They are very different films, but in one important way “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” and “Albert Nobbs” have something in common. Their lead actors show admirable and effective restraint.
Whether this will help or hinder in landing Gary Oldman a best actor Oscar nomination for “Tinker” or Glenn Close a nom for “Albert” is anybody’s guess. Both are long-admired veterans who have never taken home a statue.
Oldman — somewhat surprisingly — has never even been nominated, while Close has been nominated a whopping five times, although her last nomination was more than 20 years ago (for 1989′s “Dangerous Liasons”).
“Tinker” comes out here in Detroit Friday, with Oldman playing spymaster George Smiley, a role first played by Alec Guinness. As opposed to the often fiery types Oldman has often played, Smiley is a sad, aging portrait of practiced repression. Every move Oldman makes counts and when Smiley lets go even the smallest bit, it’s as if he’s roaring.
“Nobbs” doesn’t arrive here until Jan. 27, and it’s an even more confined film, the story of a woman who has dressed like a man for decades so she could work as a butler. This is the kind of thing that could be done very butch and loud, but Close makes Albert the meekest of men/women, kept alive by repetition and duty, only now glimpsing out at the world late in life. Again, when she does release, for one sweet scene, it’s wondrous.
Of course, the other thing the films and characters have in common is a UK base, Brits having raised polite repression to an art form.
Actors tend to admire such portrayals, popular audiences not so much. It’s hard to say whether either actor will actually be nominated for such low-key films. Close seems to be getting more buzz right now, but the best actress race is fierce this year, especially if Kristen Wiig sneaks in for “Bridesmaids” (a growing possibility).
I suspect Oldman may actually score a nom since the actors race so far essentially comes down to George Clooney (“The Descendants”) versus Jean Dujardin (“The Artist”). And if Oldman gets a nomination, it just might remind voters how good he is.
The guy could actually win. And that would be sweet.