David Edelstein on the Best Actor also-rans

Our film critic David Edelstein wishes there were some other names on the Academy's Best Actor ballot:

Who doesn't love awards? Me! Many so-called "winners" are dull consensus picks, and "losers" anything but -- like all the actors who didn't score an Academy Award nomination this year for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

It was a crazy-great year for actors -- I can't even gripe about the five nominees (though they wouldn't have been my choices):

Christian Bale in "American Hustle": Do you believe he's a paunchy Long Island Jew? No, but he's a hoot and a half, and I love that all four nutbirds in this nutbird of a movie got a nod.

Bruce Dern in "Nebraska": a beautiful, near-pantomime performance by an actor long overdue for love.

Chiwetel Ejiofor has been overdue for stardom for a decade, and in "12 Years a Slave," you see his mind work feverishly under that cruelly-enforced mask of resignation.

And talk about overdue: Matthew McConaughey -- a joke for years, though I always thought he rocked -- definitively wowing the world as an AIDS-stricken cowboy-turned-drug entrepreneur in "Dallas Buyers Club."

While "The Wolf of Wall Street" might work better if we shared its hero's hallucinogens, Leonardo DiCaprio is all there and then some as a titanic greedhead.

Amazing group . . .  EXCEPT for the others. 

Tom Hanks goes out of his affable comfort zone in "Captain Phillips" to stunning effect.

Michael B. Jordan could have won everything for his portrait of a real-life shooting victim in "Fruitvale Station," a child-man trying to stabilize himself in an unstable society.

What about Robert Redford, once thought a shoo-in for pushing the limits of his talent, maybe his soul, as a man marooned at sea in "All is Lost"?

My favorite performance was Joaquin Phoenix in "Her" -- so raw and full of yearning he breaks your heart. Or mine. He's too radioactively weird these days for the Academy.

In 2011, Jean Dujardin won for "The Artist." He was fine. But any of these actors -- ANY -- would have won this award over him. It's arbitrary who goes up against whom, and whose obituary leads with the words, "Academy Award-winner ... "

You ask, "What would YOU do to change it?" Beats me!  It's the nature of awards in an award-driven culture.

But one thing I can do is make a lot of noise for the ones left out.


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