For whatever reason, it’s not Peter O’Toole’s perfect 0-for-7 record leading up to this year’s Best Actor contest that’s standing in award-magnet Forest Whitaker’s way to a win. If it were only about acting, then it’s safe to say there would be no more question to Whitaker’s status as frontrunner as there is in Best Actress. (Well, actually, if it were only about acting, than the slightly overpraised but still exciting Ryan Gosling would be just weeks away from forever kissing off his Mickey Mouse Club cachet.) But if this race has tightened up a bit since December’s parade of critics’ awards, than Whitaker has nothing to blame more than his rambling, incoherent, ill-prepared acceptance speeches at the Globes and SAG awards. While no one likes a gloater, and even fewer want to see someone hold up a folded piece of paper at the podium, we’re at a decidedly advanced enough state in the annual Oscar playoffs that it’s impossible to ask anyone to believe breathless, “I never expected to actually be standing here” faux humility either…especially when you’ve already won a near-gross citations in recognition of your work. Sure, it’s understandable that Whitaker might want to make it perfectly clear to Oscar voters that there isn’t a trace of the gross character he’s playing within his real persona (a given even if, just like Idi Amin, we all rip ass while drunk every now and again), but it’s impossible not to resent someone who, in awards terms, has everything acting as though he has nothing. Still, it probably won’t be quite enough to tip the scales toward the contender who has truly had nothing for many years and seemed quite graceful about it, since the only thing worse than faking it is lasciviously licking one’s lips over it.
Will Win: Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
Should Win: Peter O’Toole, Venus
This blog entry was originally published on Slant Magazine on the date above.