Could Benicio Del Toro sneak into the Best Actor race?

Posted by · 10:29 am · January 21st, 2009

Benicio Del Toro in CheThe first time I saw “Che” back in September at the Toronto International Film Festival I believed the performance of Benicio Del Toro was extraordinary and the film was one of the most exceptional achievements in modern cinema. For me, “Che” works as a massive work at more than four hours and exists because of Del Toro’s mesmerizing performance which is almost wholly internal. I have seen the film again on DVD twice and actually have come to admire the work even more than I did that first time.

Here we are in January, the Oscar nominations one day away, and I have a sneaking feeling Del Toro could end up with a lead actor nomination, which would thrill me. No idea why I think this, and I am likely dead wrong, but something in the air I guess tells me it might happen. The film and the director have no chance, I have resigned myself to that (and I understand it), but Del Toro is a revered actor and the actors’ branch just might nominate him because they, more than anyone else, will understand the depth and quality of his superb performance.

I do not mean for a moment that others do not get his performance, but I have had discussions with other critics who have stated that the work has no great moment, no arc, no major speeches. Perhaps not, but rarely have I seen an actor so totally own the role.  Del Toro inhabits the character with an extraordinary authority.

Why does a performance have to have some “huge moment” to slide in?  Look at Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thomson in “The Remains of the Day”.”  Emotions stifled, performances were internal.  Sometimes the acting, the greatness of it, is not in what’s being shown but what’s being felt.

Del Toro felt Che throughout and is deserving of attention, certainly much more than he is getting.  The Academy likes him enough.  There is no doubt in anyone’s mind he is a great actor and every once in a while they smile on a performance that deserves it, catching us off guard.

If it doesn’t happen, well, them’s the breaks, but I will always champion the film and his work.  It is not a perfect film by any means, but may it be a perfect performance.

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10 responses so far

  • 1 1-21-2009 at 10:46 am

    Gustavo Silva said...

    I’ve had the same feeling this week, but I don’t think it is really possible. Actors who win Cannes usually don’t get Oscar nominations.

  • 2 1-21-2009 at 10:50 am

    Kate said...

    I’d love to see the the Academy go completely against the current this year. Instead of nominating the same ol’ bunch, they could try honoring the deserving performances this year (Del Toro, Fassbender, Rourke, Amalric, Shannon, etc.) Let’s keep our fingers crossed, shall we? :-)

  • 3 1-21-2009 at 10:53 am

    actionman said...

    It’s an f’ing CRIME he was snubbed of a nom for his brilliant work in Things We Lost In the Fire

  • 4 1-21-2009 at 10:59 am

    BurmaShave said...

    I think what will sink him is that despite the roadshow, I think it’s unclear to most people whether it’s one movie or two. Based on having seen only Part 1, I’d certainly put him in my final five though, were I an Academy member.

  • 5 1-21-2009 at 11:39 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    I think there’s too much confusion as to his eligibility with all those versions of the film(s) barely being released and stuff. It would be a great choice I suppose but how would it happen?

  • 6 1-21-2009 at 12:56 pm

    Big Braveheart said...

    Yeah why not? He’s good enough and if the film doesn’t get the cred then at least a Best Actor nom would be nice and you know Del Toro is an
    acting monster!
    Still would be nice to see Rourke win as Penn’s
    got his already ( although some say for the wrong role, he was good in Mystic River but a legend in Carlito’s Way and spot-on in I Am Sam.
    Big Mickey to win!

  • 7 1-21-2009 at 1:20 pm

    Dorothy Porker said...

    Del Toro for lead actor and “The Wrestler” in best pic/best director are my main gut feelings this year. I’m officially predicting them to make it in — but realize this is more wishful thinking than anything else.

  • 8 1-21-2009 at 3:14 pm

    Michael W. said...

    Oh yes. Anothony Hopkins in The Remains of the Day! One of my favorite acting performances – ever!

    I would actually love to see Del Toro (haven’t seen Che though) get in but I just don’t know who he should replace because I also want Penn, Rourke and Langella nominated. And I have hoped for another nom for Pitt for a long time. And DiCaprio is great i RR!

    But I don’t think Del Toro will get in. My no guts, no glory guess is Michelle Williams for Wendy and Lucy.

  • 9 1-21-2009 at 4:31 pm

    Erin said...

    I have been stating this as a strong possibility since I first saw the film in Cannes.

    I know it is highly unlikely, but it makes as much sense to me as the other high profile surprises that people are predicting (i.e. Darren Aronofsky sneaking into the Best Director category). If Tommy Lee Jones could make it happen last year with “In the Valley of Elah,” a surprise that I also predicted, Benicio can do the same. With Richard Jenkins, Clint Eastwood, Brad Pitt, and Leonardo diCaprio all fighting for positions (presumably alongside Sean Penn, Mickey Rourke, and Frank Langella), there is definitely room for someone to sneak in.