In 2007 no one saw the Best Actor nomination for Tommy Lee Jones in In the Valley of Elah (2007), it was one of those happy surprises that reminded us the acting branch really does watch the films and pay some attention. Way back in 1975 there was another such shock when James Whitmore received a Best Actor nod for his filmed stage show Give ’em Hell Harry (1975), though it was not quite as deserving as Jones’ nomination.
With the strong reviews coming in for Brad Pitt in Killing Them Softly (2012), could he knock out one of the so-called locks and be in the category come Oscar night? He is well liked, the Academy likes him, critics like him and he has grown substantially as an actor through the years. For my money he should have been nominated for Best Actor for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) and for Babel (2006). Last year he won the New York Film Critics Award for Best Actor for Moneyball (2011) and was an Oscar nominee, and I think discounting him this year is a huge mistake.
Really the only lock at this writing is Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln (2012), and frankly I think he has got the thing sewn up. John Hawkes in The Sessions, Hugh Jackman in Les Miserables, Denzel Washington in Flight and Joaquin Phoenix in The Master could all be nominees, or one or more of them could be bumped, just like that. Remember 2000, when Michael Douglas had it all locked up for his lovely work in Wonder Boys (2000)? He wins the LA Film Critics Award, has some of the years best reviews and then is snubbed for a nomination? Any one of those four could suffer the same fate allowing Pitt to slip in.
His performance in the film is magnetic and powerful, one of the best of his career and with the right push he will be celebrating the day they announce the nominations. I am not quite ready to say with all confidence that Jackman and Washington will be among the nominees, and Phoenix might have hurt his chances with his silly comments earlier in the year. We’ll see, but I think Pitt might crash the party.
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