Thoughts off the top of my head (nothing too deep).
The Nominees Are:
-Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
-Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
-Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson’s War
-Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild
-Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton
PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN: I haven’t seen “Charlie Wilson’s War” yet, so I’m not the best judge of Mr. Hoffman’s chances, and my observations are probably useless. Still…Hoffman won his Best Actor award for “Capote” a couple of years back. Let’s call it the Blanchett-effect: a recent win translates into a lesser chance of winning. Hoffman, like Blanchett, is highly respected by his peers. He is a tricky one, though; is he a leading man or a character actor who moves seamlessly between the categories? If the Academy sees him as the former, it’s quite likely that they won’t cast their vote for him in what can be perceived as a “lesser” category (which is ridiculous). The film was not very well-received, despite a lot of initial hype and Hoffman’s is its sole nomination. In sum, it ain’t gonna happen.
CASEY AFFLECK: Affleck has been talked about for his role in “Jesse James” for as long as Marion has for “LveR.” His performance was uniformly praised from all angles and his many nominations have surprised no one. But something happened between the initial adulation and awards season – Affleck, though recognized by all of the main groups, did not earn any substantial victories. I sense a case of “the nomination is his reward-itis.” Moreover, whispers of “category fraud” have cast a shadow over his nomination, since, to some, he is arguably the lead in “Jesse James” (I personally don’t agree with that view). I think it’s highly unlikely that Affleck will win on Sunday, but look at it this way: he has a better chance than Hoffman.
TOM WILKINSON: Now we’re getting closer to the contenders. “Michael Clayton” appears to be quite beloved by a certain voting bloc of the Academy (mostly the elderly…seriously). I haven’t seen the film (will be seeing it tomorrow, though), so I can’t really go into the strength of Wilkinson’s performance; but I’ll say this: the man is one hell of an actor. If the film is as beloved by voters as it appears to be, this might be the category where it gets recognized. Wilkinson is also nominated for a role in a Best Picture nominee, which brings exposure that three of his co-nominees lack. Regardless, as of today, I don’t think Wilkinson will win, but I would not be shocked if he did.
HAL HOLBROOK: This is my personal choice, but I’ll try to be objective. Um…okay, I can’t be objective. I hope Holbrook wins – he gives a beautiful, nuanced, incredibly moving performance. His is what I consider a true supporting performance. There are several strikes against him: “Into the Wild” was ridiculously overlooked by the Academy, and he hasn’t won any of the precursor awards. But let’s think back to last year, and years before that: elderly men with long, respected careers are often rewarded in this category (see Jack Palance, Alan Arkin, etc.). Will it happen this year? I hope so. But if it goes to a certain someone (see below), I’d be thrilled as well.
JAVIER BARDEM: You’re looking at Sunday night’s Oscar winner, fo’ sho. Javi (because we’re close like that) has taken every award over the moon for his turn as a sociopathic killer on the run. He is in a film that has been recognized almost uniformly by the guilds, critics, and audiences alike. He has put in one amazing performance after the other (see “Before Night Falls,” “Mar Adentro” just to mention the ones for which he was Oscar-nominated) but hasn’t taken the big prize yet. He easily navigates the deep waters separating English and Spanish-language films. He is also gorgeous (thought I’d mention that) and admired by his peers. Plus, any man who kisses Julian Schnabel on the lips is cool on my book. Come Sunday night, this is Javi’s world, and we just live in it. ‘Nuff said.
Winner: Javier Bardem
Spoiler: Hal Holbrook
Dark Horse: Tom Wilkinson