Unless something amazing comes along — and it certainly might — I’m guessing this year’s best actor race is going to come down to two guys: The very well-known George Clooney for “The Descendants” and the virtually unknown Jean Dujardin for “The Artist.”
Right now the other three names being kicked around in that race are Brad Pitt for “Moneyball” (not enough sizzle), Leonardo DiCaprio for “J. Edgar” (lots of aging makeup, the Academy likes that) and Gary Oldman for “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” (the grizzled, respected veteran slot).
Currently Clooney is in the lead because a) he’s Clooney, b) lots of people feel he should have scored for either “Michael Clayton” or “Up in the Air” and c) the timing with “The Descendants” feels right, it being the return of director Alexander Payne (“Sideways”), a critical fave.
Plus there’s the fact that he’s really good and likeable in a film that’s really good and likeable.
But “The Descendants” isn’t explosive. And “The Artist,” a black-and-white silent film about making silent films, is very explosive. Or at least dramatically different than anything out there. And the Academy does like to think of itself as both worldly and innovative.
Again, Dujardin is also very good and likeable. But he accomplishes this without using words. Plus he’s got a dog. Plus he dances!
Neither winner would be a disappointment, but I’m leaning toward Dujardin. After more people have seen “The Artist,” I’m guessing a lot of people will be leaning that way.
And by the way, if Sony Picture Classics would fight for it, Michael Shannon could well get a nomination and a win for “Take Shelter.” If that tiny film catches on, all bets are off.