I previously mentioned that over the next few weeks I'd be taking a look at the nominees in eight major categories for the 2011 Academy Awards. I'll be writing about what I think will win, what I want to win, and my thoughts about each category overall.
The nominees for Best Actor in a Leading Role are:
Javier Bardem - Biutiful
Jeff Bridges - True Grit
Jessie Eisenberg - The Social Network
Colin Firth - The King's Speech
James Franco - 127 Hours
Colin Firth seems poised to acquire his first Academy Award after snagging two big other acting kudos: a SAG and a BAFTA. I just recently saw The King's Speech and can vouch for the greatness of Mr. Bridget Jones's work in the film. Prince Albert's subtle transformation from stubborn, diffident son of a King to confident, strong Royal Monarch is handled beautifully by the actor. I'll be very surprised if Firth doesn't pick up the award on the 27th. He's certainly not as much of a shoe in as Jeff Bridges was for 2009's Crazy Heart, but you won't find as much support, recognition, and general goodwill behind any of the other four nominees.
Out of the other performances I've seen (Eisenberg, Bridges, and Franco), I was most impressed with James Franco's work in 127 Hours. By far one of the most interesesting (and consistently great) actors of his generation, Fanco carried 95% of the movie on his shoulders. 127 Hours is practically a one man show, and the young, talented actor is all blood, sweat, and tears throughout it's 100 minutes.
I don't know how he did it, but Jessie Eisenberg turned a prick of a character into a fascinatingly watchable prick of a character. I have no idea what Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg is like in real life, but The Social Network's Mark Zuckerberg is one of the great acid-tongued characters of modern cinema, and the fact that Eisenberg made this vengeful, privileged Harvard preppie actually likeable is a testament to how good his performance is.
I haven't seen Biutiful and only plan to because I've heard Bardem is fairly amazing in it. I find director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's melodramatic meditations on misery to be barely tolerable, and Biutiful looks to be in the same vein as his previous 21 Grams and Babel. Bardem won't win, but apparently he's very deserving of the nomination.
Finally, Jeff Bridges picks up his second Oscar nom in two years, for his awesome portrayal of Rooster Cogburn in True Grit. He too will be denied a win, a big reason being because a lot of folks couldn't understand what Rooster was saying throughout most of the film. I can only assume these folks are hard of hearing.