The Nominees
Best Actor
Richard Jenkins: The Visitor
Frank Langella: Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn: Milk
Brad Pitt: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke: The Wrestler

Best Actress
Anne Hathaway: Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie: Changeling
Melissa Leo: Frozen River
Meryl Streep: Doubt
Kate Winslet: Revolutionary Road

The Discussion


From: Ethan
To: Nick

Word around the Oscar campfire is that both of the leading actor categories have turned into a two-horse race, with Mickey Rourke and Sean Penn locked neck-and-neck for Best Actor, while Meryl Streep might be the one to keep Kate Winslet from a Best Actress trophy once again.

If that’s true, I certainly can’t begrudge any of those four performers, who all do fine work and a win by any one of them wouldn’t be a travesty.  But before I cast my vote for whom I’d prefer to see win from those duos, I’d like to quickly run through the three other nominees in each category, who are largely being overlooked as pundits and gamblers place their bets on the Penn/Rourke and Streep/Winslet heavyweight bouts.

Let’s start in the Best Actor category with the curious case of Brad Pitt’s nomination.  I have to admit that I was shocked when he made the final cut, though not because I think he’s terrible in Benjamin Button.  Far from it–he does what Fincher asks him to do quite well.  The problem is, what Fincher asks him to do is essentially be a bystander in a film where he’s the title character.  That’s the inherent flaw with Benjamin Button as a movie, of course; by his nature, Benjamin is more of an than an active participant in life.  As a result, Pitt glides through the film with the same quizzical expression on his face, delivering in voiceover all the thoughts that he’s not able to show in his actions or dialogue.  It’s a pleasant performance, but it’s not particularly engaging, especially when compared to the other four actors in this categeory.  I wonder whether the Academy felt compelled to nominate at least one genuine movie star in a race that’s otherwise filled with two veteran character actors (Langella and Jenkins) and a pair of critically adored, but box-office challenged bad boys (Penn and Rourke).  Frankly, Philip Seymour Hoffman really should have gotten Pitt’s slot here.  Sure he couldn’t have won against Penn or Rourke but c’mon–do you really think Pitt has a shot?

For awhile there, it looked like Langella had a shot at being touted as a dark horse winner, but Frost/Nixon‘s anemic box office grosses seem to have put that idea to bed.  I don’t feel too bad for the guy though; after all, he’s already got a Tony Award for playing the same part on Broadway and it’s not like he’s had any trouble getting roles thus far.  Similarly, Jenkins’ career will continue trucking along quite nicely after he loses the award come Oscar night.  For both of these guys, the recognition is the fun part.  Sure a gold statue would be nice too, but you can’t win ’em all.

The one character actor who I do potentially see as winnig it all is Melissa Leo, who shocked everyone with her Best Actress nomination for Frozen River.  In hindsight though, it really shouldn’t have been such a huge surprise as this is exactly the kind of performance other actors love to nominate.  Stripped of any makeup or other Hollywood glamor, Leo plays a dirt-poor single mom who lives on the fringes of society.  In many ways, she’s the female counterpart to Mickey Rourke’s cash-strapped wrestler, albeit without the colorful costume and 8-bit Nintendo video game based on her exploits.  If enough voters managed to watch the DVD before the deadline, I really think Leo could pull off an upset.  Just remember that the same thing happened with Marion Cotillard last year.  Everyone assumed the race was going to come down to Julie Christie and Ellen Page and then Cotillard, who played the lead in a film that very few people saw in theaters, wound up walking to the podium, ruining millions of Oscar betting pools in the process.  The elements are all in place for a repeat this year as you’ve once again got the veteran (Streep) and the respected youngster (Winslet, who is is still only in her early 30s believe it or not) competing for a statue that may ultimately go to the star of a little movie that could.  (I should say that I’d be totally pleased with a Leo victory as well.  While Frozen River has its problems, her performance is consistently powerful.

As with Pitt’s nomination, I have to wonder whether the category’s final two nominees–Anne Hathaway and Angelina Jolie–made the cut simply for the glamour factor.  Each of them do good work in their respective films, but would you really pick either one over Sally Hawkins?  Honestly, that’s the snub that rankles me the most.  I can only think that her performance as Poppy was so convincing, that too many voters confused her with her character and decided she shouldn’t be awarded for playing herself onscreen.  (Either that or they hated Poppy so vehemently, they took their frustration out on poor Hawkins.)

So what’s your take on these also-rans?  And who do you hope triumphs in the Penn/Rourke, Streep/Winslet smackdown?


From: Nick
To: Ethan

On the male side of the race, I’m with you on the one person who just doesn’t belong: Brad Pitt.  I don’t think he does a bad job in the film. In fact, I think his casting is critical to the success of it.  It needed someone like a Brad Pitt to have the impact that it does.  Each time we see Benjamin looking younger, it’s a bit of a shock.  And when we finally see him looking like Pitt circa Thelma & Louise, it’s astonishing.  Seeing a young Philip Seymour Hoffman in this role wouldn’t have nearly the same effect.  I can’t really imagine the film with another actor.  However…he’s used as a very pretty, very effective, special effect.  The actual acting?  Serviceable, but it’s certainly not worthy of an Oscar, or even a nomination.  Unfortunately, he’s taking up space that could have gone to several other people.  More on that later.

On the other end of the spectrum is Richard Jenkins.  He, like Pitt and Langella, has no chance of winning-and probably wouldn’t even if Penn and Rourke weren’t in the race.  But giving a longtime character actor a well-deserved moment in the spotlight is nice to see.  I was happily surprised at this nomination because it’s the kind of understated performance that usually gets overlooked, especially in a film as small as The Visitor (notice the other four performances are all the typically larger then life roles that the Academy loves).  Langella is very good as Nixon and deserves the nod, but it’s hard for me to work up much enthusiasm for him.  Maybe it’s because, as you pointed out, he’s already been rewarded with a Tony for this same role, or maybe because we’ve seen so many different portrayals of Nixon that we’ve become jaded.  There’s just something about it that doesn’t excite.  My somewhat ambivalent feelings about the film itself could also have something to do with it, but we’ll dive into that when we talk about Best Picture.

As for the actual winner, it’s a tough call-though I do have a preference. Penn, almost always terrific in whatever film he’s in, brings a warmth to his performance that I didn’t think he was capable of anymore.  Grieving, serious, long-suffering, sure…he can do those in his sleep.  But charming and warm? Not what I expect to see from him.  That’s part of what I like so much about this performance.  Sean Penn the actor completely disappears into Harvey Milk.  I never once thought I was watching Sean Penn.  Of course, that should be the case with every good performance, but it’s so often not.  As I already mentioned, you’re very aware that you’re looking at Brad Pitt in Button, and that works for the film.  Similarly, you’re aware that it’s Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler, and that too works and adds a lot to the experience of the movie.  Langella disappears into his role, but layers of makeup, wigs and prosthetics help him.  But Penn does his work with little help (prosthetic nose aside).  More then anything else he uses his voice (the key to his performance) to become Milk.  I will have no complaints if he wins on February 22nd.

But I’m still rooting for Mickey, for my money, the best performance of the year, in one of the best movies of the year.  This is the most fully realized character of the nominees.  We know everything about who Randy “the Ram” Robinson is.  We see what makes him tick, what his (numerous) faults are, his virtues, everything.  And we get this without, for the most part, any long stretches of exposition, no big monologue explaining his troubled childhood or other reasons for what he’s become.  It’s all in the performance.  There isn’t a moment when I don’t believe Rourke.  He is Ram.

Though my choice is Rourke, I think Penn is going to win.  I’ll save my reasons for the next go-round, so I can get to the women.

Angelina Jolie is the Brad Pitt of this category.  She’s very good in the film (better then Pitt is in Button, or anything else he’s ever done), and I’m happy to see the underrated Changeling get some attention.  But she’s just not as good as some other women this year, most notably Michelle Williams in Wendy and Lucy (an unfortunate example of a terrific performance ignored because it doesn’t have a studio pushing it to be seen by Oscar voters).

Of the also-rans, I think Anne Hathaway is the one most likely to pull off an upset if Streep and Winslet split the vote.  She’s gotten raves for the performance since it first screened in Venice and Toronto (deservedly so).  The film has a passionate group of admirers, even though this is its lone nomination.  And she accomplished last year, what many actors strive to do: she starred in a huge summer box-office success (Get Smart), and then worked with a respected director on a small independent film.  That said, I don’t think it’s going to happen.  She’s too young.  She doesn’t have the credits to convince anyone that this is going to be the first of many great dramatic roles to come (she was the one weak link in Brokeback Mountain), and Rachel Getting Married has just as many people who hated it as loved it.

Melissa Leo is terrific in Frozen River and I’m very happy to see her nominated.  But unlike Marion Cotillard last year, there doesn’t seem to be any buzz building around her.  Cotillard wasn’t a complete shock since she won the Golden Globe.  Leo has gotten several wins from critic’s circles, but none from the major Academy precursors.  I’d love to see her sneak in though.  She may just get my vote in this race, since I have some issues with both Streep and Winslet.

Since I’m running long again, I’ll tell you what those issues are, as well as my pick for who will win, in our next exchange.


From: Ethan
To: Nick
Well, you’ve given me plenty to chew on here, so where should I begin?  I guess I’ll start by finishing up my thoughts on the six performers that have little to no chance of winning on Oscar night.  First off, I think you explained why Pitt is so perfectly cast in Benjamin Button—and why his actual performance is adequate at best—more eloquently than I ever could, so I have nothing to add beyond agreeing with you one-hundred percent.  We’re both on the same page about Jenkins and Langella as well, both great actors and great guys, but neither performance is a career-best.

Over on the actress side, I’m kind of surprised that you think Hathaway could be the (unlikely) spoiler.  Honestly, this nomination struck me as a “Welcome to the Club” kind of recognition, as well as an encouragement to do more movies like Rachel and fewer like Bride Wars.  And while the movie has its passionate fans, I feel like most of them admire the ensemble as a whole rather than a specific performer.  And when certain actors singled out, Bill Irwin and Rosemarie DeWitt seem to be getting the most buzz.  I had forgotten that Cotillard had won the Golden Globe last year, so that does puncture my Melissa Leo theory a bit, but I still think she could surprise.  Again, it all comes down to how many voters bothered to watch the film on DVD after she got her nomination.  I have a feeling she’ll get the largest batch of votes from the actors’ side of the Academy.  Directors and producers—who like a bit of glamour—will probably be more inclined to go for Winslet or Streep.  The most glamorous of all the nominees is Jolie, of course, but as you pointed out, it’s a good, but not great performance from a good, but not great movie.  Again, I wish Hawkins had taken either Jolie or Hathaway’s spot in this category, while Michelle Williams—who I agree is just wonderful in Wendy and Lucy and is actually my personal pick for Best Actress of the year—could have gotten the other one.

Okay, not that that’s out of the way, let’s get down to the main event!  I’m going to change things up and start with the Actress race.  Right now it feels like Winslet has the momentum on her side; even though Streep won the SAG Award, there’s certainly a feeling out there that it’s finally Winslet’s turn to win the big prize.  And where Revolutionary Road may have been a more challenging (though I would argue, deeply flawed) film and performance from her, it wasn’t particularly liked amongst the industry, probably because it required the Great Kate to do some really unlikable things.  One would think that playing a Nazi would trump a frustrated suburban house wife, but luckily for her The Reader asks her to play one of the most sympathetic Nazis in the history of film.  I know you don’t care for the movie and I generally agree with you.  However, I do think Winslet goes above and beyond what the material demands of her.  The sequence where her character finally learns to read as an older woman is almost unbearably mawkish, but I believed her joy at finally being able to write and read for herself.  Similarly, the courtroom scenes are the only parts of the movie with any real dramatic power largely because Winslet does such a good job conveying her character’s confusion over how she committed a crime by simply following orders.  The Reader has a number of problems, but Winslet isn’t one of them.

However, if you’re asking me who I’d like to see win of these five women, I’d have to go with Streep.  Somehow, I always underestimate just how good an actress she is.  She gives her all to every role, even a goofy trifle like Mamma Mia.  (And how hilarious would it have been if she had been nominated for that film instead of this one?  I think a case could be made that she deserves it.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a veteran actress so willingly skirt the edge of embarrassing self-parody and have a great time doing it.)  What I admire about her performance in Doubt is that she completely embraces the stereotype of the stern Catholic nun, but then digs beneath it to find the human being at the center of the caricature.  In many ways, she’s very much the villain of the film and yet she’s not necessarily a bad person.  I also appreciated that she was able to bring out some of the humor inherent in her character—Sister Aloysius has wicket wit to go along with her bundle of prejudices and Streep tore into those “punchlines” with great glee.  I just had a great time watching her play this part.

I’m running long here, so I’ll save my opinion on Penn/Rourke for the next go-around. What’s your take on the Streep/Winslet race?  And what performance haven’t we mentioned yet that you feel should have been recognized?


From: Nick
To: Ethan

You almost swung my vote over to Streep.  And you did sort of address my one issue that I have with her in Doubt.  It took me a little while to buy her as Sister Aloysius.  She seemed a bit over the top to me initially. It’s a great introduction to her character….slowly walking down the aisle during mass, attacking her innocent prey in the pews….but it seemed a little bit much.  As the film goes on, as you point out, we start to see her become more human and less as a simple caricature.  As this happens, I began to enjoy the performance more.  We’re supposed to see her character revealed slowly so my issue really becomes mute.  I’m a big fan of the film. I’m always impressed with Streep (and completely agree with you about her performance in Mamma Mia!), and it’s shocking that even though this is her 15th nomination, she’s only won twice before (and the last win was way back in 1982!).  There’s a lot of love for the woman as one of the greatest film actresses we’ve ever seen.  I think the Academy would love to give her another win.  But I was very surprised at her SAG win and still think that it’s Kate Winslet’s prize to lose.

Winslet certainly deserves to win an Oscar.  She consistently gives wonderful performances in diverse roles.  I’m a huge fan.  I just wish she wasn’t going to win for a film that is, to be blunt, complete crap.  She is far and away the best thing in the movie, and the only reason anyone should even think about seeing it.  But when it comes down to it, the movie nothing more then an after school special about illiteracy.  I’ll save my rant for our Best Picture discussion, but, to say I don’t care for it is an understatement.  I much would have preferred to see her nominated, and win, for Revolutionary Road.  She does equally outstanding work in that film, and the movie, though not perfect, is 100 times better then the drivel that is The Reader.  I know I should just be looking at the performance alone, but it’s difficult to isolate it from the movie as a whole.  I think this is going to be a very close race (I’d love to see the final voting numbers…at least for the top two contenders) and I won’t be surprised to see either of them win, but I’d give the edge to Winslet (and I’ll secretly hope for Leo to pull off an upset).

The actor side is going to be equally close, but I think Penn will pull it out.  Hollywood loves a comeback story, so Rourke has that going for him.  But he also made a lot of enemies back in the 80’s, and Hollywood also has a long memory.  Since, as we mentioned in our Supporting Actor discussion, this is a bit of a popularity contest, I think that’s going to hurt Rourke enough to keep him from winning (remember Alan Arkin’s win over the favored, but not particularly well-liked, Eddie Murphy a couple of years ago?).  Milk as a film seems to have more support then The Wrestler, and that will hurt Rourke as well.

As for other performances that should have been recognized, there’s really only one the Actress side, and that’s Michelle Williams as we’ve already mentioned.  I’m not sure if I would have bumped anyone else for Sally Hawkins (I’m in that camp of people who wanted to strangle Poppy during the first half of Happy-Go-Lucky.  But I came around to her side by the end of the film).  For the most part, I think the Academy got it right with the women.

For the men, there are a few performances that are worthy, but there’s really only one nominee that I would have bumped, and that’s Brad Pitt.  I probably would have given Pitt’s spot to Leonardo DiCaprio for Revolutionary Road.  I know you’re not a big fan of the film, but he and Winslet stood toe to toe and gave a pair of terrific performances.  These were big, juicy, Oscar-baiting roles, but they never once went too over the top, instead keeping them grounded.  I wouldn’t have complained if Clint Eastwood snuck in there, as well.  It’s not his best performance or film (both of those honors go to Unforgiven), but he carries Gran Torino and makes it the success that it is.  He’s just a pleasure to watch.  Finally, there’s Benicio Del Toro in Che, who I suspect you’d give the award to if you could.  I’ll let you talk more about his performance, but there’s no doubt that he too is more deserving of a nomination then Pitt.  Sorry Brad.


From: Ethan
To: Nick

See, you kind of proved my point about Hawkins!  I think she played that part so well, people confused her with the character.  What I love about her performance is that she doesn’t tell you how you should feel about Poppy.  She simply captures her as she is and lets the audience make up their own mind.  That does, of course, mean the people that don’t respond to Poppy probably won’t respond to her performance either.  But from my perspective, that only enhances her work.

I would actually agree with you that Leo could have qualified as a Best Actor nominee for Revolutionary Road.  It’s a performance we haven’t really seen from him before and I like how he’s willing to play his character as a sniveling coward.  Although, as a Mad Men fan, the striking similarities between his role and the character of Pete Campbell (played by Vincent Kartheiser) occasionally got in the way of his performance.  You’re right that my first alternate choice would be Benicio Del Toro in Che, my favorite performance by an actor in 2008.  What’s incredible about his work in that film is that he’s been asked to embody a major historical figure who, in the context of this movie anyway, has no private life.  Where every other actor nominated this year, from Penn to Rourke, gets numerous chances to explain their characters for the camera, as well as at least one obvious Oscar moment (for Rourke, it’s that scene at the boardwalk where he breaks down talking to his daughter, which for my money qualifies as the “big monologue” you had said the movie avoids), Del Toro creates a lived-in performance entirely out of Che’s actions and public speeches.  He vanished into his role so completely, I honestly felt like I was watching history at times and not just a skillful re-enactment.

Now it’s finally time for me to weigh in on the main event, the showdown between Rourke and Penn.  I think you’ve already beaten me to outlining the reasons why Penn should win his second statue for his performance as Harvey Milk.  I’m always impressed when a performer with such a specific public image is cast in a role that’s completely against type and pulls it off without seeming to break a sweat.  People have jokingly said that this is the first film where Penn has cracked a smile since Fast Times at Ridgemont High, but there’s an element of truth to that.  He hasn’t been this relaxed and this charming in a role in decades, possibly ever.  Funnily enough, it’s also the most romantic performance he’s ever given.  Because of how swiftly the film moves through Milk’s life, Penn’s performance has to keep the audience emotionally invested in the narrative, particularly during the lengthy political discussions about Proposition 6.  I hope Penn takes on another role like this in the near future.  We already know he does glum suffering extremely well—let’s see him continue to laugh and smile for a bit.

Even though I think Penn should win, I’m actually going with Mickey Rourke as the eventual victor.  As you said, Hollywood loves a comeback—makes for great drama after all—and Rourke is definitely this year’s comeback king.  Once again, I think the other branches of the Academy will come into play here.  The actors went for Penn, but I could easily see directors and producers lining up behind Rourke.  As you said, Rourke’s troubled past could come back to haunt him, but honestly, Penn doesn’t have the best reputation in the industry either and yet he still won an Oscar a few years ago.  And in a year where so many of the winners seem pre-determined, a win for Rourke could count as a modest surprise.

I have no real qualms if he were to win, because he does give his all to the film.  But I have to say that neither the film—nor his performance—are among my very favorites of the year.  I just watched The Wrestler again recently and a second viewing reaffirmed by initial opinion that the movie ultimately pulls too many punches in its depiction of Ram. I’m going to drag up my Raging Bull comparison again, because I do think Darren Aronofsky would love for the two films to be linked in peoples’ minds.  The key difference for me is that Scorsese and De Niro clearly have zero sympathy for Jake La Motta.  They don’t care if the audience likes him or not—hell, they’d probably prefer it if everyone watching the movie was actively rooting to see him pummeled in the ring.  But Aronofsky isn’t able or willing to push his La Motta stand-in that far.  Even when he makes mistakes (missing his dinner date with his daughter because he was screwing some blonde groupie), the viewer is encouraged to feel sympathy or pity for him.  I know it sounds like I’m reviewing the movie rather than Rourke here, but I think that Aronofsky’s own limited ambitions wind up holding back his star’s performance.  Rourke seems perfectly capable of really digging into Ram’s darker nature (like that scene in the deli, where he deliberately slices his finger), but the movie demands that he remain a seedier version of a gentle giant so that the audience doesn’t get completely turned off.  I’m not here to make the case that Rourke doesn’t deserve the accolades he’s been receiving, because at the end of the day, his performance makes the movie.  But, for me, it’s the difference between a revelatory performance like Penn or Del Toro and just a really good one.

From: Nick
To: Ethan

First, a quick comment on Revolutionary Road.  I think this is a good example of a film that’s impact or impression changes depending on what you bring to it.  Of course, most films are like that (someone going through a divorce with kids is going to respond differently to Kramer vs. Kramer, then a single, childless, 20 year-old), but this one more then many.  I think one reason why Road has not been all that well received is because it hits home with many people and makes them uncomfortable.  But I’m starting to digress… You’re bringing a bias into the film because of your experience with Mad Men (though, if anything Mad Men borrows from Richard Yates brilliant 1961 novel on which the film is based).  I, on the other hand, bring a different bias.  The book is one of my all-time favorites.  One reason why the book works so well is the insightful interior monologues that we hear from the four main characters.  That was my main concern going into the film: How can they do the book justice when so much key information is expressed in the character’s thoughts?  They can’t.  However (bringing this long-winded response back to where I started), I liked the film more then you and others because I brought those inner-monologues into the theater with me.  I felt like I knew the characters better because of what I had read.  So the movie gets bumped up a few notches for something that isn’t actually on the screen.  What you bring into the theater lowers your opinion of the film, what I bring raises it up.  Okay, done with that random aside….

You knew I’d need a moment to defend The Wrestler (my third favorite film of the year).  Yes, Rourke’s big Oscar clip moment is probably that boardwalk scene with his daughter.  I’d have to see it again to be sure, but I don’t recall it as being a long expository-filled speech.  Sure, he talks about the past and confesses a few things, but it’s brief, and it simply confirms a few things that we already suspected.

The two films that The Wrestler is often compared with are Raging Bull, as you talked about, and Rocky.  I understand the temptation to compare it to both, but I think it really stands up as its own film.  It’s not trying to be either.  Aronofsky keeps Ram sympathetic because I think that’s simply how he views him.  It’s also crucial to keep us rooting for Ram to turn his life around. The fact that he can’t, and that he blows every opportunity to, is heartbreaking precisely because we’re rooting for him.  We need to like him in order to have that emotional payoff.  In Raging Bull, Jake La Motta is presented as a monster.  Ram is not.  I think Scorsese and Aronofsky are going for two very different portraits of people who share some self-destructive characteristics, but who are not really alike.  Now you may have wanted to see Ram as a darker character, but then we’re talking about a completely different movie.  Since we’ve already got Raging Bull, I’m happy to have this one.  I also think that since Rourke has to invite the audience in-he has to get them to root for him even as we’re watching him screw up–he actually has a more difficult job to do then if he was playing someone completely unsympathetic, like La Motta.  I find this a more detailed, layered performance then De Niro’s.

I’m not taking anything away from Del Toro or Penn, but for my money, Rourke gives the male performance of the year.

From: Ethan
To: Nick

Bravo on mounting a very passionate defense of The Wrestler.  Your argument makes a lot of sense–it’s true that Aronofsky isn’t setting out to remake Raging Bull, which is probably for the best.  (Still, I’d bet that film was very much on his mind while shooting this one.)  I think I’d be more inclined to go along with your reading of the movie–specifically the idea that we’re meant to root for Ram to turn his life around and then symapthize with him when he fails–if the final sequence didn’t so openly celebrate the fact that Ram has chosen this fate.  He tried to become someone else and it didn’t work and now he’s back where he belongs.  To me, that entire sequence at the end of the film is designed to make us feel like he’s done the right thing and that he’s ending his life (and I’m convinced that the final match does indeed mark the end of his life) the way he should: in the ring.

So as a result, I don’t really feel any sympathy for him.  He’s made his choice and is perfectly happy to return to a life he knows rather than a life he doesn’t understand.  You’re right that both films follow men with self-destructive impulses, but where Raging Bull presents a cold, clear-eyed portrait of La Motta, I feel that The Wrestler ultimately romanticizes and redeems Ram’s failues, allowing him to exit the film as a literal Superman–flying over the camera for his final Ram Jam.  Compare that to the final scene of Raging Bull, where La Motta sits in his dressing room, overweight and alone telling his reflection in the mirror how he’s ruined his life.

It’s strange for me to be defending Raging Bull so much, as its a film I’ve never had a lot of love for, even if I admire its technique tremendously.  But it’s when I see a movie like The Wrestler that Scorsese’s achievement is really driven home for me.  Aronofsky’s movie celebrates a particular kind of masculinity that I’ve always found a little off-putting, namely this idea that a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do and he deserves to be admired for his flaws and mistakes because at least he’s being true to his nature.  Scorsese refuses to go along with that idea, instead showing us in cold, clinical detail how La Motta’s inability to change is what leads to his isolation and personal ruin.  I think Aronofsky did a lot of things right with The Wrestler, but at the last moment he pulled back and, for me, the movie suffers for it.

The Verdict

Best Actor

Will Win: Mickey Rourke
Should Win: Sean Penn

Will Win: Sean Penn
Should Win: Mickey Rourke

Best Actress
Will Win: Melissa Leo
Should Win: Meryl Streep

Will Win: Kate Winslet
Should Win: Melissa Leo