If nominated, will Clint win Best Actor? I think so…

Posted by · 10:26 am · January 10th, 2009

Clint Eastwood in Gran TorinoThough it ain’t over till it’s over, I think the five nominees for best actor have all but been decided.  Come nomination morning, I expect to hear the names of Clint Eastwood, Sean Penn, Frank Langella, Mickey Rourke and Richard Jenkins.

Of course I have no way of knowing if this is how things will end up, but I have a pretty good feeling (which means nothing). Left off the list will be Brad Pitt in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” which will garner the most nominations of any film, and Leonardo DiCaprio for “Revolutionary Road,” a brilliant, dark and troubling masterpiece, destined to be re-discovered in years to come as perhaps the best film of the year and certainly DiCaprio’s best work to date.

Eastwood is in partly because he is Eastwood and partly because he does fine work. The role is tailor made for him in the manner Rooster Cogburn was written for John Wayne in “True Grit,” which won The Duke his only Oscar back in 1969. Eastwood gets to growl, cuss and throw out all sorts of racist comments in portraying a nasty old son of a bitch who turns out to have a heart. For anyone who has ever met or spoken to Eastwood, they will realize this character is light years away from the man, making it a startling performance.

I am so tired of reading that he is playing himself. Sure he is portraying an extension of himself.  All actors do that (and always have), but Eastwood is also portraying a variation on the sort of role that made him famous. Could Walt be “Dirty Harry” after retirement? Damned straight he could and perhaps this is why the film has been greeted so warmly in some quarters, because the reviewer sees Eastwood’s character as an older version of Harry, a much loved character from years gone by, and a reimagination of his screen iconography.  It is sort of like seeing an old friend again.

Well…sort of.

If nominated, Eastwood will be a major threat to win the award. In fact, no, I’ll just say what Kris has been saying for a few months, now that I’ve gone back to the film a third and fourth time: if nominated, Clint WILL win.

The unknown actors of “Gran Torino” only serve to elevate his work and the sentiment is hard to ignore — I’ve gone through all the variables. No, it is not the best performance of the year, nor was John Wayne’s in 1969, but it will be an honorable winner at least.  No Begnini here.

Sean Penn deserves to win, in my opinion, for his stunning, I mean freakin’ astounding performance as Harvey Milk in “Milk,” which displays a range that makes me appreciate him even more than I already did.

Frank Langella is a long-time veteran actor moving between stage and screen, though he has enjoyed greater success on the stage. I first became truly aware of him after seeing his work in “Dracula” on stage in the 1970s.  I was amazed at the raw sexuality he brought to the role.  Many other actors had played the part of the Count before, but none had done so with such carnality.  Now as disgraced President Richard Nixon he gives a career capping performance that will land him his first Oscar nomination, capturing a raging soul and wounded pride under Ron Howard’s careful guidance.

Good ole’ Richard Jenkins must be smiling a lot these days.  A character actor probably best known for his television work over the years, with a career spanning nearly four decades, he became much more visible on the HBO series “Six Feet Under.”  A few small parts here and there, from “Fun with Dick and Jane” to “Burn After Reading” display the manner in which his career has evolved. His work in “The Visitor” is breathtaking, a performance that might be the most honest piece of acting on screens this year.

And of course, there is Mickey Rourke.  Once one of the most gifted actors on the screen, the heir apparent to Brando, Nicholson and De Niro with an array of sublime performances in “Body Heat,” “Rumble Fish,” “Diner,” “Year of the Dragon,” “The Pope of Greenwich Village,” “Angel Heart” and “Barfly,” Rourke’s repellent behavior saw his film end and his fighting career begin. But as Randy Robinson in “The Wrestler,” he gives a performance that caps an extraordinary career — but I think he’s made too many enemies to win the award.

So there you go, my prediction for the final five and a coming around to the idea of Eastwood taking the gold.  But who knows?  We could see Josh Brolin sneak in for his wonderful performance in “W.,” one of the year’s most under-appreciated films and performances.  Or the aforementioned DiCaprio and Pitt could bump any of these fine gents.  But I’m settling on these five.

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38 responses so far

  • 1 1-10-2009 at 10:50 am

    Ash said...

    I will throw something at my tv if Clint wins over both Penn and Rourke. Maybe he isn’t playing himself, but he’s been playing the exact same character for almost 40 years now.

  • 2 1-10-2009 at 10:59 am

    andrew said...

    If Clint wins, i’m never forgiving the Academy (again)

  • 3 1-10-2009 at 11:02 am

    Troy said...

    It’s too bad that Benicio Del Toro’s performance has fallen off the radar.

  • 4 1-10-2009 at 11:23 am

    Kyle said...

    I saw Revolutionary Road last night, and while Dicaprio’s performance is great…the film itself was incredibly dull and dragged particularly badly in the last third of the film
    I don’t even think it cracks my top ten this year.

  • 5 1-10-2009 at 11:26 am

    Jason Travis said...

    Now as much a I respect your Clint Eastwood arguement, I have to say that “Revolutionary Road” was a disaster. I’ve seen it twice already. It’s boring, redundant and cliche.

    There is a major flaw to the whole movie- lack of character development. We know nothing about these people, so why should we care if they’re fighting on screen? There’s no story arc, plot, or real issues going on. We’ve seen this all before in your typical movie set in the 1950s where (gasp!) Winslet plays an unhappy housewife who wants to “explore” the world. Come on! And (SPOILER) —– she gets pregnant, and wants an abortion. He gets promoted at work and decides to stay. Why is this going to be considered the best film of 2008 years from now? I remember it as one of the worst hyped films I’ve seen in the past 10 years.

    And Winslet and DiCaprio were okay, but she was annoying and mannered, and he sounded like he was debuting in his first high school play.

  • 6 1-10-2009 at 11:52 am

    Ash said...

    Also, I’m annoyed that just because all the Asian actors are HORRIBLE, it somehow makes Clint look oh so much better.

  • 7 1-10-2009 at 12:01 pm

    J.S. said...

    I do think Eastwood is very much in contention for the Oscar win. The real hurdle is actually getting the nomination. Also, I agree with Jason that “Revolutionary Road” was a disaster. Aside from Winslet’s performance, the rest of it was terrible. DiCaprio is rightfully being overlooked for this turn.

  • 8 1-10-2009 at 12:04 pm

    JAB said...

    i really don’t think the nominees for this category are that solid yet, and i don’t think Jenkins gets in at this point, it’s way too crowded.

    my five for best actor right now:
    Sean Penn, Milk
    Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
    Clint Eastwood, Gran Torino
    Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
    Leonardo DiCaprio, Revolutionary Road

    but you never know, last year Tommy Lee Jones sneaked in last minute for In the Valley of Elah…anything can happen here. The only acting category that’s a sure thing is Heath in Supporting.

  • 9 1-10-2009 at 12:37 pm

    John Foote said...

    If you really want to disparage the Academy for a stupid best choice look no further than Roberto Bengnini in ‘Life as Beautiful” or Pacino in “Scent of a Woman” — Eastwood at least gives a good performance —

    as for “Revolutionary Road” I stand by what I siad — it is an American masterpiece that in years to come it will be thought of as such — I believe it to be a caustic, stunning study of a marriage struggling to stay alive amidst horrible obstacles — love it, stand by it. Time will tell. Bear in mind how many films have been re-discovered in years after its release!!

  • 10 1-10-2009 at 12:43 pm

    Patrick said...

    I am tired of self-directed vanity projects. Hopefully the academy will see through this over the top bid. We have indeed seen this many times before. Enough already!

  • 11 1-10-2009 at 1:28 pm

    Randall said...

    Yeah, Clint winning would be a slap in the face to all the other excellent work that came out this year. In my opinion the only thing that should be dictating the academy’s votes is the “quality” an actor’s work in the film they’re nominated in, not to place the cherry on top of an icon’s accomplisment laden career cause it’ll give everyone the warm fuzzies. That being said, I know how things work with awards ceremonies, and this is a foreseeable outcome. I honestly hope that one day the academy will see this type of reasoning for what it is: FANBOY, NUTT-HUGGING, of the eletist kind.

  • 12 1-10-2009 at 1:38 pm

    Mr. Harmonica said...

    If Jenkins is snubbed for the nomination in favor of DiCaprio, or especially Pitt, the ceremony will really reek of bullshit in my eyes.

  • 13 1-10-2009 at 1:52 pm

    michael mckay said...

    Sean Penn…it’s already a done deal.

  • 14 1-10-2009 at 2:01 pm

    McGuff said...

    Just got back from “Gran Torino.” It was pretty much the epitome of an alright movie for me — a nice contrast between comedy and drama, with some heartfelt spots in a movie that was (as a whole) poorly acted and thematically empty. I just don’t see anything spectacular — or, to be honest, noteworthy — about what Clint did.

    I guess if you give him credit for a nice character arc — finding humanity amidst racism — then that’s something, but slapping together one liners in between growls, and then slowly warming up is nothing compared to the full-body, persona-altering things done by Penn and Rourke.

    As for Revolutionary Road, I’ll stand up and say that I think it’s my favorite movie of the year. How the movie could be called a cliche is so far beyond me, I just assume say “we’ll never agree” and move on. I’d give Penn the Oscar right now, but Leo is damn close, and Winslet is more than deserving.

  • 15 1-10-2009 at 2:02 pm

    McGuff said...

    Also: John, thanks for the nice call out to Josh Brolin at the end for W. Thought Josh did really nice work there, and I say this as someone that thinks his performances in Milk and NCFoM were both heinously overrated. My five right now: Penn, Rourke, Leo, Langella and Brolin.

  • 16 1-10-2009 at 2:04 pm

    Chris said...

    I wish they’d given the Oscar to Bill Murray five years ago, because then we wouldn’t be discussing an Eastwood win now.

    And seriously: Benigni’s Oscar wasn’t the best choice, but he wasn’t that bad either. I don’t know if you speak Italian, but if you don’t then I think I should tell you that his acting is more than okay in it, which you cannot know if you don’t understand the language. Let’s say: he was an unlucky winner whose okay, slightly above average performance is getting bashed just because he beat worthier performances, not because he was actually bad.

  • 17 1-10-2009 at 2:10 pm

    Scott Ward said...

    Patrick: Vanity project! That is horribly wrong.

    Sorry for the long post, but this is my defense of Gran Torino and a rebuttal to the people who think it is horrible.

    Anyway, just saw GT last night, and it was one of my favorites of the year. Both of Clint’s films this year I think lie in the personal perspective category, and that’s why I believe that they haven’t received quite as good of reviews as people had hoped. When I say personal perspective, I mean that each film, especially GT, take on a very dark and depressing, and really even nihilistic (again predominately in GT) approach. While I don’t believe that either one is among Clint’s best work from a quality standpoint, in an almost inexplicable way, I think each is among his most personal works to date.

    I like how John put. He isn’t playing himself (if Walt was in Hollywood he would be in the tabloids every week and hated by everyone in the business, the complete opposite of what Clint is). However, I think you have to believe that a small part of him feels this way, or at the very least, he understands where people like Walt come from.

    Going back to my perspective claim, I think you almost have to have a strong pessimistic view of the world to truly appreciate and understand Walt. And if you can’t understand, and I’m not talking about recognize, I mean genuinely understand and feel where Walt is coming from, then plainly put, the movie is not for you. Like some philosophers describe their work when they know they are in the minority on their views as “A Book for All and None,” Eastwood could also claim the same about Gran Torino. While all can physically see and comprehend Walt and his motivations, very few can truly relate to him. These happy-go-lucky, ignorantly complacent, or just plain average (in their views, that is) people certainly wouldn’t be able to feel Walt’s personality. These people would only see Walt strictly as a hyperbole, something they could never connect with (also, except for the ignorantly complacent, I’m certainly not saying that these personalities or traits are a bad thing).

    I’m also not saying that you have to be a grumpy old man to understand Walt. As a teen myself, I truly loathe the way people around my age act today. Seriously, everything about them. I sure hope the world ends soon because I really don’t think anyone like me can tolerate these people being parents and raising a generation of human beings. So from that standpoint I can understand Walt.

    I definitely don’t see exactly as Walt on the issue of race, but I, nor probably just about anyone who sees this movie, have been to war (and while I respect our troops now, from everything I hear, wars now aren’t half as bad as they used to be).

    And I know many, many people have brought up the point that they and everyone in the theater laughed their asses off for most of the film. Well I also laughed a good bit, more than in nearly every comedy this year, but doesn’t this pretty much prove my point? Aren’t we, the people seeing the movie, a part of the people Walt hates? Well simply looking around and seeing the wardrobes, actions, conversations, and etc of the people at the movie, I certainly think so. We laugh at Walt’s comments because as I said before, we can’t truly identify with him. He’s just one of those crazy old guys who we think is senile and stupid. We basically see the rest of the cast as being completely over the top in their stereotypes. But while the story focuses on Walt, we also see many things in the film as Walt would. Yes, it’s over the top for us, because we don’t see as Walt does, but his contempt for them could really be that strong.

    Now I know a lot of people would say that a film only appealing to a certain group isn’t really a good one, or that the true mark of a good film is that it appeals to a vast majority of people, or simply that a good film is a good film is a good film. Well I think that to be a classic or a masterful work, a film has to appeal to a wide group, but I never said that GT was a masterpiece. Also, this is not a “I understood it and you didn’t,” I’m only offering up another way to look at the picture, one that I haven’t heard yet. I’m not saying that having views like Walt is right or wrong, I’m just saying that Walt has much more reasonable validation for his views than most people do.

    Again, sorry for the lengthy post, and you may say that I am really over analyzing, but I don’t think so. In a lot of cases that accusation only means a under analyzation on the accusers part. Anyway, it’s something much more insightful than the crap people like Patrick have been offering up.

  • 18 1-10-2009 at 2:13 pm

    Scott Ward said...

    And in light of the original discussion, haven’t seen Rourke yet, but Penn certainly did a better acting job than Eastwood.

  • 19 1-10-2009 at 2:25 pm

    Ben M. said...

    The film just opened to $9.6 million on its first day in wide release and is looking at a $30 million opening and probably winding up as Eastwood’s biggest hit. It is probably too late to have an impact on the nominations (since ballots are due in a couple of days), but if he gets in the popular success of his movie could well give him a boost.

  • 20 1-10-2009 at 2:57 pm

    Billyboy said...

    He’s been rewarded enough. 5 Oscars plus a Thalberg. More than he deserves, in my opinion.

    This should go to Penn.

  • 21 1-10-2009 at 2:59 pm

    Billyboy said...

    * Sorry, 4 Oscars plus a Thalberg.

  • 22 1-10-2009 at 3:37 pm

    gah said...

    That would be so unfair to Penn and Rourke who clearly deserve it.

  • 23 1-10-2009 at 5:30 pm

    Zan said...

    I think I’m on my own island when I say that Frank Langella gave the most dominant performance of the year.

    And Sean Penn is my favorite actor.

  • 24 1-10-2009 at 5:51 pm

    jp said...

    I just saw GT and have now seen all the contenders for best actor. I actually thought all 8 were phenomenal but I’ve gotta say (and I’m a little embarrassed to say it)…I would be happy with an Eastwood win and, if I had a ballot, I would probably even put him on it. I thought it was a great movie, and Sean Penn will just have to wait until the next time he knocks it out of the park (for the fifth time or whatever)…I wouldn’t feel all that bad for him…

  • 25 1-10-2009 at 6:04 pm

    Speaking English said...

    DiCaprio is in, for sure, for giving one of his absolute greatest performances. It would be more than just a disgrace if they left him out.

  • 26 1-10-2009 at 6:25 pm

    Mr. Harmonica said...

    DiCaprio is out, for sure, for giving one of his absolute most bawling performances. It would be more than just a joke if they let him in.

  • 27 1-10-2009 at 6:30 pm

    KBJr. said...

    @ Zan: I wholy agree. Haven’t seen DiCaprio, Rourke, or Eastwood…but Langella towers over Penn in my opinion.

    ‘Frost/Nixon’ was actually a film I walked out of excited about. That and ‘Doubt’. Can’t say the same for ‘Benjamin Button’, or ‘Milk’.

  • 28 1-10-2009 at 6:39 pm

    Jules said...

    DiCaprio was brillant in this. “Revolutionary Road” will be remembered for years to come and it will be considered one of DiCaprio’s better works. Many will wonder why it was so snubbed awards time, but like most great art, it’s will be appreciated in hindsight.

  • 29 1-10-2009 at 6:52 pm

    Jason Travis said...

    This is probably the most interesting year for acting races I’ve seen in – well since 2001, when Denzel Washington, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent and Jennifer Connelly won. That year, only Connelly was a real lock for “A Beautiful Mind” . But supporting actor was between Broadbent and Ian McKellen. And Best Actor was really a rally between Washington and Globe and SAG winner Russell Crowe. Best Actress, probably the hardest to call, was a 3-way race between SAG and NBR winner Halle Berry, Globe Comedy/Musical winner Nicole Kidman, and Drama Globe and critics darling Sissy Spacek. I really think Kidman was closer then people think in 2001. I think her crazy press from the Cruise divorce, plus dramatic spin in the hit “The Others” helped boost her status. Spacek was an early leader, and then was nudged off once Berry took the upset in SAG.

    This year I feel the same thing going to happen to the lead acting races. Eastwood (if nominated) would pretty much be the Adrien Brody of his pack. No guild awards, but a last minute win after a major critic win (Brody has NSFC, Eastwood NBR). However, Brody was in a best picture nominee. Eastwood won’t be. Sean Penn could be the Sissy Spacek of the pack- past Oscar winner with also a bad boy attitude. Russell Crowe couldn’t win a second Oscar for the same reason, and for a similarly praised performance. Could Mickey Rourke be the Denzel of the pack?

    In Best Actress, Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep stand alone. Angelina Jolie will be nodded, but won’t win. Same for Hawkins- unknown actor in indie flick (Mike Leigh women always get nodded, but never win). And finally the final slot will go to either Melissa Leo (SAG nominee), Winslet (GG and SAG nominee) or Kristin Scott Thomas (GG nominee). I feel Cate Blanchett could upset and take a deserved fifth spot, thus making the race more interesting since she’s never won a lead acting award. But my money is on Leo. I think she takes the fifth spot. I think Winslet will be snubbed for RR and instead win for “The Reader” in supporting.

    Streep will trump Hathaway at the Oscars.

  • 30 1-10-2009 at 8:03 pm

    D said...


    I vehemently disagree with the notion that all actors are playing an extension of themselves. Method actors don’t do that. Brando, DDL, Ledger, et al.

  • 31 1-10-2009 at 8:06 pm

    D said...

    Oops, my post above should have been directed on John since it was his article. Sorry about that Kris. I usually assume it’s your article without paying attention to the author.

  • 32 1-10-2009 at 8:24 pm

    Pete Jericho said...

    I’ve seen all of the movies that best actors will probably be nominated in and I agree with the fact that Rev Road was pretty poor.Leonardo didn’t blow me away.Clint plays the same character as usual without the gun he was solid in Torino.Langella was good.I hate to agree I liked Penn and Rourke the best.Although if you are going to give Rourke an oscar for this movie then he should have won one for Angel Heart and Barfly because he was phenomenal in both of those.So I guess I’d go with Penn.

  • 33 1-10-2009 at 8:54 pm

    jp said...

    I’m half hoping and half actually believe that Angelina won’t be nominated for her embarrassingly shrieking and melodramatic work in Changeling.

    I’m also willing to fully commit to a Hathaway win.

  • 34 1-11-2009 at 4:13 am

    John Foote said...

    D. — exactly how much do you know about method acting? There are two schools of thought, the first being that the actor draw on past experiences to create the role, thereby being an extension of themselves — the second is more the Elia Kazan method in which the actor study the script over and over and create the role on their own — how could it not be an extension of themselves when they have created it — somewhere in their woul is a part of that character (like it or not) whether the character is dark or not — bear in mind my friend that the original Stanislavski method from Russia has evolved many times since exploding in America in the thirties through fifties — that is a good thing because emotional recall one of the excercises can be dangerous if the actor is not in touch with that experience. Ask yourself why James Dean was such a mess.

  • 35 1-11-2009 at 9:41 am

    K.K. said...

    To those who keep critisizing Eastwood’s work, please see the movie before spilling your venom. I haven’t seen it, so I don’t know if he’s good or not. I prefer to remain neutral. Also, isn’t Rourke also partly playing himself too? So we shouldn’t give an Oscar to him then?

  • 36 1-11-2009 at 9:35 pm

    Patrick said...

    I have seen it. And I maintain that it is a vanity project, just like Streisand’s “Yentl.” If Eastwood wins the Oscar this year over Penn, Rourke or Jenkins, it would be 1974 revisited. Art Carney winning best actor over Pacino, Hoffman and Nicholson. What a joke.

  • 37 1-12-2009 at 12:16 am

    Scott Ward said...

    Patrick, again with the stupid vanity project deal. What the hell is wrong with someone making a movie about something he obviously cares about? Faulting Clint for not wanting to do some conventional old man role and play someone’s dad is stupid. I’m sorry Clint won’t do some nice and gentle “On Golden Pond” movie for, but that is not what he wants to do now. Clint had it right when he recently said that this will probably be his last screen appearance because good roles are rarely written for people his age. Here, with Gran Torino, he has what I think is easily one of the best roles for a person his age ever, and this is a vanity project? That’s sheer idiocy. I’m sure there are many reasons one could have for not liking Gran Torino, but saying it is a vanity project is by far the most illegitimate one anybody can come up with.

  • 38 1-12-2009 at 10:23 am

    John Foote said...

    Why is it a vanity project to do what you are good at doing? Clint was always an actor first and became a very good one in his later years — why should he not seek out roles for himself and direct the film? He has always done his best work as an actor when directing himself. A vanity project is something like “A Star is Born” when the star takes over from the director, bullying them out of their job and setting up close up after close up on herself — Streisand did the same thing on ‘Nuts” taking over for Martin Ritt, who knew a thing or two about directing — “Gran Torino” is not, I repeat NOT a vanity project.