Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011

Best Actor

Javier Bardem, Biutiful
Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Colin Firth, The King's Speech (WINNER)
James Franco, 127 Hours

Oscar mavens can get as stats-happy as baseball sabermetricians, so it is our duty to note that, in the 83 years of the Academy Awards, this is just the third time that the alphabetical listing of the five Best Actor nominees ended as early as the letter F. (The other two years: 1984 and 2005.)

It may as well begin with F too, because Colin Firth is, will be and for months has been the winner. He infuses the role of Bertie, later King George VI, with a delicate potency. The hints of frustration and fury he brings to his regal features communicate directly with the heart of any viewer, even the occasional skeptic who detects the odor of calculation in The King's Speech.

The other four nominees are mere courtiers. Bardem, Eisenberg and Franco all did fine work in widely varying registers, and Bridges is at that stage in an exemplary four-decade career in which he could get a nomination playing a black lady in a fat suit. His Oscar last year for Crazy Heart was a kind of lifetime-achievement award. In honoring him, the Academy unfairly slighted Firth, who gave another splendid performance as the grieving homosexual in A Single Man. The voters won't make that mistake this year.