Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Nick Nolte, Warrior
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
“I love my dead gay son!” shouts the bereaved father in that blackest of teen comedies, Heathers. This year the Academy is sure to show a lot of love for the dead gay dad played by Plummer in Beginners. A venerable actor — Canada’s all-time greatest, some would say — confronts his character’s and his own mortality, complete with oxygen tubes and a blithe optimism. That shouts “can’t miss” from the Hollywood Hills. Plummer is such a dead cert that the other four nominees needn’t bother memorizing the names of little people to thank.
If the Academy Awards ceremony made public not just the winner but the order of the five finalists in each category (as it should do — much more suspenseful and exciting), Branagh might well come in second for his role as Laurence Olivier, the great stage actor exasperated by Marilyn Monroe’s neuroses and envious of her screen sizzle. Mixing grand airs and self-pity, Branagh would likely outpoint the rest of the field, which includes Nolte, as an ex-boxer training his son for a mixed martial arts tournament in Warrior; von Sydow, as mute as anyone in The Artist, but way graver; and Hill, whose role as Brad Pitt’s young stats maven in Moneyball was such a distortion of the character’s real-life model, Paul DePodesta, that the name had to be changed when DePodesta complained.
Snubs: Pitt’s performance as a martinet dad in The Tree of Life deserved a nomination — and, we mulishly assert, an Oscar. As Sigmund Freud in A Dangerous Method, Viggo Mortensen turned the father of psychoanalysis into a wise, droll, intimidating father figure to Michael Fassbender’s Carl Jung. And what happened to Albert Brooks, who won most of the awards from critics’ groups for turning from fretful comedy to gangster stolidity in Drive? Brooks would have given a terrific acceptance speech; he auditioned it for us a few weeks ago. To paraphrase the show-biz maxim: Dying is easy, but a comic who sparkles in a serious role and then gets stiffed by the Academy — man, that’s hard.