I’ve been mulling this over for a few weeks now, and though we all know it’s foolish to sit back and predict Oscar winners when the race is still developing a clear slate of nominees, I keep coming back to the amount of sense it makes for Clint Eastwood to take the gold this year for his upcoming leading performance in “Gran Torino.”
Let’s look at the obvious factors first: competition. There is no agreed upon, media-charming performance going into the season that either has forged, or is expected to forge the kind of undeniable mass appeal that Jamie Foxx did in 2004, the last time Eastwood had a shot at an acting prize.
Of the contenders most anticipate to be in play, only Sean Penn’s portrayal of Harvey Milk has the on-paper swagger, while Leonardo DiCaprio (despite generating considerable heat — I’ve heard one person say “it’s one of the best performances I’ve ever seen”) could spoil the party if he can push past the pretty boy image that fellow hopeful Brad Pitt will face.
Mickey Rourke is the odds-on favorite heading into November for a nomination, but despite the brilliance of the performance and the film, there is the sense that the nod will be the reward. An Indie Spirit Award is probably in the cards, and if so, promises to be the usual kiss of death.
Frank Langella, to round out my own predicted five, faces an uphill battle in gaining an Oscar to go along with his Tony for the same performance. Even with plenty of positive assessments, the potential to underwhelm is out there, in the open, and waiting to keep “Frost/Nixon” an also ran in multiple areas.
Benicio Del Toro could be a real threat if the film finds the traction necessary to move into serious play, but it probably won’t be the event that Eastwood’s efforts will be. And the only other performance that really shouts for attention is Josh Brolin’s work in “W,” a film that could be yesterday’s news sooner than later.
Then there is the chatter flying around that “Gran Torino” will be our last opportunity to see Eastwood perform on the screen, a swan song to his career as an actor. If so, what better way to cap off a hell of an autumn run than with a statue for his nearly six decades of achievements in front of the camera?
The film will be emotional, and given the particulars of the script, the portrayal is sure to prove heartbreaking. It could be the stiff upper lip of an awards season that finds itself competing with the election year, a note of hope and even a demand for sacrifice.
So I’ll just put it out there now: Clint Eastwood is going to win the Oscar for Best Actor come February. From where we sit right now, it just makes sense. But that’s the thing about “right now.” It changes.
Have your say. Who do you predict to win the Oscar for Best Actor this year?