Critic at Large: Memorable roles in 2009 set stage for movie awards

As always at this time of year, there are a handful of notable entries in the Oscar race, and while
Gabourey Sidibe is shown in a scene from "Precious." The film was nominated for a Golden Globe award for best motion picture drama. The Golden Globe awards will be held Jan. 17 in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Gabourey Sidibe is shown in a scene from "Precious." The film was nominated for a Golden Globe award for best motion picture drama. The Golden Globe awards will be held Jan. 17 in Beverly Hills, Calif.

The movie awards are either out or on the horizon. Around the globe, editors are pressuring their writers to announce and predict, worried that their staffs will look like jaded warriors, lazy copycats unless they are first to fire a volley of choices and predictions.

Nothing new here. It is what it is. As always at this time of year, there are a handful of notable entries in the Oscar race, and while it’s fun to speculate about winners and losers, the challenge is to assess the field and perhaps discern trends not only about art but the direction of our culture.

For me, the maddening element is that audiences will continue to frequent movies with the largest advertising budgets. All I can do is prepare some list of 2009 movies and performances worth seeing.

Next week, I will present a list of the best 2009 movies. Now, let’s consider 2009’s most notable performances.

BEST ACTOR

How about: Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart,” George Clooney in “Up in Air,” Colin Firth in “A Single Man,” Morgan Freeman in “Invictus,” Viggo Mortensen in “The Road,” and newcomer Jeremy Renner in “The Hurt Locker.”

This is a race and a showcase of terrific movie talent.

BEST ACTRESS

Another legitimate race. Carey Mulligan, “An Education,” offers the most nuanced performance in a role too few will see. Gabourey Sidibe’s performance in “Precious” is wrenching, while Meryl Streep is the most polished in “Julie & Julia.”

Throw a bone to Sandra Bullock for “The Blind Side.” Other contenders: Saorise Ronan, “Lovely Bones” and Emily Blunt “The Young Victoria.”

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

As predictions go, Mo’Nique is the Oscar favorite for her extraordinary work as the mother in “Precious.” She will win, and how sad too many mall-goers will not see her performance because it might be too honest for their timid souls. Vera Farmiga, “Up in the Air” and Anna Kendrick, “Up in the Air,” deserve special mention. But this year Mo’Nique reigns.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Hands down, this award goes to Christopher Waltz for “Inglorious Basterds.” No contest here, except for Woody Harrelson’s heartfelt work in “The Messenger.”

BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE

This is a tough one and, in many ways, the most interesting category. With Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz, “Precious” should win, but “Up in the Air” is right there. A lightweight like “Star Trek” does not belong.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Watch this one if you are a reader who values literacy. “The Hurt Locker” is up against “(500) Days of Summer” and “Inglorious Basterds.” If you consider yourself a moviegoer, see these movies.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

“An Education,” “Precious,” and “Up in the Air” have considerable footing in this category. Please do not overlook “District 9.” It’s a real sleeper and potential classic.

BEST DIRECTOR

Kathryn Bigelow, “Hurt Locker,” is up against James Cameron.

BEST COMEDY

Boiled down, it’s “(500) Days of Summer” versus “The Hangover.”

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

“The White Ribbon,” “Broken Embraces,” “Red Cliff” and “Sin Nombre.” Do not miss “The White Ribbon.”

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

“Anvil,” “The Cove,” “Michael Jackson’s This Is It.”

Stay tuned next week for my list of 2009’s best movies.

Reach Dan DiNicola at [email protected]

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts

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