In this corner, Mickey Rourke: winner of countless critics awards for his performance in The Wrestler, who has apparently pissed off more people than Perez Hilton, who called Perez Hilton a faggot and no one gave a shit, whose Hollywood story mirrors that of his character, who won the Golden Globe and the BAFTA and who doesn’t have an Oscar to his name and may never be nominated for another one again, whose fans are fierce but respectful of the other guy’s posse. And in this corner, Sean Penn: winner of countless critics awards for his performance in Milk, who has ostensibly pissed off more people than Fidel Castro, who said that Fidel Castro was good for Cuba and no one gave a shit, who has come a long way from being married to Madonna and being scared of the dick to swapping saliva with James Franco the same year Prop 8 passed in Oscar’s home state of California, who won the SAG and the BFCA, whose fans are fierce but respectful of the other guy’s posse. Flip a coin or follow our logic: Yes, you empathize more with Rourke’s character, but we’re of the opinion that this undervalued actor’s “story” is being talked up more than his actual performance. That’s not to say voters aren’t being swayed by that story, but does Hollywood as a whole really feel it owes Rourke anything? We know Penn already has an Oscar, which definitely matters in a year where an acting race is this close, but whatever votes Penn will lose because of this will be countered by any ones he’ll inevitably get from those guilt-tripped into thinking by the shrill Brokeback Mountain cult that a vote for Crash a few years ago was one against gay rights. It’s a nail-biter for sure, but we have to give this one to the veteran whose completely transformative performance enlivens the milquetoastiness of a movie that’s creepily in sync with our volatile contemporary political moment.
Will Win: Sean Penn, Milk
Should Win: Sean Penn, Milk