's incessant bellowing and sweating are, very watchable, I think the narrative contributes as much to the character as he does. There just isn't enough range in this for me.

An eighth loss for Peter O'Toole would mean he'd remain Oscarless and frankly very unlucky, considering the terribly uninspiring collection of Actors this year. I don't think this lineup is particularly bad, but it's hard to really love any of them that much -- apart from the fantastic RG. History suggests there may be a glimmer of hope for O'Toole (Page, Newman, Tandy), but Whitaker has swept the board this year, and plays a real-life character. It's depressing when the last non-biopic performance to win in this category came courtesy of the almost unwatchable Sean Penn in Mystic River. *Sigh* If Whitaker loses I'd be shocked.

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