The nominees are:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Brad Pitt
Frost/Nixon - Frank Langella
Milk - Sean Penn
Visitor - Richard Jenkins
The Wrestler - Mickey Rourke
How I did: 80%. I wrongly predicted DiCaprio in, Jenkins out.
01. Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
Having recently given re-watched Requiem for a Dream, I thought it apt to draw a few comparisons between Ellen Burstyn's performance as the pill-popping, TV-addicted lonely old woman and Mickey Rourke's long-haired, aging wrestler. For no reason aside from the fact that both films were directed by Darren Aronofsky and both are believed, by the masses, to be the strongest performances of their category (I do not think this for Burstyn, btw).
Burstyn: she's sad. She's very sad because her good-for-nothing son comes round only to nick her TV, sell it to the pawnbrokers for drug money and force her to buy it back, she's sad because her husband is dead and she has no real friends. So she becomes addicted to gameshows and deluded believes she's going to go on one, and in order to fit into a red dress she wants to wear for the show, she starts taking diet pills that her doctor prescribes. And then starts having hallucinations that her fridge wants to devour her.
Rourke: He used to be a star, but now he's just a jaded man with aging limbs. He still retains some loyal devotees and makes appearances in small-key wrestling joints, but a near-fatal heart attack makes him look beyond the wrestling, getting romantically involved with Marisa Tomei's stripper and reconciling with his estranged daughter. However, being a human and being flawed, he makes some mistakes that cause him to lose everything he's worked so hard to build up these people, and starts wondering if wrestling is the only thing that will be there for him.
Where it all goes wrong:
Burstyn: Whereas the doctor told Sara Goldfarb to take one pill in the morning, one at lunch, one in the evening and one at night, such is her dependency and ensuing immunity to the strength of just one, that slowly, she begins taking two at once. Such is her obsession with gameshows that she repeatedly dreams/hallucinates about how she's on the show, as well as how her fridge has a mouth. It's funny.
Rourke: Though deep down he has a heart of gold, Ram is a gruff individual, and not the best time-keeper in the world, thus missing a crucial date with his daughter and shooting his mouth off when Cassidy rejects his advances.
Burstyn: Perhaps it was the unfortunate way the film was over-edited, or the pounding Clint Mansell score, or the fact that I'd had a glass of red wine with my Sunday roast before I watched this film, but I found Burstyn's supposed vulnerability nothing short of hilarious, especially when she was sitting there in that sofa, shaking at the sight of her fridge. She looked appropriately ugly, but if you were dishing out Oscars for looking bad, I'd have a mantelpiece full of them. Unlike most of the cinema going world, I have absolutely no qualms about Julia Roberts winning the Oscar over Burstyn; Julia Roberts gave a masterclass in being a heroine with a heart, Burstyn gave a masterclass in why chavs of youth like laughing at their elders.
Rourke: A genuinely sad performance, Rourke deserves every ounce of praise he's been garnishing. His apologetic monologue to Evan Rachel Wood was perfectly heartfelt and I was bewitched by his character and everything he did in the film.
Hmm. These paragraphs has played out more as me taking a pop at Requiem for a Crazy Fridge than an appraisal of Rourke's performance. This is not on; he was absolutely incredible and utterly natural, my choice for the win.
02. Sean Penn, Milk
Without Sean Penn's charismatic lead, Milk would have been just your regular biopic for me, albeit one with an inspirational story and strong supporting cast. It is Penn that carries the film, noting "I'm 40 and I haven't done anything", and sets about rectifying this when he tries to be elected for public office. He's knocked back, over and over again, but always believes that next time, will be the time, and this belief inspired all those around him. Of course, Harvey Milk wasn't perfect - a touch egotistical and he got so caught up in his campaign that he inadvertently shuns Scotty (a pitch-perfect James Franco.) But Sean Penn delivers us one of the most dependable, likable heroes of 2008, and for that, I salute him.
03. Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
Has been a while since I saw this performance, but I remember being very impressed by Jenkins in it.
04. Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
The interviews between Langella and Sheen are the focus of Frost/Nixon, and in Langella's Richard Nixon we have the disgraced president wanting to redeem himself. I know little about the real Richard Nixon but I imagine he would have been just as politicking as Langella depicts him to be. The dimly lit cinematography, fumes of cigarette smoke and intelligent screenplay add to a great performance, even if it was the Englishman of the duo that I preferred.
05. Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
He spends a good chunk of the film playing someone a lot older/younger than him, but it's when Brad acts his age that he does the best acting. He makes a convincing lover, a compassionate man and a good voyage mate, but, try as he might, he can't summon any chemistry with the bland Cate Blanchett, and that detracted from the romance and thus, power of CCOBB. Looked hot though.
Who will win: Mickey Rourke
Who should win: Mickey Rourke
Who deserved to win: Pat Shortt, Garage. My favourite performance of the year, Shortt plays nice-but-dim garage worker Josie, a man who can't ever find his place in life, much like the horse he frequently visits. It's a gentle, infectious performance that slowly crept up on me and wasn't until the credits rolled that I realised how amazing he was.