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Steve Likes to Curse
Writing, comics and random thoughts from really a rather vulgar man
Oscar’s Tournament of Champions 
Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010 | 10:21 pm [commentary, film]
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Bob Garver has an interesting article in the Arts and Entertainment section of the Herald-Mail today. He calls it the Oscar Tournament of Champions. It’s based on the premise that every five years the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences holds a special ceremony to honor the best of the best from those years. Every winner for the last five years is nominated in their categories, and the best of those five winners chosen. It’s an intriguing idea for movie nerds like myself, one that I’m a little annoyed I didn’t think of myself (though I wrote an article with a “best of the best” Oscar theme a few years ago, just not broken down into five year increments).
For brevity’s sake, Garver limits his article to the categories of Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress. Curious that he left out Best Director and the two Best Screenplay categories, since they traditionally form the Big Five along with the Picture and lead acting awards. But whatever. I’ll stick with the format. Below are the nominees, followed by Garver’s pick, followed by my pick with brief commentary. 
Read Garver’s article for his justifications of his picks. 
Best Supporting Actress
The Nominees Are:
Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardner
Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton
Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Mo’nique, Precious: Based on the Novel Yada Yada Yada . . .
Garver’s Pick: Mo’nique
My Pick:
 I don’t really have one. Of the five nominated films, I’ve still only seen Vicky Cristina Barcelona, which, despite the involvement of Woody Allen and Javier Bardem, did not impress me. So I’m not really qualified to pick one. Sorry. This is my only abstention. I just wanted to get it out of the way early.
We’re off to a rip-roarin’ start now, ain’t we?! 
Best Supporting Actor
The Nominees Are:
George Clooney, Syriana
Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine
Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Garver’s Pick: Heath Ledger
My Pick: Javier Bardem
Sorry, Heath. As brilliantly acted as the Joker was, he can’t stand up against Bardem’s even more disconcerting Anton Chigurh. Where Ledger’s Joker is nihilistic and flamboyantly amoral, Bardem’s Chigurh is subdued, introverted, and just far enough removed from humanity to be very, very scary. Both Joker and Chigurh take on mythic qualities, but Bardem makes his guy seem not just evil, but plausible. For that, he deserves to win. 
Best Actor
The Nominees Are:
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
Forrest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
Sean Penn, Milk
Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
Garver’s Pick: Daniel Day-Lewis
My Pick: Daniel Day-Lewis
Yeah. No disrespect to the other four guys, but come on. Seriously. If I re-wrote that
“Best and Shittiest of the Oscars” article today, Daniel Day-Lewis would knock Gary Cooper outta the top five easy, and, shit, I might even pick him to win the whole thing. His performance as Daniel Plainview isn’t just the best performance of the last five years, or the last ten — it’s one of the most awesome things ever filmed. As good as the other four winners are — and they’re all good — it’s not even a race. Daniel Day-Lewis drinks their milkshake. He drinks it up. 
Best Actress
The Nominees Are:
Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line
Helen Mirren, The Queen
Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose
Kate Winslet, The Reader
Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Garver’s Pick: Kate Winslet
My Pick: Helen Mirren
Not only is Mirren’s turn as Queen Elizabeth II the best performance of the five, it’s the only thing that makes The Queen an almost great movie. I mean, okay, Michael Sheen’s Tony Blair is pretty funny, but I’m not sure he’s supposed to be. 
Best Picture
The Nominees Are:
The Departed
No Country For Old Men
Slumdog Millionaire
The Hurt Locker
Garver’s Pick: The Departed
My Pick: No Country For Old Men
If you read my lists of the
Best Dramas of the Decade and the 21 Best Films of the 21st Century (So Far), it’s no surprise that I picked No Country For Old Men. It was the only film on my Best Dramas list to even win Best Picture. As good as the other films are (particularly The Departed), No Country leaves them all in the dust. It’s a fearless, unflinching, unsettling picture that transcends genre, and even moves from drama to comedy and back without breaking a sweat. The performances by Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Kelly MacDonald, and of course Javier Bardem, are superb, and through twists and one very unconventional turn (a turn also taken by The Departed, as it happens) it builds to one of my favorite endings ever: Tommy Lee Jones’s Sheriff Bell sitting at the breakfast table, retired, telling his wife about a dream of his father and summing up the film’s elegiac themes in one lovely monologue. Nothing recently beats this one.
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