A recent ‘New York Times’ article about Michael Douglas, his health troubles, and the dual Oscar campaigns of two of his films (the very good ‘Solitary Man‘ and the less-good-but-still-pretty-good ‘Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps‘) left me puzzled and a little bit sad. As wonderful as his turns in both of those films are (in ‘Solitary Man’ particularly), I can easily see him picking up nominations in both the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor categories. But it seems to be all for nothing. Honestly, he doesn’t stand a chance – at least not when it comes to Best Actor, the “big one” the studios will obviously be pushing harder for.
The decision goes down like this: Anchor Bay will be handling his campaign for Best Actor for his work in ‘Solitary Man’, while Fox will be leading the charge for him to pick up a tiny naked gold man for his work as Gordon Gekko in ‘Wall Street’. This makes waves for a couple of reasons. First, Douglas was clearly the main sell for ‘Money Never Sleeps’. He gets first billing, and all the advertising was centered around his slimy character’s return to the big screen. Secondly, the original ‘Wall Street‘ was the movie that Michael Douglas previous won a Best Actor Oscar for. To have him suddenly bumped down to a “lesser” category is certainly interesting.
It does, however, make sense when you think about his character in the ‘Wall Street’ sequel and how, after a swift introduction, he gets sidelined for much of the middle of the movie.
In ‘Solitary Man,’ the woefully underseen comedic drama from David Levien and Brian Koppelman, Douglas is in almost every scene. Playing a man who tries to regain some kind of responsibility late in his life, it’s a turn that is at times hilarious, at times really touching, and at other times profoundly sad. He’s one of those overgrown men who still think they’re movers and shakers even after the luster of power has long left. As a man regaining his humility and humanity, Douglas soars.
But it still doesn’t matter.
I’ll give you two reasons right off the bat: James Franco and Javier Bardem.
James Franco, in his one-man-band performance in ‘127 Hours’, is an absolute knockout. It’s the kind of performance you’d probably think would be too show-offy and grandstanding. He’s playing, of course, an amateur mountaineer caught between a boulder and a canyon wall, for a good ninety minutes or so. But the performance is restrained and beautifully modulated. ‘127 Hours’, from the team that brought everyone the feel-good movie about third world poverty, ‘Slumdog Millionaire‘, will be something that everyone – and I mean everyone – will see and enjoy and talk about.
Then there’s Javier Bardem, who stars in a movie called ‘Biutiful’ that opens in the last week of December. While praised at Cannes (and, indeed, Bardem picked up that festival’s Best Actor prize), the movie will be a harder sell for Academy members and general audiences. It has an almost relentlessly bleak outlook and sluggish pacing. Still, it’s an unbelievable performance, one that will probably (even given the film’s outsider status) garner a nomination for Bardem. Possibly even a win.
As much as I’d like to think that Edgar Ramirez might be able to pick up a nomination for his turn as tortured terrorist Carlos “The Jackal” in Olivier Assayas’ epic ‘Carlos’, I think that film will probably be the ‘Che‘ of this year. No matter how outstanding the performance, the movie is too long and the subject matter too prickly for most Academy members. From what I understand, both Colin Firth (for ‘The King’s Speech’) and Ryan Gosling (for ‘Blue Valentine’) are also considered front-runners. (When I see those films, I’ll report back.) There’s also Jesse Eisenberg for ‘The Social Network‘. However, I think the acting nominations for that film will mostly fall into the Supporting Actor category, with either Justin Timberlake or Arnie Hammer picking up noms.
Who did I forget? And what do you think of this Michael Douglas decision? Sound off below!