Jeremy Renner and the Best Actor Race

I’ve yet to see A Single Man or Crazy Heart, mostly due to living in the middle of nowhere, and thus can only comment on the three performances I have seen. I enjoyed George Clooney in Up In The Air, but he was better in Michael Clayton. My opinion on Morgan Freeman in Invictus will come up later on in this post. That leaves Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker. And of the three I’ve seen, he has my vote. It’ll be a difficult race for him, but I think he has a chance of pulling it off. He had perhaps my favorite reaction to his nomination when interviewed on Good Morning America yesterday. When asked about his competition, he replied, “I’ve gotta break some serious legs.”

I thought he was amazing in this film. At times stoic, at times heartbreaking. His performance was that indescribable thing that made this already stellar film unforgettable. In lesser hands this character could have come off as a jackass at times, but Renner imbues the character with just enough humility – and humanity – that the character transcends everything around him. This is a case of perfect player meets the perfect part and I’m glad the Academy lauded such a relative unknown.

That being said, there was another relative unknown actor last year that I feel should have made it into the top 5 – Michael Stuhlbarg from the Coen brother’s newest film A Serious Man. The film pulled off a Best Picture nod and another for Best Original Screenplay, but Stuhlbarg’s amazingly subtle performance in the dramedy was ignored.

I think Stuhlbarg should have gotten a nomination over Morgan Freeman in Clint Eastwood’s tepid, based-on-true-events Invictus. I’m glad that film didn’t sneak into the Best Picture category, but it did get two acting nominations. Both of which I don’t believe it deserved. As horrible as it sounds, I think the Academy just couldn’t not nominated Freeman’s performance because he is so beloved and he was playing Nelson Mandela, one of the most beloved leaders in World History. But that shouldn’t be enough to justify a Best Actor nomination. Freeman was just as blah as the rest of the film. Whereas Stuhlbarg demonstrated such exquisite range in A Serious Man, I was completely blown away. It’s a shame they went with A Name over a great performance.

While I’m  on the topic of Invictus, I also think it’s a shame that Matt Damon got nominated for his acting for the first time since his brilliant performance in 1997’s Good Will Hunting, for, again, such a tepid performance. He’s had so many better performances in the last few years (I’ve yet to see The Informant! but I’m willing to bet it’s better). He was far better in 2005’s Syriana, but George Clooney’s Oscar-winning performance got all the attention. This year there were so many wonderful supporting performances, from Steve Buscemi in The Messenger to Alfred Molina in An Education. My pick for that fifth spot, however, would have been Anthony Mackie in The Hurt Locker. He was the straight man to Renner’s manic rogue. It was a perfect pairing of actors and characters and I wish he’d gotten more acclaim for his performance. Also, had he gotten the nomination that would given The Hurt Locker a 10th nomination, breaking its nomination tie with Avatar. And how wonderful would that have been?

About Marya E. Gates

Cinephile to the max.

Posted on February 3, 2010, in Nominations, the Academy Awards and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. yankeefrommississippi

    Matt Damon in The Informant! was the best performance I saw all year. I was also really impressed by Clooney’s work in Up in the Air, though I had to see it twice to pick up on it. I don’t normally care for him as an actor, but here I thought he was great. I’m seeing A Single Man and Crazy Heart this weekend.

    • I was all for George until I saw The Hurt Locker and Renner won me over. What did you think of Invictus? I was really underwhelmed by it. I tried to go see Crazy Heart last weekend in Reno (it’s a 3 hour drive) but I got into a bit of a car accident and missed that show :/ and Crazy Heart isn’t even playing in Reno. Grrr.

      • yankeefrommississippi

        I actually liked Invictus. I went in with extremely low expectations, so that may have had something to do with it. I don’t think it was a great movie or anything, but it was good and solid, I thought. I really, really hated the music, though. It really pulled me out of the movies a couple of times.

        Luckily, I only have to drive a little over an hour to see Crazy Heart and A Single Man. And they’re both playing at the same theater, so I will be able to see both in one day which makes the trip a little more worthwhile. I was shocked when I looked it up and both of them were playing not far from me. That almost never happens.

      • That’s really exciting. I wish either one of those films were playing in Klamath Falls, Or – That’s only 100 miles away!

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